Basra (Iraq): The controversial death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA has begun an uproar from the black community all over the globe: Black Lives Matter (BLM). The BLM protest has paved way to listen to the voice of a special community – the Black Iraqis.
Black Iraqis are descendants of African slaves brought to Iraq and have lived in the southern city of Basra for centuries. They say racial discrimination against them is on par with the racism experienced by African Americans, sometimes even surpassing it, as they not only face a lack of recognition, but also economic, political and social atrocities. They want recognition as a minority group whose rights should be protected, but they say their voice is neglected by the Iraqi government. Many say they are unfairly represented and want to prohibit being called “slaves”, especially as the burdens of their ancestors continue to haunt them.
The killing of Mr. Floyd has put the global spotlight on racism, one that Black Iraqis say, has been brushed off by authorities. There are about two million of Black Iraqis at present in Iraq. They have declared their solidarity to George Floyd who was suffocated and killed by a white police officer in front of the public at Minneapolis. The video, which clearly copied Floyd begging to leave him as he could not breathe, and the officer still pinned him on the ground, went viral over the globe. The video pictured Floyd, taking his last breath. The BLM movement started all over the world, subsequently when this video had gone viral.
Mr. Floyd’s killing has raised awareness in Iraq about the government’s neglect of Iraqi-African rights, Mohammed Falih, a 31-year-old photographer from Basra reported. “What happened to Floyd must never happen again, it is not only a Black issue, but is a matter that concerns people from all over the world, we will keep fighting until racism ends,” Mr Falih said. He says getting employment in Iraq has been very tough for those of African origin. “Getting a job is like a dream, both the government and private sectors see us as second-class citizens in the community,” he said. For decades, Black Iraqis have been humiliated, degraded and have had their dignity taken away from them, Abdul Hussein Abdul Razzaq, founder of the People of Brown Skin movement said.
“Blacks have lived in Iraq as slaves for centuries, they are among Iraq’s poorest and vulnerable, which is a testament to the fact that racism in Iraq is worse than what exists in America,” Mr Razzaq said. “The equality that the constitution talks about is a lie,” he said. Mr Razzaq, who lives in Basra, said the community wanted to hold a vigil for Mr Floyd but due to the coronavirus restrictions they were unable to carry it out. He has also co-founded the Free Iraqis Movement, which calls for equal rights.
Mr. Razzaq demanded that Black Iraqis have their dignity back and to end social discrimination. They wanted the government to compensate them for what they had missed out. There has been virtually no attention on discrimination against Black Iraqis, they say. Ali Al Bayati, a member of the Independent Human Rights Commission in Baghdad said they have taken racist discriminators to court. An institution subordinate to the culture ministry had conducted a play, in which Black people in Iraq were described as ‘slaves and monkeys’. “A case has been filed against them at the court and the trial is going on”, Al Bayati said.