When you say "Sudan," most quiz participants think of Gordon, the mad Mahdi, and the siege of Khartoum, or of a four-door car, so perhaps you should enunciate more clearly. The Mahdi is Muhammad Ahmad ibn 'Abd Allah, son of a Dunqulahwi boatbuilder and—he said—a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. Gordon is British Gen. Charles George "Chinese" Gordon. Khartoum is Khartoum, Sudan's capital, at the junction of the blue and white Niles.
In 1880, Ahmad ibn 'Abd Allah decided to reform Islam, cleanse the corrupt national government, and scourge the land of infidels. Everyone needs a hobby. And so he proclaimed himself Mahdi, a title traditionally used by Islamic religious reformers. One thing led to another, and the Mahdi's tribesmen rose in revolt. In early 1884, after a series of Mahdist victories, the British reluctantly accepted the Egyptian khedive's selection of Gordon as governor-general of the Sudan. Gordon reached Khartoum on Feb. 18, 1884, and was able to evacuate 2,000 women and children and sick and wounded before the Mahdi's forces besieged the town March 13. Hard luck for healthy men.
For months, the British government refused Gordon's pleas for aid. At last, bowing to public opinion and Queen Victoria's urgings (a good title for a slanderous pornographic novel), the government ordered in a relief force. Gen. Wolseley set out from Wadi Halfa in October. When his advancing forces won two victories, the Mahdi's troops considered lifting the siege, but further delays of the relief force gave them time for a final assault. The city's garrison was butchered, Gordon with it. The first of the relief force, gunboats under Lord Charles Beresford, arrived on Jan. 28, two days too late. After a brief gun duel with the Mahdist defenders, they retreated downriver. Soon after, the Mahdi abandoned Khartoum and made Omdurman his capital, so no harm done, except to Gordon and the rest of the slaughtered guys. Deeply moved by Gordon's implacable courage, the British erected a statue of him atop a camel. It still stands today, so in a sense Gordon lives on. But not in a sense that does him any good.
Not as Anachronistic as You'd Think Answer
Christian Solidarity International bought 4,435 more slaves and then set them free. The organization claims strong support in southern Sudan but has been criticized by the United Nations and by human rights groups who say paying for the release of slaves only encourages the captors to enslave more people.
CSI freed the slaves from five locations in the north of Bahr al-Ghazal province between Sept. 5 and 11, paying the equivalent of $33—the price of two goats—for each freed slave. The slaves are seized by the government-backed Popular Defense Force in support of policies of forced Islamization.
According to the American Anti-Slavery Group, 27 million people currently live in bondage around the world. There are more slaves today than at any time in history. The problem is particularly acute in Sudan, where it is exacerbated by an ongoing civil war, and in Mauritania.
For CSI's side of the story, click here.
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