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Total population
2 million[1][2][3][4]
Regions with significant populations
Basra Baghdad Maysan and Anbar
Arabic, Swahili
Islam Mostly Shiite with a Sunni minority

Black Iraqis are an ethnic group that is descended from people of Black African (Zanj) heritage in Iraq. Most are found in the southern port city of Basra, with many speaking Arabic and adhering to Islam.[5][6] There are more than 1.5 million - 2 million Afro-Iraqis.[1][3][2][4]


Most Black Iraqis are descended from sailors and slaves who were brought from present-day Sudan and Ethiopia and elsewhere in East Africa. Zanzibar, an island of the coast of Tanzania gave the name Zanj to the descendants of these slaves. Slave trade begun by early Arab traders began in the 9th century and lasted over a millennium. Most of these slaves were imported to work in large dates and sugarcane plantations.[5]

To protest their treatment, Zanj slaves from Basra staged a successful revolt against Baghdad the Muslim capital for 15 years (refer to Zanj Rebellion). During this period they created a city called Moktara. In 883, the Army from Baghdad was able to put the revolt down. Afterwards, locals did not engage in large-scale plantation-type slavery. Slavery lasted up until the 19th century.[5] However, there were reports of dark-skinned slaves in Iraq in 2008.[7]

Social condition[edit]

Unlike in the Americas of the 19th century, slaves in the Middle East were allowed to own land, and their children were generally not born into slavery. Also conversion to Islam precluded further servitude and gave freedom. Skin color played a distinctive role even amongst slaves. Many activists amongst Black Iraqis complain that they are unable to find opportunities to improve their social condition. However, the same complaint is often also made by Iraqis of Arab Semitic descent as well.[5][6]

Black African heritage[edit]

Most Black Iraqis still are able to maintain rituals related to healing that are of African origin. The languages used in these rituals are Swahili and Arabic. Instruments such as Drums and tambourines are used in these ceremonies. In a song called Dawa Dawa, the words are a mix of Arabic and Swahili. The song, which is about curing people, is used in the shtanga ceremony, for physical health. Another ceremony called nouba, takes its name from Nubian region in the Sudan. There are also unique ceremonies to remember the dead and for occasions such as weddings.[5]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]