Building Little Baghdad
(Page 5 of 5)
Little Baghdad is still largely invisible, spread out across slum apartment buildings and middle-class developments. When the community emerges, one of its anchors will probably be Salah al Bagdadi.
At Zituna World Food Market in Richardson, Salah wears a baker’s toque. He was a reform activist during Saddam’s regime, and when his life was threatened, he left Iraq and lived in Yemen and Jordan. When his permit ran out in Jordan, he was imprisoned. In 2008 he was offered resettlement to the United States. He hesitated. He imagined marauders drinking in the streets and the corruption of his daughters.
Salah had little choice but to come. For four months, he didn’t get his Social Security card and could not look for work. That bad patch is over, but things are hardly comfortable. “There is a certain standard I refuse to live under,” Salah says. “If I have extra money, I buy whatever I can for the house . . . to keep my dignity.” His wife, Haifa, is working as a hairdresser, and his daughter is a cashier in the salon.
With three wage earners, the family is able to scrape by. When he talks to his brother back home, Salah tells him it’s not that bad in the United States.
It took seven months, but Salah found a job doing the work he loves. He once owned pastry shops in Iraq and Yemen. Now he’s baking in the Arabic grocery where he works. Though he’s been there only two months, the growing Iraqi community is buying up his flatbread and pastries. It won’t be long before they need a bakery of their own.
Excerpted from The Texas Observer (March 5, 2010), a truth-telling nonprofit biweekly that should be the envy of every state. www.texasobserver.org
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