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BorderWatch:Syria
Video
"Little Baghdad" in Damascus
Alive in Baghdad Reports from Sayyida Zaynab, Iraqi Expats' Home in Syria
07/13/2007 5:48 PM ET

Damascus's Sayyida Zaynab district is now known as an Iraqi enclave in the Syrian capital due to the large numbers of of Iraqi refugees to Syria who have settled there. This week, Alive in Baghdad interviews an Iraqi resident of the district, who describes its appeal to Iraqi expatriates.

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

Congratulations to the Alive in Baghdad team for the recent spot on ABC News. Of course, Slogger readers were introduced to the weekly video blog's founders much earlier.

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