About this blog

Blogging Baghdad aims to provide a dynamic look at the story behind the story of covering the news in Iraq. Online entries – from text to video blogs – will detail the realities of daily life for ordinary Iraqis, American troops and the media living and working in a 24 hour war zone.

Regular contributors include NBC News correspondents, producers and staff on assignment in Iraq.

Click here to read more about the journalists behind Blogging Baghdad.

Naming a baby Ali or Omar? It matters

On top of all the other dangers that keep parents awake at night in Iraq, some of them face a new and agonizing choice – what to name their children that won’t doom them.

"We worried about a name that sounds too Shiite," a friend told me about his son, born a month ago. In the end, they called him Ali – a name common to both Sunnis and Shiites.

With sectarian violence sweeping Baghdad, some Sunni parents as well are thinking twice about giving their new-born children identifiably Sunni names.

It’s a new dilemma. It reflects the increase in attacks simply because a person is the wrong religion in the wrong place at the wrong time. For the most part there’s no way to tell whether someone is Sunni or Shiite or Christian unless they make a point of dressing differently.

But some of the names are giveaways.

In Iraq, Omar is almost always Sunni and Haider tends to be Shiite. But some names like Ali and Hussein – two Imams particularly revered by Shiite Muslims – are common among Sunnis as well. Almost all of the names are rooted in Islamic history.

Iraqis say one of the biggest dangers now is being stopped at illegal checkpoints by militia members or being singled out of crowds by gunmen looking for either Sunnis or Shiites to kill. While parents are adept at disguising their identities, it’s much harder to get children to lie about their names.

But while you can relatively easily change a first name, tribal names which more clearly indicate Shiite or Sunni tribes are more problematic. There’s a solution for that though. "You can buy any kind of ID now for $25," one Iraqi tells me.

The fake IDs can change your name, your occupation and Iraqis hope – get them past those checkpoints and through another day.

MAIN PAGE NEXT POST Fighting terrorism on the water

Email this EMAIL THIS

Slide Show

  • Life beyond the violence
    Suicide attacks and murders due to sectarian conflict continue around Iraq. See how residents live their lives amid the attacks.

More Conflict in Iraq coverage

  • COMPLETE COVERAGE