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A Shade of Colonialism

Freedom is sweet, and no one wants it taken away from them. After world war I, London declared Egypt a British protectorate, and this feeling of Egyptians’ freedom was snatched from them. They needed a revolution to revolution so that they could get their freedom. The first reaction to this “colonialism” was seen after Sa’d Zaghlul seized president Woodrow’s speech claiming that all the British protectorate had the right to self-determination. Still, he felt that since the protectorate declaration was a war necessity, now, because the war had ended, there was no need for these protectorates, which should be lifted. After Zaghlul’s claims were not paid attention to, he and other representatives of Egypt flew to Paris to attend the post-war conference so that they would raise their country’s urge for independence (Powell P.173).

To tam their movements, Wingate refused to give them passports, and they were arrested while still in Europe and then deported to Malta. Wingate’s action caused even more revolution, this time, not only from nationalists but every person in Cairo, Alexandria, and any other big city in Egypt joined the demonstrations seeking their freedom. Nationalists who were women established a well-connected organization that would make demonstrations as there were beliefs that women’s marches worked out faster. Later, the Great Britain administrators acknowledged their mistake and released Zaghlul and his colleagues after several confrontational and violent months of violence (Powell P. 173). Egyptians did not want to be seen as subjected and colonized as the British denied them the right to be natives in their own land. Sabry, one of the Egyptian nationalists, believed that the British had deracinated them in their motherland. After Wingate was relieved of his duties and powers, he was replaced by Marshal Edmund, who allowed negotiations between Egypt and Britain to be held. Negotiations took about four years, and although not every point of contention was resolved, Egypt was granted nominal independence as the British abolished their declaration of Egypt as their protectorate (Powell P. 174).

After Egypt was granted freedom, the issue of Sudan was left unsolved as there were questions on who should rule over her as Egyptians felt that they had done more than Britain and had the right to rule over Sudan. Egyptian Wafd Party continued to raise the issue of Sudan’s political status. It claimed that Egyptians and Sudanese political, cultural, economic, and geographical features should be united and that Egypt should be the one running Sudan. Wafd claimed this because even after 20 years since Britain started exercising authority over Sudan, Egypt was still the one who was responsible for the treasury bill of Sudan. Moreover, the Egyptian soldiers were the ones that were running the financial and political infrastructure of Sudan. According to Wafd, Egypt had more right to rule over Sudan than Britain as he felt that in 1899 during the Sudan conquest, more Egyptian soldiers participated and fought General Kitchener. Egypt had spent millions of pounds on Sudan since its win, in addition to many casualties of war (Powell, P. 176). Even after several attempts to make Sudan under Egypt, Britain made it clear that Sudan was not under negotiations. They tried to avoid the Sudan discussion with Egypt, claiming that Egypt and Sudan were different countries with different issues.

Sudanese and Egyptian racial slavery can be traced back to the completion of the Suez Canal, which used a lot of finances and left Egypt bankrupt. Since Mitchell wanted to make Egypt great, he established schools like the school of administration and ancient languages, among other schools not only in Cairo but also in other cities like Tanta and Alexandria. More and more dreams of Isma’il were outgrown by his finances as the Egyptian treasury could not support these projects. Lack of finances made him borrow heavily from British, French, and German loans with unfavorable terms. Lack of finances made the Egyptian army weak, and the British could conquer them easily. Egyptian’s lack of freedom posed a threat of them being slaves to the European occupants during the 1870s and 1880s. From the writings of Sana’a and Abdallah al-Nadim, they recorded that they had witnessed how the enslaved people from Sudan came to be part of the Egyptian culture (Powell P.135)

Slavery in Egypt was more like slavery in South America, although those in Egypt suffered less. Still, they worked in similar plantations. The slave trade had been abolished, and those caught doing it were arrested and taken to court trials. Ali Pasha Sharif was arrested for conducting the slave trade, having bought six Sudanese women, Zanuba being one of them, and three Egyptian traders. Having walked barefoot across the desert to the Cairo slave market, they were posed with the danger of their justice not being served. Ali Pasha Sharif would not undergo the Egyptian trial on the military court martial as he had claimed his Italian Citizenship almost immediately, which exempted him from the Egyptian government’s Jurisdiction (Powell P. 150).

The British observers claimed that Sharif wanted to escape his punishment after breaking Egyptian law by announcing him as an Italian subject. He conceded his guilt, but his appeal for a second hearing was not granted as it was considered inappropriate. The slave traders tried to hide in the Islamic culture claiming that Zanuba and the other women were their wives, but she clearly stated that she was not his wife nor was a formerly enslaved person, but she was enslaved that they intended to the sale for money. All the other women also gave the same defense as the slave traders claimed to be married to these women (Powell P.151). laims of Sharif and his colleagues caused a strong reaction from an officer who was sitting on the court of the president known as Frith Bey as he scoffed at this claim of marriage. He asked questions like if they were their wives, why they were brought to Cairo during the Night, and why did they have to hide them, among other questions that reflected the connection between Islamic wedlock and slavery, which the British saw was supposed to be institutionalized (Powell P. 152).

The trial made the British think of the civilization of the Egyptians as there were connections between the Muslim slave traders and the use of Islamic marriage cloaks and that this subterfuge of marriage was still used in Sudan to justify the presence of the Egyptians. According to doctor Powell, the women who faced the trial were like the whirling mass of fluid for the victory of the conceptions of race, colonialism, and the Family man because of the changes they brought to the above three issues. There were interpretations that Egypt wanted to be an empire, but these claims were dismissed, and the British created an empire in both Sudan and Egypt. After the kingdoms were justified, momentums in the newly formed governments were influencing arrangements of institutions that concretized the interpretations. For instance, the slavery trade bureau was given to the interior ministry, giving him more jurisdiction to exercise the anti-slavery policy. Schaefer, the minister of the interior, made reports about raiding slave dealers in Sudan and Egypt, and his statements were canonized by the Anti-Slavery Society (Powell P. 152, 153). The Zanuba trials led to the above, among others, that the British people thought were ways of civilizing Egypt and Sudan.

Slavery is deeply rooted in Egyptian and Sudan history as enslaved people were common in both countries where a hierarchy of labor had been well established as most of the middle and upper classes families were served by enslaved Africans, primarily women from Egypt. From the historical records, it was clear that after one was purchased and taken to a small household, one was supposed to become part of the household and help raise children. In some cases, female slaves would have children with the head of the family in both Egyptian and British accounts (Powell P. 142). Slavery was among the things that caused polygamy, as after the head of the family had a child with an enslaved woman, she and the child needed to be treated as family members. According to European scholars like Ernest Renan, the family structure of both Egyptians and that of the people of Sudan was shaped by the historical slaves due to the changed concept of marriage (Powell P. 142).

Work Cited

Eve M. Trout Powell, A Shade of Colonialism: Egypt, Great Britain, and the Mastery of the Sudan (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California, 2003).


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