Sayyida Zeinab [ii] (سيدة زينب ٢)
As well as welcoming many Iranian tourists, Sayyida Zeinab is also where the majority of Iraqi refugees live. I have talked about the massive influx of Iraqis into Jaramana, but the people living there live in rather more affluent situations then their compatriots in Sayyida Zeinab.
Whilst walking around, I met an Iraqi woman and her nineteen year-old son who had fled here because of the sectarian violence in Iraq. Her family had all been killed, the only thing she had left was her son. He had been kidnapped and a ransom demanded for his return. Whilst he was held captive he was beaten, the scars he bore will remain engrained on his cheeks for the rest of his life.
They had somewhere to live here, but no means to support themselves, she said there were no jobs for people like them. Upon learning that I was English, she expressed her hope to go to the UK, although she held little hope of arriving. I felt incredibly guilty of the actions of our government, and the lack of support that these people now had from the mess that we had created. I didn’t know what I could say, or do. She asked if I knew how she could go, but my experience of these matters is virtually non-existent. I suggested the UNHCR, having recently read that they plan to support 167,840 people here in 2010, although she said she had tried to little avail.
The Iraqi government is trying to entice people back to the country, advertising cash incentives to help people rebuild their lives. The Syrians, who have been incredibly welcoming to the large numbers of people crossing their border, are starting to close-up. People I have spoken to have said that they would prefer to stay in a tent at the border than return to the situation that currently exists in the country.
The photo above is from a little, one-room “youth-centre” in the back-streets of Sayyida Zeinab as dusk was turning to night. In this room, children played Sonic the Hedgehog on old computer console, and the portrait of Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, watches over the ten or so people huddled around a fußbal table.