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Slavery in Palestine

February 13, 1931
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Hassan Sidky el Dajani, a prominent Palestine Arab leader, publishes an open letter to the High Commissioner in the Arab organ, “Al Hayat”, declaring that it is not unusual for Arab female children in Palestine of ten years of age and under to be “hired out” for as many as 25 years at the rate of a pound a year.

The Fellah sometimes has to sell his sons as slaves at the cheapest price in order to use the money to keep body and soul together, and to keep his wife alive, el Dajani writes. I have been with my own eyes a thing of which I will tell you. A man stopped us as we were motoring to Haifa and said to the driver, “I have a little girl with me; we want to travel to Bireh (near Ramallah). Have you any room?”. The driver said he had room, and the man brought back a young peasant child, not more than eight years of age. Her clothes were ragged and she was weeping. I asked the man where he had got the child, and he told me he had “hired” her and was sending her to his brother in Bireh. “Her parents”, he explained, “have let me take her for 25 years for the sum of £25. There is nothing to be surprised about, for there are persons who make worse bargains and buy girls outright – for ever”.

Another passenger said: “It is true; I have bought a little girl for myself and another for a cousin of mine. Many of my friends have bought girls. Prices six months ago were much higher. I had to pay £28 for my child, to say nothing of £2 for the agent who managed the business for me. Now prices have fallen. We train these children, he continued, and so do not have to hire servants, just as our fathers used to do with their manservants and maidservants”.

I asked the man what the Government had to say about such a practice and the reply was: “Many of the Government officials buy such girls themselves. This is the truth; ask the Governor of Nablus or let him make enquiries to prove the truth of what I have said”.

This, el Dajani comments, is Palestine under the British Mandate, under the British Flag, which waves for civilisation, freedom and peace in the world.

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