Afro-Iraqi are Iraqis of African descent. They are concentrated in Basra, the Hakaka section. It is estimated black Iraqis are 1.2 million in the country.


Slaves have been coming to Iraq since the 6th century. Most slaves came from Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya, and Malawi. Slaves were brought in to work the salt marshes of Basra and sugar cane fields. Afro-Iraqi scholar Amr Ibn Bahr al-Kinani al-Fuqaimi al-Basri or Al-Jahiz (c. 776-869), was born in Basra. He died at the beginning of the Zanj Rebellion, and the beginning of anti-black sentiments in Arab society. 

Timeline of Afro-Iraqi History

776   Al-Jahiz is born
789   Ziryab is born
869   Zanj Rebellion
871   Zanj takes over and pillage Basra
879   Zanj takes over town of Wasit on way to Baghdad
883   Zanj Rebellion crushed
1000 Caliph of Bagdad had 7,000 black eunuch in palace
1920 Slavery abolished in Iraq

Three zanj rebellion took place. The largest was from 868 to 883, establishing Moktara as capital, in opposition to the Abbassid Caliphate in Baghdad. Moktara flourished for a few years and printed its own coins. The city state dominated southern Iraq. The slave rebels were joined by black soldiers who comprise the Abbassid army. The Zanj Rebellion was put down in 883, using a large Arab army, and using tactics as amnesty and rewards for surrender. After the Zanj rebellion, slaves from the east African coast was viewed as less desirable.

Slavery in Iraq was abolished in the 1920s, but continued in the 1950s.


Healing ceremonies called shtanga and nouba( a term from the Nubian region of Sudan) found in Basra among Afro-Iraqis have an African origins. Iraqi society associate slavery and slaves with blackness, so they are referred to as abid, which is taken sometimes as an insult.

Most Afro-Iraqis exist at the lower echelon of the economic ladder, scraping by on menial jobs.They face social and economic discrimination. Organizations such as Movement of Free Iraqis, headed by Jalal Thijeel, are seeking minority status, parliamentary representation and better economic conditions for black Iraqis.

Works Cited

Labbe, Theola. Iraq In Black.The Crisis, March-April 2004,v. 111-2, ISSN 0011-1422. retrieved 05-June-2011.

Williams, Timothy. In Iraq's African Enclave, Color is Plainly Seen. New York Times, december 2, 2009. retrieved 6-June-2011