Finding 'The Lady' of Iraq's Past

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Regarding the March 5 Style story "The Woman Who Put Iraq on the Map": The photograph of a cemetery that accompanied the story is not of the cemetery that contains the grave of Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell.

In January 2004 we visited Bell's well-marked grave at one of the two British cemeteries in Baghdad. Yes, Baghdad has two British cemeteries, not one as implied in the article. The cemetery that contains Bell's grave is behind the Ministry of Higher Education, near Tayeran Square and the Armenian Church. This cemetery is locked and surrounded by a high wall, and its solid, black metal gate does not permit any view inside.

Our Iraqi driver was able to locate the cemetery's elderly male guard (and his granddaughter) who kindly opened the gate of the well-tended cemetery and escorted us to the Bell gravesite. We were permitted to take photographs.

We believe that The Post's reporter went to the other British cemetery in Baghdad, known as the Babmuadham Cemetery, near the College of Arts. This explains why the reporter couldn't locate Bell's grave.

Even 80 years after her untimely death by suicide, Iraqis young and old acknowledge the place of "The Lady," as they called Bell, in their history. In addition to her cartography skills and her understanding of the politics of the time, she spent her retirement years in Baghdad helping to establish the renowned Baghdad Museum.

A grave that may be just as interesting as Bell's is that of Charles F. Brissel, a U.S. consul who died in Baghdad in 1916. Both graves are weathered. Perhaps when the security situation permits, the U.S. and British governments will be able to refurbish these historical markers.





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