Seyyed of Quarters 15 (22)

Memories of Iranian Released POW, Seyyed Jamal Setarehdan


Seyyed of Quarters 15

Memories of Iranian Released POW, Seyyed Jamal Setarehdan

Edited and Compiled by: Sassan Nateq

Tehran, Sooreh Mehr Publications Company

‎2016 (Persian Version)‎

Translated by: Zahra Hosseinian


Manouchehr saw me and said, "My fellow-citizen! take care of yourself. Your name is going to the red line!"

Manouchehr had broken ears and for being more comfortable, reported the news of quarters and prisoners’ conversations to the Iraqis. I said to myself that what the hell I have done. But surely the Iraqis hated anyone or anything that cause order and spirituality among the captives. On that day, the camp commander came. After the usual talk of observing the law and order and obeying the guardians’ commands, he said: "If you have a problem, tell?"

Some prisoners complained about the lack of access to water. The camp commander ordered a small pond to be built for prisoners. The Iraqis showed somewhere near the quarters 13 to the prisoners and ordered them to build a pond. Seyyed Mojtaba Jassemi with a few of prisoners and also Afshin Davari, who was one of the prisoners of quarters 14, set to work. Davari had killed several Iraqis at the time of being captured. His thigh had been shot and he limped. Most of prisoners of quarters refused doing forced labor for Iraqis but as they thought it would be beneficial for the prisoners, they were ready to build it. Iraqis didn’t prepare any tools for prisoners and they dug the ground with the sharp angle irons and moved the soil with their food containers, and gradually the pond was formed. The Iraqis brought a water tanker and filled it; but they left several ducks in the pond instead of letting the prisoners to use it. For feeding the ducks, they also reduced ten loaves of bread of quarters-14 share every day and threw them in front of the ducks. After Iraqis went away from the pond, a few of prisoners came close to the pond and took the breads to dry and then eat them. In addition, the Iraqis built a place inside the corridor of quarters-14 and assigned it for keeping pigeons.

One or two weeks later, the Ramadan of 1988 came. I had begun to fast some time ago to be prepared for fasting in Ramadan. Iraqis gave us three times meal every day like before. Along with those who fasted, I kept my food for Iftar and Suhur. Ramadan was a good opportunity for prisoners to purify their mind and body. Our prayers had become more and more. And unbeknown to the Iraqis, under different excuses, we conversed with those whom we guessed they have been probably tired and disappointed, in the yard or quarters, and asked them not to show weakness in front of the Iraqis, by expressing narratives, traditions and the role of Imam Ali (AS) in addressing the weak and the poor.

Ten or fifteen days after the beginning of Ramadan, Manouchehr again came round to me and said, "My fellow-citizen! A person has reported Iraqis that you are student of seminary and teach praying to others!"

His wandering around our small group had increased and maybe he wanted somehow to find something for reporting to the Iraqis. We were careful about him and knew he is not reliable.

Two or three days later, one of the guardians came to quarters near the sunset and asked me to go with him to the guardroom. Reaching there, one of the guardians in the room said, "It’s reported that you’ve gone on hunger strike?"

I just realized what the matter is. I answered, "I haven’t come on hunger strike."

One of the guardians said, "So, why don’t you have your food?"

I said, "The one, who come on hunger strike, eat nothing anymore and die, but I kept my meal because I’m fasting and eat them at the Iftar and Suhur time."

God had mercy on me and they accepted my reason and let me go without being beaten up.




Muharram of the first year of my captivity was hard for me. I remembered mourning droves of Ardabil; the rituals of beating the chest, self-flagellation, and mourning ceremonies. I said to myself: "If I was in Ardabil, took apart in ‘placing big round tub’ ceremony[1]." When I was teenager, I put on one of my grandfather’s round collar black shirts in one of the Muharram nights, and went to the mosque. When my grandfather was up and about, wore this shirt and along with elders of Kheirabad mosque stood in a queue and beat himself with chains. The shirt was too big for me. That night the self-flagellation droves of Ghassemieh neighborhood had come to Mohammedia neighborhood. Their dirge singer sang and we hit ourselves with chains. MirQadir Seyyed Hoda, the doyen of Ghassemieh, came to me as he was hitting himself with chain, and said, "This is your grandfather’s shirt?"

  • Yeah.
  • It's a good one. There isn’t anymore. The late Sheykh Nosrat sewed this kind of shirts.

He himself had worn a shirt just like my grandfather’s one.

With my hand, I grasped the iron bars in front of the window and thought I’m mourning along with the mourning droves in the streets of the city. Suddenly, Kadhim, one of the tall Iraqi guardians, was appeared. He stood in front of the window of quarters and said, "Stand up and dance."

That night was August 24, 1988 and the first day of the Muharram. Suddenly, silent was reigned throughout the quarters. He knew that we love Imam Hussein (PBUH). I could see evil in his eyes. Muharram is the first month of lunar year among Arabs and he had come to celebrate for himself not to become board. They were happy and tipsy from morning and talked and laughed. He repeated his request again when saw nothing happened. One of the prisoners translated his words for us.

  • Don’t hear what I’m saying? Stand up and dance.

One of the prisoners rose up among the crowd. I looked at him angrily and said, "Sit down."

He sat down and kept his eyes on the Iraqi guardian. Kadhim said: "Don’t be afraid. Dance, I want to see how you dance!"

That prisoner began to move his head and hand as he had sat down. Kadhim clapped for him. A few prisoners joined him and began clapping. I turned away and pulled my blanket over my head not to see that scene. Tears flowed from my eyes. I said, "O Allah, to be witness what the hell they are giving us in the first day of Muharram."

During the days of Muharram, mourning ceremonies of different groups and mosques in the six neighborhoods of Ardabil[2] had special spirit. The whole city became black-clad and self-flagellation and beating the chest among the mourning droves continued until late at nights. One day, when I was passing the alley, saw Barat had sat down in front of his house and listened to the radio. Barat was about eighteen years old and blind. His house was in the end of alley in where the local base had been located. He sat down in front of the door at sunsets. In the fourth year of primary school, when his head had been operated due to an illness, he had been blind. His father was blind and had died. His name was Hussein and the kids of neighborhood called him ‘Uncle Hussein[3]’. Barat lived with his old mother. Her eyes had a little eyesight. Neighbors helped them and they made living in this way.

That day, he had worn black shirt too. I put my hand on his shoulder and said: "How are you, Barat?"

He recognized me through my voice.

  • Is this you, Seyyed Jamal?
  • Yeah, it’s me. What are you doing?
  • Nothing, I was bored and came here to sit down. By the way, can you sing a dirge?
  • How come?
  • I want you to sing a dirge for me.

His mother came by the door and when saw me, said, "I’m relieved. He was terribly blue today."

I said, "Don’t worry aunt Goli! I’m with him."

Barat turned off his radio and said, "Seyyed Jamal! Do you sing?"

I sang one dirge which had heard in the mosque. He shook his head and cried.




To be continued…



[1]. It is hold three days before the beginning of Muharram. The round tubs are symbol of water, river and goatskin of the water-carrier of Karbala. Ardabil people placed large copper or bronze round tubs in mosques with certain formalities and fill them with water. The water is for drinking and it is changed every day. These round tubs will remain in the mosques until the end of Safar. Shakhesi and Vakhesi (Shah Hussein, Oh Hussein), and lighting candles on the evening of the ninth day of Muharram are other ceremonies of Ardabil people in Muharram.

[2]. Ardabil had consisted of six districts which were three districts of Heydari and three districts of Nemati. The Heydari districts were included: Tuwee (Tabar), Ouchdokan, and Peerabdolmalek. Nemati districts also were included: Gazran, Sarcheshmeh, and Darvazeh (Aaliqapou).

[3]. Javad Zanjani had taken him to Ardabil and Tehran to be visited by doctors. And the doctors had diagnosed that he has been affected by cancer. He passed away for a time after hospitalization and chemotherapy.

Number of Visits: 175


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