Afro Iraqis are descendants of the Zanj, Africans from modern day East African countries — Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Ethiopia. The Zanj started arriving in Iraq in the ninth century and most were brought over as slaves to work on date plantations. In comparison to African American slaves, Zanj slaves could own land and their children could not be born into slavery. But as you can imagine, life was still shit if you were a Zanj slave. In 869 AD, Zanj slaves decided they had enough of the shit and staged a revolt against rulers in Baghdad. The rebellion lasted 15 years.
The Zanj created their own capital called Moktara, which is believed to have been located in the marshlands of southern Iraq. In 883 AD the Baghdad army finally put down the revolt. Despite quelling the rebellion, the revolt greatly disrupted economic activity and caused extensive damage to the country. As a result, leaders in Baghdad decided not to go back to plantation-style slavery. However, slavery did continue in Iraq and was not abolished until the 19th century.
Today most Afro Iraqis live in the port city of Basra, specifically in the Zubair area of the city (known as the Harlem of Iraq). Despite slavery being abolished in the 19th century many Afro Iraqis don’t get the same rights as light skinned Arabs. Afro Iraqis are often referred to as abd, a racial slur meaning “slave” in Arabic. They are also often prohibited from interracial marriage and denied menial jobs.
Recently, Afro Iraqis have begun to campaign for recognition as a minority population, which includes representation in the Iraqi Parliament. In 2007, African-Iraqi activist, Jalal Thiyab founded the Iraqi Freedom Movement, a political party established to defend the rights of Iraqis of African descent. Thiyab was later killed by unidentified gunmen in 2013 because we can’t have nice things ever. The work of the Iraqi Freedom Movement has slowed down after Thiyab’s murder; however, the group hasn’t given up on their goal of political representation.
One of the initiatives that the group is working towards is abolishing the word abd. This is the super sparknotes history of bad ass Afro Iraqis . Anything to add? Something I missed? Comment below