New Zealand Markets closed

Amid protests, Iraqi grandmother does the laundry

With the violence of a months-long protest raging around her, an Iraqi grandmother has taken up the cause.

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PROTEST VOLUNTEER UM SALWAN, SAYING:

"I am 70 years old and I am fighting with them. They are protesting and I am also a protester."

Helping the demonstrations against the Iraqi government in the best way she knows how -

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PROTEST VOLUNTEER UM SALWAN, SAYING:

"I wash their clothes, I hang them to dry, I sew them. Who else do they have? We are their mothers. What is there to do?"

Bearing witness to the brutality, Um Salwan, side by side with another mother, Um Ali, scrubs weeks of dirt, sweat, and sometimes blood from the protesters' clothes.

The protests began October first. Um Ali's son soon returned home night after night carrying loads of his friend's clothes.

That's when the women brought their washing machines to Baghdad's Tahrir Square, hanging a sign that reads, "It's our honor to wash the clothes of the heroic protesters."

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PROTEST VOLUNTEER UM ALI, SAYING:

"We wash a million pieces a day, we can barely keep up."

The women buy detergent and supplies with their own money when donated goods run out.

For the protestors, the women provide more than fresh clothing.

SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PROTESTER REDA HUSSEIN, SAYING:

"At home who does this for us? Our mothers. So, she has taken the role of our mother. I sometimes miss my mother, but when I come here that fades."

More than 400 people - mostly young, unarmed protesters - have been killed by Iraqi forces, and thousands others injured since the mass anti-government protests broke out.

More than a dozen members of the security forces have also died in clashes.

(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PROTEST VOLUNTEER , UM SALWAN, SAYING:

"They stole everything, we have nothing, we rent everything, I am taking care of orphans and I am a widow."

The mother of six said she dreams of a better country for her grandchildren, and will stand with the protesters until their demands are met.