The murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis in May has rightly sparked controversy and protest around the world, not least in the Middle East and North Africa, where discussions have since been taking place about anti-blackness in the region and the role of Non-Black People of Colour in upholding systems of oppression.
In the mainstream media and on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, Arabs and other cultural and ethnic groups in the MENA – and particularly young people – have been drawing attention to how systemic oppression and societal microaggressions against Black people continue unabated in the region.
Some have critiqued the repressive the Kafala (sponsorship) system in Lebanon and the Gulf, which in many cases provides a cover for modern-day slavery, while others have called out harmful societal and cultural practices such as the use of the term ‘abd’ (slave) to refer to Black people and the commonality of ‘blackface’ in the popular Arabic media.
The roots of racism in the Middle East and North Africa can be traced back centuries to the colonial era and the Slave Trade. It’s incredibly inspiring to see how people in the region are harnessing the momentum created by events in the US to dismantle what racist structures remain in their societies today, even where this means having difficult conversations and checking their own privilege. White people in the region and in the ‘West’ should pay close attention to these conversations as we seek to become better allies and anti-racists.
For this reason, we’ve put together a list of some of the resources we’re finding particularly useful and important relating to the roots of racism in the Middle East and North Africa and its manifestations in modern society. Most focus on racism and anti-blackness across the region in general, but if you scroll down to the bottom you’ll find some country-specific links.
We don’t want to duplicate the excellent work that’s already being done in this area by people in the region, so you’ll also find below some existing reading lists on the subject which we highly recommend. We hope our list will compliment and expand on these brilliant resources.
Resources on Racism in the Arab Region – Kerning Cultures
An essential reading list on Black Muslim history – Aisha Yussuf, The New Arab
The Limits of Whiteness – Neda Maghbouleh
From blackface to bleaching creams, racism is clear-cut in the Arab World – Lynn Sheikh Moussa, Beirut Today
Anti-Blackness in the Arab World and the Violence That Doesn’t Get a Hashtag – Bahira Amin, Scene Arabia
Racism in the Arab World: An Open Secret – Yasmine El-Geressi, Majalla
Confronting anti-black racism in the Arab World – Susan Abulhawa, Al Jazeera
The Arab World needs to admit it’s racist – Mat Nashed, Middle East Eye
Being ‘black’ in North Africa and the Middle East – Laura Menin, Open Democracy
Here’s Why Some Black Muslims Feel Uncomfortable with Islamic Societies at University – Suaada Abdulaahi, Amaliah
POC Need to Call Out Anti-Blackness Within Our Own Communities – Alya Mooro, Restless Network
We Need to Talk About Racism in the Arab World – Ty Joplin, Al Bawaba
Anti-Blackness in the POC Community – Katy Jalili, Shades of Noir
The outrageous racism that ‘graced’ Arab TV screens in Ramadan – Hana Al-Khamry, Al Jazeera
Blackface and anti-blackness in the Arab World – Mohamed Hassan, Middle East Eye
Hey Mom, can you buy me that soap? @otofficial
Palestinian actress shares her take on Arab racism – The New Arab
Blackface: The ugliness of racism in Arab media – Al Jazeera
Social media threads
Six ways for Arabs to resist Anti-Blackness – Rana Abdelhamid, Instagram
The Kafala System Explained – @nouriflayhan, Instagram
Black Lives Matter: What is the movement and why is it important (Arabic) – @arabinprogress, Twitter
The Non-Black Arab for Black Power’s Manifesto – Arij Mikati, Instagram
Complicity and Indifference: Racism in Morocco – Samia Errazzouki, Jadaliyya
Morocco: ‘Neither slave, nor negro’– Hisham Aidi, Al Jazeera
Acting Against Racism and Xenophobia in Morocco – Sebanstian Bouknight, Inside Arabia
Black in Algeria? Then you’d better be Muslim – Kamel Daoud, New York Times
People and Power: Tunisia’s Dirty Secret – Al Jazeera
Racism in Tunisia: ‘They throw stones at us, call us monkeys’ – Charlotte Boitiaux, InfoMigrants
To be black in Libya– New Internationalist
The Reality of Racism in Egypt – Valentina Primo
“They call us black and filthy”: Sudanese refugees in Egypt, trapped between racism and violence – Valentina Primo, Scene Arabia
Black Palestinians shrug off racism – Asmaa al-Ghoul, Al Monitor
Lebanon racism: Photo exhibition addresses prejudice – Nour Matraji, BBC
Do you get it…? Or not yet? Against Lebanon’s Kafala System – Caritas Lebanon
Race and racism in modern Turkey – Bulent Gokay, Open Democracy
Racism and Syrians in Turkey: The political economy of discrimination – Helen Mackreath, Jadaliyya
After fleeing conflict at home, African refugees battle racism in Jordan – Marta Vidal, Equal Times
Black Iraqis fail to shake the legacy of racism – Ali Mamouri, Al Monitor
Race and exploitation in the Gulf – Madawi Al-Saud, Open Democracy
Omani music masks a slave trading past – Benjamin Plackett, Al-Fanar Media
On colour and origin: The case of the akhdam in Yemen – Lucy Nevola, Open Democracy
If we’re missing anything or you have any other suggestions for resources, please feel free to leave a comment and share links with us below this post!
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Cover image: Egypt Independent