Black Iraqis Hoping for a Barack Obama Win

Raheem Salman and Tina Susman in Baghdad, Los Angeles Times, August 14, 2008

Abdul Hussein Abdul Razzaq laughs wearily when asked if racism is a problem in Iraq. As a black Iraqi, Razzaq says, he faces job and social discrimination and has little chance of getting a political appointment or being elected if he ran for public office.

That’s why Razzaq, a longtime journalist from the southern city of Basra, is hoping that Barack Obama becomes the United States’ next president. Not only will it be better for Americans, he says, it will help blacks the world over. {snip}

Racism isn’t new in Iraq. Blacks were brought here as slaves from Africa more than 1,000 years ago to work for wealthy landowners in Basra, where most of Iraq’s black population still lives. Today, one of the insults sometimes hurled at black people is “Abd,” which means servant or slave in Arabic, said Razzaq, who has founded a political organization called the Free Iraqis Movement to press for equal rights for black people.

Its goal includes amending Iraq’s constitution to ban discrimination against blacks, who Razzaq says number about 2 million here, and getting blacks elected to the national parliament.

{snip}

Another problem, according to Razzaq, is that many of Iraq’s most powerful people still think of blacks as servants. Some tribal sheiks still keep blacks as slaves, he says.

{snip}

As he travels through the country, Razzaq carries with him the resumes and biographies of black Iraqis who he says have been denied jobs and high political appointments because of their race.

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