Little Baghdad in Damascus - 07.09.2007

Video - Damascus/Saeda Zeinab, Syria - Iraqi refugees in Syria are settling in a great many areas of the country due to the sheer size of the emigration. However, many, perhaps the majority, have settled in a neighborhood in Damascus named Saeda Zeinab, after the daugher of Imam Ali, who is buried in the gold-domed shrine that dominates the area.

The Iraqi dialect of Arabic is more common on Saeda’s streets than any other, and rumors abound about violence, kidnappings, and crime reminiscent of “Old Baghdad” taking hold in the neighborhood.

The reasons for Iraqis preferring this area tend to be relatively simple. Especially devout Iraqis enjoy their proximity to one of the more holy places for Shi’as, who are the dominant sect residing here. Iraqis in need of assistance and extra support are close to the office of the Sadr Movement in Damascus, which we reported about here.

Still other Iraqis, perhaps in the country illegally, or overstaying their visa, may find an extra layer of security here, able to disappear in the ubiquity of Iraqi habits, dialect, slang, and dress that is prevalent here.

But all of these raise particular questions about why Saeda Zeinab became important in the first place, more than 1300 years ago. We spoke with a man who preferred not to give his name who has lived in Saeda for some time. He tells us a little about Saeda Zeinab, and why Iraqis have such an attraction to this area.

This is the third piece produced by our new staff, all of whom have returned to Baghdad and are working on new stories we will be posting soon, from all different districts and on all different topics of life in Baghdad. To keep them on, we need your help with donations, our viewers are an important aspect of our funding, and without you we would have shut down our site months ago. Please continue to donate here!

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