Thursday, January 21, 2010

Iraq's black African minority

With all the news about Iraq in recent years, here's one aspect of the country you probably haven't heard of.

Black Iraqis or Zanj have a history in the area dating back to the 9th century AD. Their ancestors were taken there as slaves, and were mostly from the East African coastal areas of what is now Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.

There's also an interesting article here on the Zanj that dates back to 2004. A curious detail is use of the term abd, which means slave. They are often colloquially referred to as abd by lighter-skinned Iraqis, which they consider derogatory. Yet the Zanj use the term amongst themselves in a joking manner; an intriguing parallel with the modern American use of the word "nigger".

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