A Shadowy Existence in a Baghdad Women's Home



(Andrea Bruce/The Washington Post)

Doris Yunan sits in the empty dining room where the sun can find her. With help from the wind, shapes and shadows tease her from the picture window. The sun winks at her from behind a bowing date palm. The light creates a sensation that, sometimes, she says, overcomes her blindness.

Doris, 83, sits in her regular spot especially when she prays. Arabic romance movies play in the next room, keeping the attention of 14 other elderly women who live at Beit Anya, a charity home in Baghdad run by Christians.

The home takes in women left abandoned by death or family or war. Most are old, some are handicapped. Before the war, when the home was opened, there were only four women living there. Now there are 47.

"When it hurts, I can't see anything," Doris says. "But now it is not hurting me, so I can see a little."

Eve Peters, a 21-year-old volunteer, sits half a table away, just in case.

Doris says it's nerve damage. She can't see the walled courtyard outside the window, the well-watered rose bushes or the hundreds of garlic bulbs hanging off the wrought-iron fence. But every morning she wraps a scarf around her head perfectly, in the traditional Assyrian style.

Her story is similar to those of most of the women here.

She married a widower. When he died four years ago, her stepsons escaped the war, leaving the country and abandoning her on the streets of Baghdad.

She lived on a bench in a church for a year before moving into Bait Anya.

Three times a day, she sits in one of the plastic chairs in the dining room, surrounded by walls lined with cheap prints of Bible scenes, and prays, one bead after an other, with her rosary.

No one visits her.

-- Andrea Bruce

By Liz Heron  |  June 30, 2008; 12:05 AM ET  | Category:  Baghdad
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