Seyyed of Quarters 15 (25)

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


Cold winter of Tikrit gave us hell. With the help of prisoners, Seyyed Salman and the rest of the guardians had pipes laid into the quarters and installed a faucet. It was the last winter days of 1989 and we were preparing ourselves for the coming year. Some of the prisoners remembered the special feasts, deaths, and events on our own calendar. Sometimes, they said what the special occasion of that day is. The singles could tolerate being away from family easier than the married ones. According to the calculation of some of prisoners, it was half an hour to the beginning of New Year. We had arranged a tabletop of Haft-Seen[1] for ourselves. We put ‘stone, needle, grass, and Samoon’[2]. One of the prisoners wrote ‘Seeb, Samanu, Sekeh’[3] on the paper and put them on the spread and said: "Now our Haft-Seen was completed."

We had cut barbed wire into needle-sized, and had pierced its end with a steel nail. The other end had also been rubbed on the ground to be sharp; and we used it instead of needle. We picked relatively green weeds which had grown around the quarters and put them in our Haft-Seen tabletop instead of Sabzeh. While Iraqis Samoon word began with ‘Ṣade’, but had nestled in our Haft-Seen.

I was reciting the prayer of The March equinox moment, when Nasser suddenly burst into tears loudly. He came from Gilan and had a sense of humor. He was married and said he has two children. He was polite and faithful. His presence in the camp was a blessing for prisoners. Sometimes, in the most difficult psychological and mental conditions, his speeches and acts caused prisoners laugh and have fun. In those moments, we had hoped to push aside our sadness and sorrow for an hour with Nasser’s stunts; but he had remembered his wife and child and crying didn’t give him time. I sat down beside him. Whatever I tried to calm him, it wasn’t helpful. Crying lightened him and again he became that Naser we expected. He wiped his tears and with laugh and special Gilaki accent said, "Do you like you’re my buddy?"

One day, when we were outdoors to take in fresh air, I saw him walked in the ground with a blanket over his shoulder. He shouldn’t brought blanket outside the quarters. One of the guardians went to him and said something. Naser looked at him as if the Iraqi soldier came from another planet. He had raised his eyebrows and stared the guardian with open mouth and kept saying: "What?"

The soldier called one of Arabic speakers with gesture. The interpreter came to them and said to Nasser: "he says why you have brought blanket outdoors?"

Nasser said: "Tell him ‘you really missed it, but I have a cold and fever.’"

The interpreter and Iraqi guardian spoke with each other and suddenly the guardian slammed Nasser’s back with the cable in his hand. Nasser jumped up and like a surprised person said, "oh…why do you hit me? Can’t you see I’ve caught a cold?!"

The interpreter laughed. Iraqi guardian got mad. He called his comrades. They took the blanket from Nasser’s shoulder and beat him up badly. When we went to the quarters, he said, "Thank them. They give me a good massage! Cold went out of my body!"

One of prisoners announced The March equinox of 1368 come. We all together shook hands with, kissed, and said ‘Happy New Year’ to each other.


The guardians ordered us to make a queue. It was the Eid al-Adha of 1989. That day, among Persian songs, an Arabic song was also played. I heard prisoners of one of the Tikrit camps have stoned the loud speaker and Iraqis have beat and injured them. One of the guardians looked all prisoners and then turned to Hussein Basiji, "Hey you, get up and dance."

Hussein Basiji stood up. For a moment I feared. I said to myself: "Maybe Hussein also ..."

It was relieved when he opened his mouth. Hussain said: "it’s below Basiji’s dignity to dance. It’s fit for you, who are the enemy of religion and Islam."

Without fear of Iraqis, Hussein Basiji spoke continuously. He spoke of Basiji’s religious, belief, martyrdom, and courage. I rejoiced with his speech, but every moment was waiting he is beaten-up severely. Hussein’s speech was affected everyone and many were crying.

  • Basiji fights for his homeland and he is serving for his Imam...

The guardians did not tolerate anymore and rushed to him. That day, several wounds were added to Hussein Basiji’s wounds. Bloodstains were seen everywhere of his head, face and clothes.

A number of prisoners scratched. Little by little, we realized that they suffered scabies. Pimples were brought on the lower part of their bodies and got bruised due to itching. Day by day, the number of wounds increased. Iraqis had banned me from taking a bath, because I taught the Quran to prisoners and didn’t forget to pray. Adel said, "I really wonder why you haven’t been affected by scabies; you’ve been even banned from bathe!"

I said, "The secret is praying."

I always tried to keep my personal cleanness and ablution when performed my prayers; and perhaps for this reason I was in the state of grace on that difficult situations. Scabies spread by touching each other and using common things; and if we didn’t care for our public health, we became like them. Iraqi guardians were careful not to touch prisoners when counted us. They stood in a distance, counted us and then left the quarters. When the situation deteriorated, they gave a kind of body cream to the affected prisoners and asked them to use it and sit down stark naked under the sun. Prisoners got ashamed of each other, but had no choice. After being counted and having breakfast, they took off their clothes and sat down in a corner of the ground under the sun. Sense of modesty prevented them to look at each other’s face. They repeated enough until the situation has slowly improved.

Adel Varqaee told the Iraqis that if they provide water and electricity, he can build a bathroom for prisoners. Iraqis accepted Adel’s proposal, but the prisoners themselves should did construction and plumbing. Sometimes, Iraqis came and took a number of prisoners for forced labor and completing the installation of barbed wire of camp-15. The Iraqis suspected to Seyyed Kadhim A’altaha and guessed he is a guard or a commander. But he was smart and wasn’t tricked. As soon as Iraqis said that they wanted a number of prisoners for forced labor, he rose up too. He said we should not react in such way Iraqis can make excuse to punish everyone. A number of prisoners knew the Adel’s act as serving the Iraqis and were opposed to him. Adel said, "it’s true we construct a bathroom for Iraqis, but it’s for our comfort and health."

With the help of a few of prisoners, Adel began building a bathroom. He had pipes laid in small rooms of cement block and set up the water tank, and used electricity for warming the water. He plugged in one end of electrical cord into an outlet and put the other bare end into the water tank, so the water got hot sooner. Iraqis gave Sumer and Baghdad cigarettes to Adel and the rest of prisoners rather than paid them. They shared their cigarettes between smokers.

They allowed us to take a bath when construction finished, but we should come out soon. They also gave us some bars of soap and we divided them between ourselves. Most of the time one of the soldiers stood in front of bathroom door and counted to ten or fifteen. Before the end of counting, we should come out; otherwise, he kicked the door to be opened, and then hit our soapiness head with baton and cable and dragged us out. By constructing a bathroom and arrival of soap into our camp life, the lice began to decrease.


To be continued…


[1]. Haft-Seen also spelled as Haft Sīn (Persianهفت‌سین‎‎, the seven Seen's) is a tabletop (sofreh) arrangement of seven symbolic items traditionally displayed at Nowruz, the Persian new year. The haft-seen table includes seven items all starting with the letter Seen (letter) (fa) (س) in the Persian alphabet.

[2]. The meaning of them in Persian all starts with letter Seen (س); “سنگ، سوزن، سبزه، صمون

[3]. Respectively, their meaning in English are: ‘apple, sweet pudding made from wheat germ, coin’.

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