Tuesday, January 20, 2009


(African-Iraqi men sing last month after their group, the Free Iraqi Movement, was approved as a political party to run in upcoming local elections in Basra.)

The election of Barack Obama is not just inspiring African-Americans, but African-Iraqis too.

For many years, the black residents of Zubayr say, they have lived a second-class existence in Basra province, an area where Africans were first brought as slaves about 1,500 years ago. They hold no political office, often live in crippling poverty and are still sometimes referred to as "slaves" by other Iraqis.

Yet, taking inspiration from Obama's campaign, a slate of black Iraqis who call themselves the Free Iraqi Movement is making a long-shot run in the elections for provincial legislatures Jan. 31.

"We heard Obama's message of change," said Jalal Chijeel, secretary of the political party. "Iraq needs change in how they see their own black-skinned people. We need our brothers to accept us."

The eight black candidates are competing with 1,800 others for 35 legislative seats in the Shiite-dominated, oil-rich province.

"Even if we don't win, this is a very important first step to allow us to take our place as leaders in Iraq," said Sala al-Qais, 45, a black candidate who acknowledges his chances are slim.

Any of this sound familiar? Progress is a beautiful thing.

A greater man than me once said: "As long as their are some without justice, none of us have justice."

I'll be rooting for these folks.


1 comment:

J.Burnsy said...

This post was amazing. I had never even thought of the African-Iraqis and their standing in the social structure of their world. To see them take heart from what has happened thousands of miles away is awesome. It reminds me of a the French Revolution taking heart from the victory of Liberty & Freedom in the New World across the sea.