Strength like a drowning person


“Don’t be afraid. I feel safer in here than out there. I don’t want contact with the conflict in the outside world. I hate war, these many wars. But I do like life. Sometimes one finds strength, like a drowning person.”

— Mayada, patient at Al Rashad Psychiatric Hospital, Baghdad

Oh World! You turn your back on me


Al Rashad is located in Sadr City, which was at the front lines of fighting for most of the six months I worked on this story. Some journalists told me I was crazy to risk my life for a story about “a bunch of insane old women.” One night when I slept over because it was too dangerous to leave, Bushra al-Jorani slipped a poem under my pillow:

“Oh World!
Is this my fate from God?
Oh World! You turn your back on me
Only words relieve my tears, which increase day by day
What happened to me? I remember the joy of my youth
But all of time is against me
Nothing but tears remain of me.”


Rita Leistner at the Al Rashad Psychiatric Hospital Women’s Ward, Baghdad, March 2004