Qawliya Dance (2006, video, 7:01)
by Usama Alshaibi

Qawliya means Gypsy and the Qawliya gypsies are a small minority in Iraq. They have roots from Spain and India, as well as other Arab countries. Many of the gypsies live in tribal areas between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

The Qawliya dance is usually played with the Iraqi Chobi style of music. The rapid fire of drums and manic energy made this a favorite among the elite during the rule of Saddam.

Since the United States occupation of Iraq in 2003, some of the poorest Qawliya areas, known for their red light districts, became easy targets for religious militia groups. Many of their villages have been destroyed or taken over by such militias and has forced the Gypsies to flee north.