SABAH (106)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


SABAH (106)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami

Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

Published by Soore Mehr Publishing Co.

Persian Version 2019

Chapter Twenty Seven

It was the second month of summer of 1986 and I had just returned from Arak. One morning my mom woke me up saying: “Sabbah I am going to do some shopping from Sepah store. Half an hour later wake Abbas up and send him to help me carry the shopping items.”

Sepah store was located in Ostad Nejatollahi Avenue and was near our house. Since my father had become sick, the shopping was my mother’s and our responsibility. About half an hour later after my mother left, I got up and woke Abbas up and said: “Go and help mother. She is waiting for you in the store. He got ready quickly and left.”

Five minutes after he left, suddenly the ground started shaking and a number of windows in our building cracked loudly and fell on the ground. I was stoned for one second. I was standing and couldn’t think of anything. The explosion sound was so massive that I couldn’t react! A few instances later I remembered that my mother and Abbas are outside. I got ready quickly and left the house. I imagined the torn body of Abbas all the time; since he had just left the house a few minutes ago.

A few moments later, in the middle of Ferdowsi square, I was standing above a corpse of a traffic officer who had no hand, no foot and head. I had rushed there so quickly that I was the first one to arrive even before the committee forces. Little by little, members of Committee Number 9, which was near Ferdowsi square, showed up at the scene of explosion and started isolating the explosion site and push public away. People looked at the scene confused and terrified. Two meters away from the corpse of the traffic officer, the corpses of a mother and child lay on the pavement. Part of skull of a child who seemed around two years old had been torn and fallen in the street.

I glanced around. On the left side of where I was standing a bus had been blazed and harmed severely. The bus had been going round the square and its rear part had clashed with the explosion and the passengers on the rear part of the bus had been martyred and the passengers in the front of the bus had been wounded. As I heard in the humming of committee members and police forces, the bomb had been exploded in a Citroen car on the north east part of the square.

I was standing in the street and was looking for Abbas. At that moment Zahra Hosseini came to me terrified. As I was the first one to arrive at the scene and was looking for Abbas around, the committee forces suspected me. I found out about their suspicion when one of them approached me and said: “Excuse me sister! We have a few questions. Please follow me to the committee bureau.”

First they asked my full name and address and then asked me what I was doing in Ferdowsi square early in the morning. I told them what had happened. Then they called Zahra and asked her a few questions too. When they saw no discrepancy in our answers and we have been in the war ourselves, apologized and let us go.

We went home. One two hours later, my mother and Abbas returned home. We told them about the explosion. We had seen lots of explosions in Khorramshahr and were used to them but I liked to know the reaction of people in Tehran. My mother said: “Sabbah! We were standing in the queue for items with coupons. Although the sound of explosion was very loud, but you can’t believe if I say that the queue didn’t move. Nobody cared. If we were careless, it was acceptable because we have seen such explosions a lot but these people in Tehran were not afraid at all! It was as if nothing has exploded a few meters away from them.”

On the first month of winter of the same year, Abbas participated in Karbala 5 operation. This was not the first time he went to frontline. In year 1362 (1983) when he was a fifteen sixteen years old teenager and I was a university student in Sari, he had gone to Kurdistan. It was interesting to hear the memoirs of a teenage fighter with Komala forces and hypocrites. He told us that at nights when we ambushed, we had to shoot not to be traced. One of those nights when we were in ambush, I saw something black approaching me. At first I thought it is an animal. I held my breath and didn’t make a noise. After a few seconds, I noticed that the black thing is a man with Kurdish costume coming towards my trench with a stylet between his teeth.

I didn’t know what to do. I whispered Shahada (an Islamic creed). I knew that I will lose if we get into conflict. I was ready for any result. I was waiting for the man to come and sit on my chest and cut my throat with stylet. The only thing I could do was to lean on God. I was talking to him and asking him for help. My only hope was God and nothing more. I had never laid my hopes that much on him till that moment. As I was whispering God’s name, suddenly the man changed his path and went to another direction and far from me. At that spot I saw the glory and attention of God and touched it.

After Karbala-5 operation, we had no news of Abbas for a while. One day he came home with patient clothing and bandaged hand. Although there were more than fifteen quivers in his head and chest and hand, but we, specially my mother, were so happy to see him alive. After a while we gathered around him to hear his memoirs about the operation which had ended around one and a half months ago.

During this operation, Abbas was one of the line breaker battalions. He said: “They took us to an area but didn’t say where. From that location the refinery rigs of Basreh could be seen. We were supposed to move forward and form a passage so that the army, who had been surrounded, could recess. Our battalion included 250 forces. We all attacked; to the line that according to our commanders, an army of Special Forces of Saddam were there. The operation started and the shower of fire and bullets started falling. During the operation, on the special forces of Iraqis was imprisoned by one of the army members in our Basij group. He was so big and masculine that we could control him with ten forces. He was screaming and twisting and attacked us with a small stylet. The only person who could get him on the ground and kill him was that army force.

We had serious battles in Karbala 5. Since the order to move forward had been given, we had to move forward in every possible way and remove all the obstacles. The more we moved forward, the heavier the raids of the enemy become and the number of our martyrs and injured increased. We moved forward and ultimately only a few remained from an army of 250 individuals. At this point we heard the order to recess. We were furious. We had moved forward and had given so much martyr and wounded, and not right at that moment when we wanted to achieve a result, we had to return. We were shaking from anger but had no choice but to follow.

On the way back, the situation was the same. The Iraqis shot more than ten RPGs for each one of us; Kalashnikov bullets and mortar bombs and قناسه. Ultimately from an army of 250, only three made alive, and those three were wounded and hit with bullets and quivers. After transfer to the back of the frontline, the wounded soldiers were sent to Tabriz including me.”

When Abbas was talking, we were crying all the time. He had become so anxious while telling what had happened for his comrades that his body was shaking. My mother gave him so much attention and made him drink syrup to feel better.


Saleheh got married in year 1366 (1987). Her husband, Agha Gholamreza, was one of the friends of Mohammad Agha, Ferdows’s husband. He was a good and believer young man who was an employee of Commercial Bureau. We had a small gathering in our small house in Koushk building and the couple started their life together. Due to the constant bombardments of Tehran, many people didn’t feel like celebrating big weddings and ceremonies. The situation was not good for such ceremonies. They had rented a small house in Arbab Jamshid Street.

Mohsen, who had gone to frontline, returned on the first month of winter 1987 and had a lot to tell us. He was our youngest brother who was only eighteen years old on those days but had not passed military service and was in frontline as volunteer force. His memoirs from his participation in Fath operation were worth to hear. The events of long walking in hard to pass areas of the mountains in Soleymanieh in Iraq and passing through strange and frightening valleys with mule was very interesting.

Those days Saddam had just recently bombarded Halabche with chemical bombs and the television showed irritant scenes from the savage and bloodthirsty behavior of Saddam in Halabche. I couldn’t believe that this murderer could have done such a thing with his own people. I had heard before that Saddam doesn’t like the Iraqi Kurds but I never thought that he could retaliate like this.


To be continued …


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