Black Communities in Surprising Places

The Middle East is home to a variety of ethnic, religious, cultural, and ex-pat communities. Prior to the drawing of national boundaries in the early twentieth century with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, major cities (Damascus, Aleppo, Baghdad, Tehran, Beirut, etc) were the political and cultural centers. Smaller cities and communities were built around tribal, clan, religious sects and based on trade, farming, and other economic activities.

There have always been relations between the Middle East and countries in north and sub-Saharan Africa, through the trade of goods and slaves and the spread of Islam into Africa. However, little has be written about the establishment of communities that evolved into Iraqi Blacks, Afro-Iranians, or Afro-Jordanians. Some of these communities go back to the seventh century when people were brought in as slaves. Slavery was finally outlawed in the region by the 1920's, although many claim it went on until the 1950's.

Jalal Dhiyab Thijeel, assassinated 2013
The largest and best known black community is that in Basra, Iraq. There are roughly 1.5 million black Iraqis. While they have been able to own property, there has been discrimination in all other aspects of life. Black Iraqis rarely marry outside their community and if a white Iraqi woman marries a black Iraqi man, her family usually makes life very difficult for her. There have been no black elected officials. It had been hoped that the fall of Saddam Hussein would lead to increasing visibility for these people: life under Saddam had been very difficult. African American members of the military were very surprised to come across black Iraqis when they arrived in Basra! Explore the links in this post to learn about this community and its attempts to gain political, social, and economic parity.


  1. Some light on a little-known group of people. Thanks!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. This is certainly a little know and very interesting Black History fact. However, the struggle former Black slave’s face, (regardless of location), to rise above slavery to equality appears to remains the same throughout the world. Philip Randolph once said, “Justice is never given; it is exacted and the struggle must be continuous for freedom is never a final fact, but a continuing evolving process to higher and higher levels of human, social, economic, political and religious relationship.”
    Those in the struggle must weary at the thought of, how long must the struggle continue. On the other hand, they may begin to think they are stuck in a time warp, propelled from one generation to the next in the same condition as the previous generation? In light of recent racial events, in the United States, the hanging of black men has evolved to shooting them down in the streets.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.