Eunuchs were castrated African men kidnapped from Darfur, Abyssinia, Korodofan, Zanzibar, and other African countries and sent to the courts of sultans in Turkey, Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries.
Young boys, who were frequently victims of raids and wars, were subjected to the gruesome and inhumane process of castration without anesthesia, which resulted in a high mortality rate.
Hot coals were thrown into the open wound to stop the bleeding, which was met with horrifying screams from the victims.
They were given great privileges as harem guards and palace courtiers because they could no longer perform any sexual functions. They were born into a life of power and luxury, with silk garments, Arabian thoroughbreds, and jewels that reflected well on their affluent masters.
Their responsibilities included serving as mosque guards and caretakers, as well as administrators.
Until about a century ago, the Black eunuchs played an important role in the Ottoman Empire’s royal courts. However, their presence appears to have been concealed for over three centuries.
In his 2016 book “The Black Eunuchs of the Ottoman Empire,” Northern Colorado professor George Junne says eunuchs had been present in earlier Islamic households and courts.
After conquering the Christian Byzantine Empire of Istanbul in 1453, the Ottomans began the bloodcurdling practice of eunuch-making.
“Eunuchs served as neutral, unthreatening, non-gendered emissaries in a moral universe that was highly charged with sexual tension in the Ottoman court and other wealthy households,” he writes. There was a lot of demand for eunuchs, and Arab horsemen raiding Africa ensured a steady supply. The majority of those castrated died during the procedure, driving up the price of those who survived.”
According to Prof. Junne, there could have been up to 800 court eunuchs organized in a hierarchical, well-defined structure, with “eunuchs who served the sultan favorably, plus those who learned Turkish and converted to Islam could progress in the system.” A select few would be appointed to empire-wide administrative positions, with some serving in Cairo and Medina.”
While eunuchs who worked for powerful masters and gained favor with sultans were revered and even feared, slaves in the Ottoman Empire were treated with contempt and ridicule.
Chief Black Eunuch (Kzlar Aas) was a powerful official who carried out overt and covert missions for the Sultan and was the only official who always had his ear.
“They had the power to bestow favors in order to increase their wealth” (which reverted to the sultan after their death as they had no heirs).
“The Chief Black Eunuch also frequently assisted with state appointments, served as a supervisor of the holy places under Ottoman dominion, built and rebuilt mosques in Istanbul and elsewhere, administered the sultan’s mother and children’s properties and estates, assisted in the training of young members of the court, and was entrusted with the revered “Sancak erif” (Sacred Standard) of the Prophet Muhammad,” according to the book.
In 1923, the Ottoman Empire was deposed and replaced by the Turkish Republic.
The Black eunuchs appear to have melted into oblivion, with Turkish society barely discussing them, despite a society embarrassed of its cruelty to them yet failing to integrate them.
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