A sprightly 120-year-old living in Halabja province can claim the title of oldest woman in Iraq. She may even be the oldest in the world – and her grandchildren believe she is even older.
In July this year Iraqi media published the news that 119-year-old Jiryis Hamadah had died. This means that an Iraqi Kurdish woman, Salma Abdulqadir, who is 120 years old, is now the oldest woman in the country.
Her official date of birth is July 1, 1897, but one of her grandchildren says that is actually wrong and that the grandmother of 150 and mother of eight, is even older than this. They think it may be around ten years older, which make her 130 if they are correct. She has outlived her husband by 41 years and three of her sons are also deceased.
Abdulqadir lives in the village of Qalbaza in Halabja province and is still relatively active, her grandchildren say.
I still pray every day. I don’t think I have missed a single prayer since I was a child.
“She talks less and cannot hear as well,” one of her grandsons, Farouq Rustam, told NIQASH. “But she is not ill. We took her for a medical about a month ago and the results confirm that she hasn’t got any problems with her blood pressure or illnesses like diabetes.”
Rustam says his grandmother walks around the yard every day and easts normally; in fact, she also managed to fast during the whole holy month of Ramadan, which can be hard for even strong men to manage in the Iraqi heat.
Her memory is still good and any sadness she has comes from the loss of loved ones, such as that of one son, who was a member of the Iraqi Kurdish military. It is hard talking to Abdulqadir because one must shout for her to hear. However, NIQASH managed to have a small conversation with the oldest woman in Iraq.
Abdulqadir remembers when her son died. “One night in the 1980s he came home with some other soldiers. I prepared them a meal and then they left to fight in the mountains. I never saw him again,” she says. I have lost many loved ones and this makes me sad.”
“I remember almost everything,” she continued; Abdulqadir recalls being a witness to two world wars and the revolutions in Iraqi Kurdistan including one uprising against the British in the 1920s.
“And I still pray every day,” she told NIQASH. “I don’t think I have missed a single prayer since I was a child.”
Abdulqadir’s grandchildren have tried several times to somehow register their grandmother as the oldest woman in Iraq and possibly even, one of the oldest women in the world. Chinese state media recently reported about a 131-year-old woman living in that country but other “oldest women” are younger than Abdulqadir, aged around 117.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi government doesn’t appear to believe that Abdulqadir is still alive; they stopped sending her the ration card that many Iraqis used to obtain basic food items.