Afro-Iraqis are an ethnic group that is descended from people of 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 500,000 Afro-Iraqis.[1][2][3][4]

Total population
Regions with significant populations
Basra, Maysan, Dhi Qar
Arabic, Persian
Islam (mostly Shiite, Sunni minority)
Related ethnic groups


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.[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

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.[5][6]


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.[8] There are also unique ceremonies to remember the dead and for occasions such as weddings.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b MRG condemns killing of Black Iraqi leader in Basra, calls for full investigation into his death
  2. ^ a b Iraq: Black Civil Rights and Political Group Loses Leader
  3. ^ a b To Be Black in Iraq
  4. ^ a b Black Iraqis Struggle to Shake Legacy of Racism
  5. ^ a b c d e A Legacy Hidden in Plain Sight
  6. ^ a b Descendants of Iraq's black rebels back Obama
  7. ^ IRAQ: Black Iraqis hoping for a Barack Obama win
  8. ^ "السماح.. رقص التسامي الجمعي، أرواحاً وأجساداً- د. خير الدين عبد الرحمن". Albahethon. Retrieved 3 January 2017.

External links


Afro-Iranians (Persian: ایرانیان آفریقایی‌تبار‎) are people of Black African descent residing in Iran. Most Afro-Iranians are concentrated in the provinces of Hormozagan, Sistan and Baluchestan and Khuzestan.

Afro Turks

Afro Turks are people of Zanj (Bantu) descent in Turkey. Like the Afro-Abkhazians, they trace their origin to the Ottoman slave trade.


Basra (Arabic: البصرة‎ al-Baṣrah) is an Iraqi city located on the Shatt al-Arab between Kuwait and Iran. It had an estimated population of 2.5 million in 2012. Basra is also Iraq's main port, although it does not have deep water access, which is handled at the port of Umm Qasr.

The city is one of the ports from which Sinbad the Sailor journeyed. It played an important role in early Islamic history and was built in 636. Basra is consistently one of the hottest cities in Iraq, with summer temperatures regularly exceeding 50 °C (122 °F). In April 2017, the Iraqi Parliament recognized Basra as Iraq's economic capital.

Black people of Yarmouk Basin

The black people of Yarmouk Basin are a little-known Afro-Arab ethnic group in Syria. Most live in southwestern Daraa Governorate.

Zanj Rebellion

The Zanj Rebellion (Arabic: ثورة الزنج‎ Thawrat al-Zanj / Zinj) was a major uprising against the Abbasid Caliphate, which took place from 869 until 883. Begun near the city of Basra in present-day southern Iraq and led by one 'Ali ibn Muhammad, the insurrection is traditionally believed to have involved some enslaved Bantu-speaking people (Zanj) who had originally been captured from the coast of East Africa and transported to the Middle East. It grew to involve many slaves and free men from several regions of the Caliphate, and claimed tens of thousands of lives before it was finally defeated.Several Muslim historians, such as al-Tabari and al-Mas'udi, consider the Zanj revolt to be one of the "most vicious and brutal uprisings" of the many disturbances that plagued the Abbasid central government. Modern scholars have characterized the conflict as being "one of the bloodiest and most destructive rebellions which the history of Western Asia records," while at the same time praising its coverage as being among the "most fully and extensively described campaign[s] in the whole of early Islamic historical writing." The precise composition of the rebels remains a subject of debate, both as regards their identity and as to the proportion of slaves and free among them – available historical sources being open to various interpretations.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.