Babylon & Beyond

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IRAQ: Homeless in Baghdad

February 25, 2009 | 10:02 am


It's bad enough to be homeless. It's worse to be homeless in a war-torn city such as Baghdad. But to be homeless and without even a country to claim you as a citizen? That is the apparent plight of a family living outside a five-star hotel in the Iraqi capital. As we wrote in today's story, Allia Abbis Ali Kassem Tibiti and her parents claim to be from Tibet and moved into their spot because the Chinese Embassy is inside the hotel across the street. They're hoping their presence will force the Chinese to grant them citizenship documents and let them leave Iraq.

Chinese2 They have nowhere else to go, Tibiti said while stirring a pot of macaroni set up amid the filthy sacks of belongings and boxes surrounding their makeshift home. By any standards, the family's predicament is bizarre. Even by Iraq's standards, it seems particularly hopeless. They claim to be Chinese, despite having lived in Iraq for decades. But Chinese officials say they have not produced documentation to prove this. They also don't have paperwork to prove Iraqi citizenship.

Asked why they don't simply stay in Iraq now that security is better, Tibiti was incredulous. "Even Iraqis are leaving Iraq! Why should I stay?!" she cried. "This is not my country."

Despite attracting some local media attention, the family says nobody from the Chinese Embassy has spoken to them or offered assistance. In the meantime, Allia Tibiti says she and her elderly mother and father continue to live in squalor. She yanked off her knit cap to show off a long matted braid and pulled off a soiled white sock to show how filthy her feet were. "I want results! I want a solution!" she said as the macaroni pot boiled.

-- Times staff writers

Top photo: Allia Abis Ali Kassem Tibiti stands amid the family's belongings. Credit: Saad Khalaf

Bottom photo: Allia's Tibiti's mother waits for her daughter to prepare lunch.