SABAH (78)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


SABAH (78)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami

Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

Published by Soore Mehr Publishing Co.

Persian Version 2019



Chapter Nineteen

We had no news of Ali. One day Shahnaz and I decided to go to the army base and meet Jahan Ara and ask him for updates on Ali. At the entrance of Persian hotel, we were stopped. They asked whom we wanted to meet. We said: “We are sisters of Ali Vatan Khah and it is quite a while that we haven’t heard anything from him. We have come to ask Brother Jahan Ara if he has any news about him.” The guard nodded positively and said: “Yes, please come in. brother Jahan Ara’s room is on third floor.”

Persian hotel was much smaller than Caravanserai hotel. After the lobby, it had a narrow entry. After a few stairs, we reached the rooms of the hotel. The corridor which reached the staircase and rooms was semi dark because the windows had been covered by sand bags. Once in a while we could see officers commuting in corridors. We were not comfortable. We forgot to ask the exact address of his room. We went to third floor.

I knocked on the first door and opened it without waiting for permission. A few young officers were sitting on the floor and carpet. One of them was mimicking one of the TV teasers and was reciting one part of its poem. The others laughed and made fun. They were shocked to see me. I was very embarrassed and closed the door quickly. Poor officers were surprised. They didn’t expect two women to open the door. It was my fault. I shouldn’t have opened it in a hurry.

We didn’t know what to do next. The door of one of the rooms opened and one of the army members called Mostafa Emadi walked out. I had seen Emadi a lot during the events of Arab public and revolution. He came towards me. We greeted. He asked: “What are you doing here?”

I told him about Ali and said: “we have come to see whether Jahan Ara has any news about Ali and Ghasem Madani or not.” He said: “Let me take you to him.”

Mostafa knocked on the door of a room and went inside. I heard him saying: “Sisters of Ali Vatan Khah have come to talk to you about their brother.” Jahan Ara said: “Let them inside.”

We went in. the room was about twelve square meters and Jahan Ara stood for us behind a desk. Behind him there was a beautiful photo of Imam. His office had only one desk and nothing else.

My head was down but for one second I looked at his face. I was shocked. He had changed a lot since I had seen him in Khorramshahr. He had full beard and his hair were almost long and unkempt. His skin was yellowish. He was wearing a pull over over his army uniform and was wearing slippers. His situation showed that he had spent hard days and nights. After greeting, he said: “I am at your service. Please tell me.”

I said: “We have no news of my brother Ali for a while. We have looked for him everywhere. It is as if he has vanished into thin air. We are sure about his captivity, but we haven’t heard anything from Iraq radio yet. We thought you or your friends might know anything about him.”

Jahan Ara knew Ali well. He said: “He took fifteen days off. Maybe he has gone somewhere and stayed.” I said: “No! Out of fifteen days leave, he has been in Sarbandar with his family for only two nights. Although they had insisted that he stays more, he has said that it is not time to stay and take leave. He has said that the frontline needs him and has returned quickly. Ghasem Madani has also been with him. Now we have news from neither of them. We have looked all the frontlines. All hospitals and morgues. There is no trace of them.”

Jahan Ara’s head was down and he was playing with the edge of the desk with his finger. He was a gentleman. He said: “Why do you say that his captivity is final for you?” I said: “Because on the same day that Ali was coming towards Abadan, the Iraqis have seized a minibus in Shadegan road. You know better. This has been announced by radio a few times. We think Ali might have been in that vehicle.”

The more I talked about Ali, the more worried Jahan Ara’s face became. He frowned and said: “I am really upset to hear this news. I did not expect to hear the news of his captivity. I always thought that if anything is going to happen to him, it would be martyrdom. He is a brave man. When his two weeks leave was over and he didn’t return, I told myself that he is upset with us and will return sooner or later.”

Ali had told my mother and Shahnaz: “I wanted to go to the other side of the river for identification along with a number of army members during night time. But Jahan Ara didn’t let me and told me to wait and when the time comes I will send you with the next group. I told that if this is the case, I will not work with you anymore.” Apparently Ali had become upset of this issue but after that the case of Iraqi RPG operator had happened. We were worried that because of his statement, they won’t count him as army forces anymore. Therefore Shahnaz said: “Brother Jahan Ara, what will happen to his being an officer title?”

Jahan Ara said: “Ali is our guard as before. Don’t worry about his. He is young and might have become angry and say something, but we don’t take his words seriously. Hopefully we will hear from him soon. If you have any news about him please let us know too. If we have any news from him, we will tell you.”

I had written a letter requesting that Ali stays in army for Jahan Ara. I gave it to him. Then we said goodbye and returned to the hospital. We were really hopeless. For one instance I really missed Ali. Me, Ali, Abbas and Ferdows loved playing kites. Ali and I more than others. We always had a piece of paper and bamboo and glue in our hands. Usually I was the one who made the kites.

Once when we were living in Kaljouy village in Borujerd, I made two beautiful kites and told Ali to go with me to the rooftop to play kite. Flying a kite had its own way of doing it. We ran on the rooftop and flied our kites than I did not notice a hole in the rooftop, and I feel down! The height of rooftop in village houses was more than three meters and my only luck was that I had fallen in the storage and on a pile of hay. Ali was unaware of what had happened and was flying his kite.

I was very frightened. The hay storage room was semi-dark. After a few instances when my eyes got used to the darkness of the surrounding, I saw a few white and fluffy puppies on my right side. It appeared that they have just been born and are mostly one two months old. On one side I was terrified of my fall and on the other side I was terrified to see the dogs and fear that each minutes their mother could come for them and get angry to see me there. I was speechless and could not call anybody. I was afraid to move.

A few minutes later, my mother opened the storage door and ran towards me terrified. Ali and Fouziyeh followed her. My mother was touching my hands and feet constantly and asked: “Do you have pain?!” I was anxious but thanks God I did not have any pain.

When I missed Ali, all these memories crossed my mind. I kept a trace of him in my heart so that I could decrease the level of missing.

I was tired of commuting to hospital and Arya alley. One day I went to Mr. Hassani, Internal Director of hospital. He was one of the young and devoted forces of Abadan Jihad. I told him: “I have been in the hospital for a while and I do everything I can for the injured to assist nurses and other medical staff. At night I go to my team members in Arya alley. It would be very good if I could be stationed in the hospital.”

Mr. Hassani welcomed my suggestion and said: “Maybe you don’t know me a lot but I have noticed that you are really working hard here. You have always brought the injured and helped in lots of tasks. It would be my honor to be at your service.”

Then he asked: “Which department you would like to work?”

Since I had been working in first aid arrangements such as injection and … I had become an expert and said: “I would like to go to emergency ward. I feel I would be more useful there.”

I went to emergency. Fouziyeh and Afsaneh Ghazi Zadeh were also working in surgery ward. During lunch time we gathered around and Shahnaz and Fouziyeh told me about the miserable conditions of surgery ward. They told that when we went to clean the surgery room for the first time, we noticed that the leather mattress which was on the bed was stuck and did not move due to the loads of blood which had poured from the injured.

They told that sometimes the number of injured were so high that the personnel of surgery room do not have the time to wash and disinfect the equipment with autoclave; and blood was stuck to surgical forceps and dried. They told that they have started cleaning the whole surgery room with blade and cotton and Savlon. Then they had moved to surgical equipment. They had moved all the dried bloods from surgical equipment with needles.

Afsaneh had also narrated the same story. Afsaneh said: “I went to an injured patient and felt a horrible smell coming from him. I moved the sheet on the bed but didn’t see anything but when I moved the mattress I saw a lot of big and white worms moving. I felt so sorry with this scene. Young people had come to defend their country and were risking their lives but there was nobody to treat them. The mattress was full of worms since it has not been washed for a long time from the blood and injection of patients.”

Those members who were working in surgery ward, slept in a space behind recovery room but I had no place to stay before being settled in emergency ward and had to go to Arya alley. After I talked to Mr. Hassani and went to emergency, I slept in nurses dormitory located on third floor of the hospital.

When I stationed in Taleghani hospital, I noticed that my hairs are falling severely and every night I noticed lots of hair on my pillow. I felt that I was going bald. Belgheys knew how to cut hair. I asked her to cut my hair short. She cut my hair very short, barely reaching two centimeters. I was so sad to be obliged to cut my hair that short. But I had no other choice.

Most of the patients they brought to emergency ward came from Zolfaghari, Haffar, Minoo Island, Fayaziyeh, Kafisheh, Stations 7 & 9, under the bridge and Seyed Abas surrounding frontlines. The patients were mostly very young fighters and rarely we could see anybody around 30 years old. Fractured bones, raptured veins, cut body parts, bodies raptured with quivers were nothing new to me anymore. I treated those injuries so normal and quick and calmly that I was surprised with myself. It was as if I had done this job my whole life and have grown doing these tasks.


To be continued …

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