Memories of Ali Echrash

"Liberation of Khorramshahr"

By Faezeh Sasanikhah
Translated by: Zahra Hosseinian

2023-5-28


The Liberation of Khorramshahr, and the retreat of the enemy toward the border of Shalamcheh, led to the distance of Mahshahr from the front and took a defensive state. The forces, who came to Mahshahr for operations, returned to their city, and I went back home after a while.

I looked for an opportunity to go to Khorramshahr. Having to visit Khorramshahr in mind, Ishaq came to Mahshahr. He worked on the oil wells on Sirri Island. My friends in headquarter and I decided to go to Khorramshahr together. Mr. Atashpanjeh, who worked in Razi Chemical Company, and Ishaq and I went to Khorramshahr with a Jeep Land Rover; and several of our friends such as Abbas Hassanpour, Yasser Zaeri, Abedi, and Ali Fallahi went by two minibusses belonged to the Red Crescent Society. People from all over the country would come to Khorramshahr if the military forces allowed. We went to Shadegan from Sarbandar before noon. There was a celebration in the streets of Shadgan. The Arabs of Shadegan performed ‘Yezeleh’[1] in the streets. We also got off the cars and performed ‘Yezeleh’ with the Arabs!

People proffered candy and sharbat step by step. A large number of Khorramshahr war victims had migrated to Shadegan. From long ago, there was a friendship and family bond between the people of Khorramshahr and the troops stationed in the barracks. They considered this victory theirs more than the rest of the people. We spent one or two hours in Shadegan and then moved to Darkhoyen T-junction. From there, we went to Karun and passed over the floating bridge of the Karun River which had been built for operation Beit-ol-moqaddas by the fighters. We moved along the same route, where the fighters had gone to Khoramshahr on the night of the operation until we reached the Ahvaz-Khoramshahr Road. The unexploded rockets, burnt tanks, and destroyed cars were seen around the road. Seeing the remaining military equipment around the road, we imagined the scene of the fight between the internal troops and enemy forces. On the road leading to Khorramshahr, the fighting forces still moved ammunition and equipment. The faces of the warriors were tired but happy. They were great men who shared us in their victory. I looked at them with envy.

Ten kilometers from Khorramshahr, Ishaq and I got off the Land Rover and climbed up one of the tanks, and took a photo with a victory gesture. We arrived in Khorramshahr in the afternoon. We entered Khorramshahr from the old Khorramshahr Road, Dizelabad, and the traffic police station and went to the congregational mosque. Many neighborhoods had turned into a pile of dirt, and there were no alleys or streets. Even though each of us knew the neighborhoods of Khorramshahr, we lost our way and did not know which way to go to the congregational mosque!

We asked Yaser Zaeri to guide us. He was from Khorramshahr and could find the way better than us. The Iraqis had turned the city into a large military gate, fearing the attack and infiltration of the Iranian fighters. We got out of the car and walked around the streets.

In some neighborhoods, the Iraqis had destroyed a part of the wall between the houses, and moved through the walls. Most of Khoramshahri's houses had been emptied. The Baathists had taken every valuable and usable item. The only thing that still was seen on the walls were family photo frames; the only sign of the original owners of the houses that had been hidden from the eyes of the Baathists. Khorramshahr looked like the ruined cities of World War II in movies. The further we went, the less I knew Khorramshahr. When I saw the congregational mosque from a distance, I just believed that I was in Khorramshahr. Some warriors were busy cleaning the courtyard of the mosque, some watched out in the surrounding streets. The clothes of most of them had been covered in dirt. We entered the mosque. I prostrated in the courtyard of the mosque. I kissed the ground several times and smelled the soil on the floor of the mosque. We stepped into the shabestan and prayed for this great victory.

After visiting and praying in the mosque, we headed toward Yasser Zaeri's house at Ordibehesht Street. We passed 40-Meter Street. Yasser could not believe what he saw. The Iraqis had destroyed and ruined his neighborhood. It looked like a flat land ready for construction; not a street, not an alley, not a plaque.

Yasser was shocked and did not know what to say. Several alleys and streets had turned into a bare land. As people of Abadan says, it had remained only a barren land. Yasser was satisfied with a house without furniture and a family photo, but there was no sign of his house; as if he never had a house in Khorramshahr.

Majideh, my sister, also lived in Khorramshahr before the war. I asked my companions to go to Majideh’s house too. We wandered around the streets for a while until we found Majideh's house. Thank God, her house was safe. Like the rest of the people of Khorramshahr, Majideh and her family had left the city without taking anything with themselves, but her house was empty and the Baathists had taken away its furniture. In the middle of the rooms, several clothes and bowls and plates had been scattered on the floor. "Majideh is satisfied with this," I said to Ishaq, "Thank God that Majideh's house is not a minefield!"

From the moment we arrived in Khorramshahr, the police stopped us several times and checked our documents. Each time, I explained to them that we are the relief forces and originally came from Abadan and Khorramshahr. They took care of the security of the city to prevent the movements of the fifth column.

One of the common memories of all of us from Khorramshahr was the kebab shops and sandwich bars on the Saheli street and boating in Karun River. We passed the congregational mosque and went to the Saheli street. On our way, we noticed underground canals. We entered them. I bent my head so that it didn't hit anywhere, but I realized that the height of the canal was ten to twenty centimeters higher than my height. We kept going forward, but this canal or underground channel did not reach the end. We went so far that we reached the edge of Shatt. Through the canal hatch, we could see the eastern part of Khorramshahr on the other side of Karun River, and the positions of internal forces.

Iraqis considered Khorramshahr as an ace up their sleeve in the war, and did everything to keep Khorramshahr. They had dug an underground canal along the length and width of the Saheli street in the western part of Khorramshahr.

Our forces were stationed in the eastern part of Khorramshahr, in the Kotsheikh District. The Ba'athists traveled along the entire Saheli street safely without our forces seeing them. They had dug up the ground and destroyed every tree and greenery to expand the path of the canal at edge of Shatt. Out of curiosity, we kept moving along the canal to see where we would end up. We moved away from the Saheli street. The underground tunnel of the Iraqis passed through the houses of the people of Khorramshahr, and reached the Iraqi trench in one of the main streets.

This canal was very strong. I myself saw that they had skillfully battened boards on the wall, where there was a possibility of the canal collapsing. By walking into trenches and canals, I believed that the Iraqis had come to stay in Khorramshahr, and they did not think that the Iranians would take Khorramshahr back with those fortifications they had built. They had protected themselves by creating minefields and installing barbed wire around themselves.

In the Iraqi trenches, we found different types of medicines that they had collected from the looting of Khorramshahr pharmacies. I saw some chairs in one of their big trenches. We were sure that these chairs were taken from Khoramshahri's house.

Yasser found an album of banknotes in one of the trenches. We all gathered around him to look at the album. All the Iranian banknotes from the old periods were arranged in the album. It was a valuable collection. God knows how many years the owner of the album had collected them. The war conditions did not allow people to take their necessary identity documents with them, let alone the banknote album.

We returned to congregational mosque near evening call for prayer, and performed prayers accompanied with warriors. The line of worshipers stretched to the yard. Between praying two prayers, we held each other’s hands and recited the ‘Wahdat prayer’. After the prayer, I asked my companions: "Why didn’t we perform the Al-Qasr Prayer?! We can perform a complete prayer in Khorramshahr when we entered from Abadan and the airport. Now that we entered the city from Ahvaz-Khorramshahr Road, we should perform Al-Qasr Prayer."

Once again, we performed the evening prayer, but in Al-Qasr prayer type.

We were still in the mosque when the dinner was brought and distributed among all the troops. We sat down together and ate ‘adas polo’, a kind of food mainly made of rice and lentils. It was impossible to have ‘adas polo’ and not to chaw some tiny stones. Probably, the cooks did not have enough time to remove these tiny stones among the rice and lentils, and just cook them.

We were busy eating when one of warriors loudly announced: "Dear brothers, the city is full of mines and explosive traps. Please be careful and do not walk in the streets until they are completely neutralized." We nodded in agreement. That’s why we went on foot to the streets around the mosque after dinner!

We found a very big trench of Iraqis around the 40-Meter Street. We entered it like the victors of the war. It was not a trench; it was more like a supply warehouse. All kinds of canned food, compote and milk powder were found in it. Most of them were foreigner goods. Although we had already had dinner in the mosque, but we sat together again and opened some compotes and canned food and ate with appetite. We slept there that night; but before sleeping, we talked about our memories of Khorramshahr before the war and during our adolescence and laughed until midnight.

In the early morning we went to congregation mosque to perform morning prayers. After the prayer, we had breakfast there with the warriors. This mosque was as a shelter for people, like in the first days of the war. There was always a food to eat and a place for sleeping in the mosque.

After breakfast, we went to the Farmandari square and crossed the floating bridge of Haffar over the Karun River, and reached the Ahvaz-Abadan Road. From there, we went to the Abadan front relief headquarters to visit our friends.

In the courtyard of the headquarters, some warriors were busy repairing an ambulance. Car oil was spilled everywhere and the gasoline was smelled. The warriors gathered around us. After a long time, the warriors of Abadan and Mahshahr headquarters gathered together. We ate lunch together and returned to Mahshahr in the afternoon.[2]

[1] In the Arabic Yezeleh, one person sings in praise of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and the others utter Salawat, and then everyone jumps up and down and repeats a chant.

[2] Reference: Ramhormzi, Masoumeh, Where Are You Rescuer; Memoirs of Ali Echrash, Center for Documents and Research of Holy Defense, Volume I, 2018, p. 238.



 
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