Fatima told them: "I will take care of Noor. Not because of Haider but because she is a child in need of love."
A special school
On a Sunday morning, the start of the workweek in Iraq, Fatima and Haider's sister Zainab get Noor ready for school. The family tried to enroll her in a regular elementary school. But none would take her.
So she attends one of two government-run institutions for disabled children in Baghdad. It's far from Noor's house, but there was no other choice. Sometimes when the government-run van doesn't show up, Noor has to miss school. Her grandfather says he cannot afford to pay the $8 for a taxi ride there and back.
Fatima lays Noor down on the couch to straighten her tights. She's wearing a black jumper with a ruffled white blouse that could rival any Elizabethan collar.
"I always choose the best and most beautiful outfits," Zainab tells me. "I don't want (Noor) to feel less than others or to think that anyone is more beautiful or better dressed than her. I don't want her to have that in her heart."
After she is ready, Noor's grandfather wheels her down to the main road. They make a regular stop at the convenience store so Noor can buy milk and snacks for the school day. Often that includes chocolate.
A maroon minivan arrives to pick her up. Already on board are five children; the driver snakes his way around several neighborhoods to pick up three more.
Some of the students are mentally disabled. Others, physically. Some are both. One girl, Jenat, used to attend a regular elementary school until a gland problem led to obesity and she was bullied. The principal told Jenat's mother to enroll her in Noor's school.
The children sing songs, tell jokes. The teacher who rides with them tries to keep them engaged. Noor sits in a window seat, quiet the entire way.
During the ride, the kids talk about pacha, a traditional Iraqi dish made from the sheep's head. Everyone lets out expressions of disgust. Not Noor.
"Noor never says anything unless you ask her a question," says Maryam, one of the kids in the van.
When the van finally arrives at the school, teachers roll out wheelchairs for the kids. Noor's first class this morning is Arabic. The teacher asks her to come to the white board to write a sentence.
"I am helping my mother," she writes. My Arabic skills are hardly good enough to judge Noor's script, but I notice she is left-handed.
I step outside to speak with Salma Mohammed, the school's social researcher. She has known Noor for the year and a half she has been at the school.
The number of Iraqis with disabilities has grown significantly after decades of conflict, starting with the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, she says. One of Noor's best friends, Hajar, is also a paraplegic. She was wounded when a mortar landed in her front yard.
Mohammed believes Iraqis have become more aware of the disabled, but the country still lacks the resources to afford them a normal life.
"To be honest with you, all these children need to be treated abroad," she says.
Mohammed shows me Noor's report card. She is under par for a second-grader. Her teachers say she doesn't understand instruction as well as she should.
Beyond the physical limitations, Mohammed fears Noor is developing psychological problems -- that she suffers from depression and loss of confidence and self-esteem.
"I told the family they should have left Noor in America," Mohammed says. "They said, 'Yes, we regret it.'
"I've been watching her case," Mohammed says. "She is not progressing."
In the afternoon, Fatima sits down on the floor to make dolmas, vine leaves stuffed with a mixture of lamb and rice.
Noor sits in her wheelchair watching her work.