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. –Al Jazeera with English Sub-titles.
Most Afro-Iraqis are the descendants of sailors, traders and slaves that were brought to Iraq from the Zanj region. The term Zanj also used to describe them is attributed to Zanzibar, an island off of the coast of Tanzania. Slave trade begun by early Arab traders started in the 9th century and lasted over a millennium. Most of these slaves were imported to work in large dates and sugarcane plantations.
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. However, there were reports of dark-skinned slaves in Iraq in 2008.
This is in slight contradiction to this video above.
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 Afro-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.
Most Afro-Iraqis still are able to maintain rituals related to healing that are of Zanj 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 Arabic for paroxysm or shift, as Sophi performers take turns at chanting and dancing to ritualistic hymns. There are also unique ceremonies to remember the dead and for occasions such as weddings
There are more than 1.5 – 2 million Afro-Iraqis.–wiki/Afro-Iraqi
As early as the fifth century Arabs brought Africans to southern Iraq to work their date plantations and salt marshes. But not all the enslaved were of African origin; some were white, namely Circassians and Georgians from the Caucasus. With the growth of salt mining in the area of Basra, however, the African presence increased throughout the Gulf Coast of Iran and led to a series of violent uprisings beginning in the seventh century and culminating with the Zanj rebellion.
During the late ninth century tens of thousands of enslaved Africans from the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and other parts of Eastern Africa (Nubians and Bantu), as well as non-Africans—groups that were all largely employed in the salt marshes surrounding Basra—took up arms against the Abbasid slaveholders. Their revolt was not the first: an enslaved black man, Rabah Shir Zanji (the “Lion of the Zanj”), had led a rebellion in Basra in 694-695. Armed revolts continued to erupt, and the Zanj rebellion was of unprecedented scale.
Led by the free Persian ‘Ali ibn Muhammed, the bulk of rebel soldiers were African in origin. The uprising led to the creation of a new government in southern Iraq. In defiance to the Abbasid caliphate, the black rebels, taking over several cities, organized their own state with its own standing army, and even minted coins. The rebellion-turned-state lasted 14 years until the Zanj forces were overwhelmed by the Abbasid army. The Zanj’s military skills and prowess spurred the interest of Muslim rulers who for centuries thereafter recruited Africans into their own armed forces.