Essential Resources on Racism and Anti-Blackness in the Middle East and North Africa

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.

racism in the Arab WorldIllustration: @nouriflayhan

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.

Black Arabs racismImage: Scene Arabia

Reading lists

Resources on Racism in the Arab Region – Kerning Cultures

Arabs for Black Power: A Reading List for Non-Black Arab Allies – Dardishi

An essential reading list on Black Muslim history – Aisha Yussuf, The New Arab

Books

The Limits of Whiteness – Neda Maghbouleh

Articles

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

Mixed Up: ‘There is anti-blackness in Arab communities – My own mum gave me skin-bleaching cream’ – Natalie Morris, Metro

nouriflayhan illustrations lebanonIllustration: @nouriflayhan

Videos

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

A conversation about racism in the Middle East with Abeer Sinder, Aziza Sbaity and Ubah Ali – The National

Podcasts

Dukkan (Re)defined: Critical conversations about race

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

skin bleaching middle eastA still from Elman Mirghani’s film, The Bleaching Syndrome (Beirut Today)

Country specific

Morocco

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

Algeria

Black in Algeria? Then you’d better be Muslim – Kamel Daoud, New York Times

Tunisia

People and Power: Tunisia’s Dirty Secret – Al Jazeera

Racism in Tunisia: ‘They throw stones at us, call us monkeys’ – Charlotte Boitiaux, InfoMigrants

Libya

To be black in Libya– New Internationalist

Egypt

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

Israel

Israel’s New Racism: The Persecution of African Migrants in the Holy Land – The Nation

Palestine

Black Palestinians shrug off racism – Asmaa al-Ghoul, Al Monitor

Lebanon

Lebanon racism: Photo exhibition addresses prejudice – Nour Matraji, BBC

Do you get it…? Or not yet? Against Lebanon’s Kafala System – Caritas Lebanon

Turkey

Race and racism in modern Turkey – Bulent Gokay, Open Democracy

Racism and Syrians in Turkey: The political economy of discrimination – Helen Mackreath, Jadaliyya

Jordan

After fleeing conflict at home, African refugees battle racism in Jordan – Marta Vidal, Equal Times

Iraq

Black Iraqis fail to shake the legacy of racism – Ali Mamouri, Al Monitor

GCC

Zanzibar: Arabs, Africans and a forgotten legacy of slavery and ethnic cleansing – The New Arab

Race and exploitation in the Gulf – Madawi Al-Saud, Open Democracy

Omani music masks a slave trading past – Benjamin Plackett, Al-Fanar Media

Yemen

On colour and origin: The case of the akhdam in Yemen – Lucy Nevola, Open Democracy

akhdam yemen


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

2 thoughts on “Essential Resources on Racism and Anti-Blackness in the Middle East and North Africa

  1. Amuni Olayinka says:

    Thank you for this excellent update. I find the resources valuable. You may also add this article”Al-Hayqutan’s Riposte to Jarir’s Caustic Tongue: Issues in African response to Racism in Arabic Poetry” by Amuni Olayinka Kudus, in Journal of Oriental and African Studies Vol.24, Greece 2015, pp115-122. You can get the Article on Academic edu. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinkjinn says:

      Hi Amuni, thank you so much for taking the time to share this with us, we really appreciate it. I will check it out and encourage our community to do so too. Hope you have a great weekend. Best wishes, Laura

      Like

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