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Racism in the Middle East

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Racism in the Middle East

The article describes the state of race relations and racism in the Middle East. Racism is widely condemned throughout the world, with 174 states parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by April 8, 2011.[1] In different countries, the forms that racism takes may be different for historic, cultural, religious, economic or demographic reasons.



According to article 19 of the Iranian constitution:[2]
the people of Iran belonging to whatever ethnic or tribal group shall enjoy equal rights and colour of skin, race, language and the like shall not be considered as a privilege.
Iran is a signatory to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.


During World War II, Rashid Ali al-Kaylani blamed British hostility toward his pro-Nazi stance on the Iraqi Jewish community. In 1941, Iraqi nationalists murdered 200 Jews in Baghdad in a pogrom.[3]

After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Iraqi Jews faced persecution so great that by 1951, approximately 100,000 of them left the country while the Iraqi rulers confiscated their property and financial assets.[3]

During 1987-1988, Iraqi forces carried out a genocide against the Iraqi Kurds that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

The UN reports that although Christians comprise less than 5% of Iraq's population, they make up nearly 40% of the refugees fleeing Iraq.[4][5] More than 50% of Iraqi Christians have already left the country since 2003.[6] Iraq's Christian community numbered 1.4 million in the early 1980s at the start of Iran-Iraq War. But as the 2003 invasion has radicalized Islamic sensibilities, Christians' total numbers slumped to about 500,000, of whom 250,000 live in Baghdad.[7][8]

Furthermore, the Mandaean and Yazidi communities are at the risk of elimination due to ethnic cleansing by Islamic extremists.[9][10]

A May 25, 2007 article notes that in the previous seven months only 69 people from Iraq had been granted refugee status in the United States.[11]


On 22 February 2007, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination will consider the report submitted by Israel under Article 9 of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. The report states that “Racial discrimination is prohibited in Israel. The State of Israel condemns all forms of racial discrimination, and its government has maintained a consistent policy prohibiting such discrimination”.[12]

Caputi, this report was challenged by several reports submitted to the Committee by other bodies most of which are from Muslim strong or Arab majority States. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel alleges that Israel has "discriminatory planning practices".

Adalah (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel), an Arab advocacy group, has alleged that “the State of Israel pursues discriminatory land and housing policies against Palestinian citizens of Israel” and that “the needs of Palestinian citizens of Israel are systematically disregarded”.[13]

Throughout Jewish Israeli Society, and particularly among the youth, anti-Arab sentiment has spiked, manifesting itself in the form of rising hate crimes,[14] public opinion polls,[15] and hateful comments from high-profile Knesset members. The popular Ha'Aretz syndicate has prominently written "Let's face it: Israel has a racism problem".[16]


Racism is sometimes manifested in football where some people in the audience cause factious affairs since Jordanians usually support Al Faisaly football club and Palestinians support Al Wehdat.


Lebanon has been accused of practicing apartheid against Palestinian residents.[17][18][19][20] According to Human Rights Watch, "In 2001, Parliament passed a law prohibiting Palestinians from owning property, a right they had for decades. Lebanese law also restricts their ability to work in many areas. In 2005, Lebanon eliminated a ban on Palestinians holding most clerical and technical positions, provided they obtain a temporary work permit from the Labor Ministry, but more than 20 high-level professions remain off-limits to Palestinians. Few Palestinians have benefited from the 2005 reform, though. In 2009, only 261 of more than 145,679 permits issued to non-Lebanese were for Palestinians. Civil society groups say many Palestinians choose not to apply because they cannot afford the fees and see no reason to pay a portion of their salary toward the National Social Security Fund, since Lebanese law bars Palestinians from receiving social security benefits."[21]

In 2010, Palestinians were granted the same rights to work as other foreigners in the country.[22]


Omani society is largely tribal.[23][24][25] Oman has three known types of identities.[24] Two of these identities are "tribalism and Ibadism", the third identity is linked to "maritime trade".[24] The first two identities are widespread in the interior of Oman, these identities are closely tried to tradition, as a result of lengthy periods of isolation. The third identity, which pertains to Muscat and the coastal areas of Oman, is an identity that has become embodied in business and trade. Consequently, the third identity is generally seen to be more open and tolerant towards others. Thus, tension between socio-cultural groups in Omani society exists. More importantly, is the existence of social inequality between these three groups.[24]

According to the CIA, Oman's population primarily consists of Arab, Baluchi, South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi), and African ethnic groups.[26]

The descendants of servant tribes and slaves are victims of widespread discrimination.[27] Omanis of slave origin are sometimes referred to as "khaddam" (servant) and some are subservient to previous masters, despite legal emancipation.[24] Oman was the one of the last nations on earth to abolish slavery in 1970.[28]

It is believed that migrant workers in Oman are treated better than in other states of the Gulf.[28] The plight of domestic workers in Oman is a taboo subject.[29][28] Every 6 days, an Indian migrant in Oman commits suicide.[30][31] There has been a campaign urging authorities to check the migrant suicide rate.[32]


Various Palestinian organizations and individuals have been regularly accused of being antisemetic. Howard Gutman believes that much of Muslim hatred of Jews stems from the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict and that peace would significantly reduce anti-semitism.[33]

A joint report submitted by 19 Israeli, Palestinian and international NGOs referred to “[S]tate laws and institutions that dispossess the indigenous Palestinian and Syrian populations”.[34]

Saudi Arabia

Racism against foreigners "Non-citizens"

Racism in Saudi Arabia against labor workers who are foreigners, mostly from developing countries.

Discrimination against the historically urbanized Saudi citizens of non-tribalist, non-Bedouin origins or "Hadar" lit "civil"

There can be a lot of discrimination towards the Saudi citizens of non-Bedouin origins or "Hadar" lit "civil or urban", such as people from Medina, and Taif in the Hijaz area as well as people from Jeddah, Mecca, and Yanbu in the Tihamah area" where people are more mixed and have a multi-ethnic makeup, this was due to the area being the only in the peninsula which had open trade and connections with the outside world. The tribal Saudi Bedouins discriminate against the Saudis of non-Bedouin origins "Hadar" by calling them (tarsh bahar) literally meaning (sea-traveler), a term which dates back to the fall of the kingdom of Hejaz into Saudi hands, the "Hadar" who are known for their distinctive dialect, considered themselves to be much more sophisticated and civilized, while the Bedouin conquerors saw themselves as being more racially pure and thus responded by calling them (tarsh bahar). Hijzies sometimes answer back by simply calling Bedouins "bedouins" or sometimes "Soroob" a slang term for bedouin, backward or savage. The Saudis of non-Bedouin origins are not usually allowed into the military services which might be for historical reasons, there are, however, many exceptions. There are no laws instated against racism in Saudi Arabia, and since the government is of a tribalist Bedouin background, one can safely say that discrimination and racism is sometimes institutionalized in Saudi Arabia.

Religious or sectarian forms of discrimination

Discrimination fueled by religious sentiment is quite common in Saudi Arabia. The most prominent is the discrimination against the Shia sect of Islam minority in the Eastern and southern regions of Saudi. The Shia are disenfranchised by not being allowed into the military, and forbidden to hold key positions in government as well, this is in contrast with Hadar who have a long tradition of holding key positions in the government which dates back to the early days of the Saudi conquest of the Kingdom of Hejaz. The Sufi sects of Sunni Islam which are present in Tihamah and Hijaz are also not exempt from harassment from the strict main stream Wahabbi sect. One need not stress that there is a discrimination against non-Muslims "usually western foreigners" in general, this usually goes unnoticed as their numbers are quite negligible in comparison to other minorities.

Tribalism or "tribe vs tribe"

Another form of discrimination is tribalism "tribe against tribe", or favoritism of one's own tribe to others. This happens among Saudies of Bedouin tribalist background, this form of discrimination has roots in the vicious tribal wars and conflicts which predated Saudi Arabia.

Social opposition to discrimination/racism in Saudi Arabia

All these forms of racism and discrimination are in a sense accepted socially speaking "meaning there is no vocal or serious social opposition to it", with the opposition to it being essentially non-vocal if existent. A person who opposes any form of racism in Saudi is considered more nice and/or more polite, many do so from a religious stand point,so, they could also be considered more religious. In other words, in Saudi Arabia racism is not endorsed socially and/or legally but it is not a taboo by any means, as it is treated in the West.

Racism on Social Media

Racism by any mean is prohibited in Saudi Arabia on the media and violators face serious consequences which the least of it is to prohibit that person from talking in the media again. As a recent example for that is the King Salman's nephew who was prevented to talk in the media after his call to a TV sport program when he called a person "trash bahar." Also "tribalism" was reason for other people to be prevented to talk in public.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Rubin, Michael. "Iraq." The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East. Ed. Avraham Sela. New York: Continuum, 2002. pp. 410-419.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Out of Iraq, a flight of Chaldeans
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Iraqi officials: Truck bombings killed at least 500
  11. ^ Ann McFeatters: Iraq refugees find no refuge in America. Seattle Post-Intelligencer May 25, 2007
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ [2]
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Khaled Abu Toameh [3] "Where’s the international outcry against Arab apartheid?," March 17, 2011, Jerusalem Post.
  18. ^ Martin Regg Cohn [4] "Not all apartheid is created equal," The Star, March 21, 2011.
  19. ^ Adia Massoud [5] "Left in Lebanon," The Guaradian, May 25, 2007
  20. ^ Leeds Palestine Soidarity Campaign, [6] June 24, 2010
  21. ^ Human Rights Watch [7] "Lebanon: Seize Opportunity to End Discrimination Against Palestinians; Remove Restrictions on Owning Property and Working" June 18, 2010
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ a b c d e
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ a b c
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ [8]

External links

  • Ok I'm a racist- The Iranian
  • Racism: The Arab World's dirty secret
  • Racism in the Middle East deserves our attention
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