Building Little Baghdad

  • BAGHDAD—3girls

    Schoolgirls inside the women's prayer room at the Islamic Association of North Texas in Richardson. Like most mosques, the IANT bills itself as an association due to all of the services it provides to the community. The IANT houses a school, a medical clinic and provides other community services.
  • BAGHDAD—aishacindyschool

    "I quit my job for this," says Aisha Waheed, left, with Cindy Weber, speaking at the Islamic Association of North Texas about her decision to work as the mosque's refugee coordinator, an unpaid post. "I was a Director for T-Mobile. I'm an RF [radio frequency] engineer by profession." Now she does outreach and collects donations for Muslim refugees. Each month she alerts the mosque of families in need of assistance. "They send the checks directly to the landlords."
  • BAGHDAD—lockers

    Girls get books out of their lockers at the IANT Quranic Academy in Richardson.
  • BAGHDAD—prayingthruwindow

    Fozia Ibrahim inside the American Islamic Center during the Friday hutbah, or sermon. The center provides resources, community activists and a place of worship for Muslim refugees in Dallas.
  • BAGHDAD—couplevertical

    In 2006, Yasein Ibrahim, left, was standing on top of a building in Baghdad observing the surrounding area when a bomb exploded nearby. He fell two stories, landing on his hip. Now that he is disabled, his wife Fozia, right, is the provider for their family of seven.
  • BAGHDAD—portraithandvertical

    Fozia has not been able to find a steady job since the family arrived in Dallas fifteen months ago. They are relying on the American Islamic Center for financial help.
  • BAGHDAD—cindy

    On the back patio of the American Islamic Center, Cindy Weber listens to one of the center's members.
  • BAGHDAD—womanportrait

    Nagham Mezher speaks fluent English and has a master's degree in computer engineering from Iraq. She has been looking for work for seven months.
  • BAGHDAD—ameeracindy

    Cindy Weber, left, and Amira Matsuda, right, chatting outside the American Islamic Center. Matsuda is director of the Iraqi American Association of North Texas.
  • BAGHDAD—ameeroud

    Ameer Alwan plays the oud while Amira Matsuda sings. The oud is a Middle Eastern instrument which dates back to the 9th century.
  • BAGHDAD—ameerpaintings

    Ameer Alwan, whose artwork garnered much more recognition in the Middle-East than it does here, displays his paintings in his apartment in Dallas. The painting behind him depicts the Halabja massacre of 1988, when Saddam's forces used poison gas on civilians in Kurdistan, killing 5,000 and injuring 10,000. Alwan prefers not to be called a refugee, finding the term degrading. "I hate the word," he says. "I am an artist."
  • BAGHDAD—haji2

    Amira Matsuda listens to Muhammad Haji talk about his struggles finding work in the U.S. while his wife, Payman, serves coffee. "I feel sorry for all these people," she says. "Nobody wants to sit home and expect someone to take care of them. That's not the reason why they came here."
  • BAGHDAD—snapshot

    Heyam Alubaidi shows Amira Matsuda, left, a photo of her son, Muhammad, who has Down's Syndrome and will have heart surgery next month. Her husband, Jamal, suffered a heart attack before coming to the U.S. and relies on a wheelchair.
  • BAGHDAD—salah2

    Salah al Bagdadi's family has been making sweets for generations, and he previously had pastry shops in Iraq and Yemen. After seven months unemployed, Bagdadi was hired as a pastry chef at Zituna World Foods in Richardson. In the back of the shop, Bagdadi shows where he bakes pastries.
  • BAGHDAD—intsar

    Amira Matsuda hands Iraqi bread to Intsar Hassan, who had surgery on her leg the day before. She has been crippled ever since being run over by a fork lift in 1998 for speaking out against Saddam's regime.
  • BAGHDAD—intsar2

    Intsar Hassan stands with a devoted friend, Rajaa Ali, who has been taking care of her since her surgery.
  • BAGHDAD—chassan&adna

    "I didn't want to come" to America, says Chassan Mohialdeen who worked for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. "It was a difficult decision to move. I had my whole family there. But then, I was almost killed four times." When burglars broke into his home one night and found his U.S. Embassy badge, they threatened to decapitate him and rape his wife, Adna, left. By some miracle, he was able to talk his way out of it. The following day they left their home, and after more close calls, eventually fled to Egypt.
  • BAGHDAD—mohialdeenfamily

    Adna Mohialdeen with daughters Raheeq, 9, left, and Shams, 10, right. Still afraid of being judged by other Iraqis for having worked for the Americans, the Mohialdeens do not have many Iraqi friends in Austin where they now live. "We have the Muslim values but we don't mix with other Muslims, other Iraqis," Ghassan says. "I think with time we will mix with others."
  • BAHGDAD—clemens

    "While my house will always be their house, they need a life," says 1st Sgt. Eric Clemens, seated with Raad and Saad, two of three Iraqi refugee brothers who moved in with him when they weren't able to make ends meet in Dallas. The brothers had worked for Clemens in Iraq. He says he has spent $20,000 on helping them thus far. "If they don't find a job, everything that's been done up to this point will be a moot point."
  • BAGHDAD—raadhand

    Fearing retribution for his children who are still in Iraq, Raad did not want his face photographed, but he shared his stories. After insurgents found out the family was working for the United States, their home was attacked. During one of many drive-by attacks, Raad's wife was killed.
  • BAGHDAD—clemensroom

    Sgt. Clemens' office no longer serves as a place just for his military accoutrements. It has been converted into the Iraqi brothers' bedroom. "He's always trying to keep me safe," Saad says.

In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, established Muslims are working hard to keep refugees from falling through the cracks.Read more in “Building Little Baghdad” by Laura Burke.

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Published at 8:00 am CST