Gypsies in Iraq

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Gypsies (Kawliya / Zott / Ghorbati)
in Iraq
Total population
50,000+ (est.)
Arabic and Domari
Related ethnic groups
Gypsies in Syria

The Kawliya or Qawliya (Arabic: كاولية or كاولي‎), also known as Zott and Ghorbati (known in English as Gypsies), is a community in Iraq of Indian origin, estimated to number over 60,000 people. Today they speak mostly Arabic, while their ethnolect is a mixture of Persian, Kurdish and Turkish, only spoken by the older generations. The largest tribes are the Bu-Baroud, Bu-Swailem, Bu-Helio, Bu-Dakhil, Bu-Akkar, Bu-Murad, Bu-Thanio, Bu-Shati, Al-Farahedah, Al-Mtairat, Bu-Khuzam, Bu-Abd, Bu-Nasif, Bu-Delli and Al-Nawar. Their main occupation is entertainment, and also small trades.

The Kawliya migrated from India approximately 1,000 years ago. Under the secular rule of Saddam Hussein, they lived peacefully among other ethnic groups. They became outcasts after the rise of ultra-conservative Islamists in 2004, despite the fact that the majority of Kawliya are Muslims.[1] ("Kawliya" is also an Arabic term for prostitute.)[2]

Kawliya is also the name of a former village in the Al-Qādisiyyah Governorate near Al Diwaniyah, located about 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, where they live.[3] The village was reportedly destroyed by a militia controlled by a militant Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who viewed the gypsies as "morally repugnant.[1] About 1,000 villagers were driven out.[2]

See also


  1. ^ a b "No place for gypsies in ultra-conservative Iraq". Al-Arabiya. AFP. 25 November 2009. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  2. ^ a b Bahadur, Gaiutra (6 June 2005). "In now-religious Iraq, no tolerance for Gypsies". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  3. ^ Shadid, Anthony (3 April 2004). "In a Gypsy Village's Fate, An Image of Iraq's Future". The Washington Post. Retrieved 23 October 2016.

Further reading

  • "Gypsies and Society in Iraq: Between Marginality, Folklore and Romanticism". doi:10.1080/00263206.2013.849696.
  • "Minorities in Iraq: Memory, Identity and Challenges (Chapter of Gypsies in Iraq), Masarat Publication, Baghdad, 2013".
  • Chris Chapman; Preti Taneja (10 January 2009). Uncertain refuge, dangerous return: Iraq's uprooted minorities. Minority Rights Group International. ISBN 978-1-904584-90-2.
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