Discrimination Against Black Iraqis

Posted on April 23, 2010

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Rafik Beekun

Islam opposes all forms of discrimination, and in Islam the only thing that distinguishes one person from another is supposed to be his/her level of taqwa (piety). However, Iraqis of African ancestry seem to be bearing the brunt of discrimination in Iraq both in the workplace and other walks of life.

Al Jazeera

Black Iraqis in the southern province of Basra are complaining of discrimination, saying they are not fairly represented in the state.

African Iraqis have lived in the country for centuries and now number more than one million.

Many of them are descendants of African slaves brought to Iraq. Many Iraqis still refer to them by their ancestral name, abeed – meaning slaves.

Salem Shaaban is a member of the Free Movement of Iraqis, advocating more rights for African Iraqis.

He says black people in Iraq feel there is a tradition of discrimination against them in the society.

“For example when two people fight in the street and one is black and the other is white, they say X had a fight with the slave. It really hurts.”

‘No place for blacks’

Shabaan says black Iraqis are also discriminated against when it comes to parliament representation and jobs.

“Whoever wants to be a member of parliament or heads the cabinet should present himself to the Iraqi people and they will elect whoever they want”

Mohammed al-Bahadily, tribal leader

“Why is there no black merchant or a senior black official in the state? We conclude that there’s no place for the blacks in the Iraqi society or in the state.”

But local officials say there is no discrimination and that the door is open for any group to participate in society.

“We don’t want to differentiate one sect or colour over another. This is part of the ethnic, racial and sectarian division. We want Basra to stay way from it,” Jabbar Amin, the head of Basra Local Council, says.

“If there is a group like the blacks in Basra and say they are big, then they should and can stand in the elections to compete with the other sects or groups.”

Mohammed al-Bahadily, a tribal leader, agrees that the political scene is open to all, regardless of race.

“Now politics is free for everyone and free choice. And whoever wants to be a member of parliament or heads the cabinet should present himself to the Iraqi people and they will elect whoever they want.” [more]

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