Many people are surprised to hear that there is a black minority of African descent in Iraq, particularly in Basra, and they are even more surprised to hear that this minority is being discriminated against and is falling victim to racism.
Their first reaction would be to repeat that the era of racism against blacks ended decades ago, or with the advent of Islam. But those ideas conflict with the societal reality in Iraq.
Although racism has been illegal under the Iraqi legislative system since the founding of the state in 1921, this minority is trapped by different types of discrimination and racism within society. The legislative and educational systems, as well as the official Iraqi media, need to give special attention to the issue by passing laws that criminalize any form of racism or discrimination, while educating the community in this regard.
Iraq, like other countries in the ancient world, witnessed a wide slave trade, as Baghdad was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate for over five centuries. The trade was at its peak back then, and slaves of different races were brought to Iraq to be sold in the slave markets.
The Zanj rebellion (869-883 AD) paints a historical picture of the spread of slavery at the time and reflects the intensity of racism and injustice. The rebellion started in Basra, included half a million slaves and swept across a vast country. The rebellion continued to Mecca, where slaves stole the black stone of the Kaaba, seeing it as a symbol of the values of their masters, who had legalized the trade. The rebellion was eventually put down, as thousands were killed and many displaced and brought back to slavery.