For over one thousand years, Iraqis of African descent have resided in Iraq, some arriving as sailors, the rest arriving to be enslaved as a consequence of the less known or spoken of Arab Slave Trade. It is estimated the Arab Slave Trade transplanted some 10 million African people.
The first enslaved arrivals, primarily women of East Africa, were brought to Iraq via a route through India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, as well as traveling a route across the Sahara to North Africa and the Mediterranean, to be purchased to work as slaves in Spain, Portugal and other European countries. Africans were purchased as domestic slaves, wet nurses and sex slaves.
Today, in modern day Iraq in Basra, a movement is on the rise to recognize the rights of some two million descendants of Africa and their desire for equal treatment on par with other citizens of Iraq.
Jalal Diyaab, leading the Free Iraqi Movement, seeking recognition of those of African descent as a minority with rights to be protected, has stated:
People here see us as slaves. They even call us 'abd,' which means slave.
The election of Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency was celebrated with special fervor by Iraqis of African descent in the southern port city of Basra.
Although they have lived in Iraq for more than 1,000 years, the black Basrawis say they are still discriminated against because of the color of their skin, and they see Obama as a role model. Long relegated to menial jobs or work as musicians and dancers, some of them have recently formed a group to advance their civil rights.
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