Jordanian black minority speaks of its experience with racism

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AMMAN — Among the millions of people who call Jordan home is a minority population that describes its experience as one of discrimination and stereotypes: Black Jordanians.اضافة اعلان

According to Professor Hussein Al-Khozahe, a sociologist, there are around 200,000 Black Jordanians living in both the northern and southern Jordan Valley. Black communities have long made their homes in Jordan and Palestine, with an estimated 3 million Africans brought as enslaved people to the Middle East by the 9th century. There is a strong Afro-Palestinian community in Jerusalem as well, some of whom now reside as Palestinian refugees in Jordan.

“Discrimination and racism exist here towards Black people, no matter where they come from,” Mahmoud Al-Deghemat, a Black Jordanian from Karak based in Amman, similarly told Jordan News. “I was told I wouldn’t be able to get a job here, because people in work places don’t want to work with a black person. And when I introduce myself, many people would say ‘You’re not Jordanian, you’re African.’”

In the early 2000s, before many Africans came to Jordan as refugees and migrants, Black Jordanians said they still faced discrimination and stereotyping. Perhaps the most common form of mistreatment cited was through name-calling, with the most common words including “abeed” (meaning slave), “abu al abed” (Karemo — a chocolate coated marshmallow treat), and “abu samrah” (an idiom meaning ‘father of dark skin’).

However, in recent years, there has been a considerable increase of people from Africa living and working in Jordan, including Somali and Sudanese refugees who share religion and language with the Kingdom. Based on the 2015 census, there are around 700,000 migrants from Africa living in Jordan.  According to the UNHCR’s 2020 statistics, there are 6,076 registered Sudanese refugees in the country and 746 registered Somali refugees.

“The ones who suffer the most are the children of Black parents,” Mohmmad Karboush, a Somali who has been living in Jordan for nearly a decade, said in an interview with Jordan News. “They have been living in a country and a society that isn’t their own and also an environment where people do not look like them. They have been victims of racial stereotyping and racial slurs.”

Despite their experience of racism and discrimination, both men expressed hope for change. “Awareness is the way racism and discrimination may disappear,” said Karboush. “The people need to educate themselves about the cultures that are different than your own.”

Deghemat echoed him. “Friendship is the way for racism to disappear,” he said. “Become friends with people of different cultures, ask questions and be curious about their culture. That way someone will be aware of what they are saying and respect is given to both of them.”

Loay Shahwah, another Black Jordanian professional based in Amman, said “Racism is going to take a while to disappear, but people need to realize that we were given this skin tone by the Almighty. We are the same on the inside: the only thing that is different is our skin tone.”  

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