Seyyed of Quarters 15 (29)

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


Monday morning of 1st, May 1989, I heard a noise of firing. A few hours later, some prisoners said that one of prisoners of quarters-16[1] has attempted to escape by hiding under the truck, but he had been captured when the truck was passing the military police gate. I didn’t understand he had become known as a result of betrayal or spies had betrayed him. Iraqis had captured and taken him out of the camp. Near noon, the guardians came to the quarters out of blue. We queued and then sat down. "We’ve brought a guest for you. When he stepped into quarters, whistle and clap for him!"

Then, one of the captives came into with bloody face and head, while had held one pair of slippers between his teeth and the other one had been tied over his head. I shivered unconsciously. I remembered Al-Hurr ibn Yazid al Tamimiand and his repentance for blocking Imam Hussein’s way. His name was Rezaei and he was a guard. He had lost his left leg in war, but the Iraqis had broken his artificial leg. Spies had betrayed him and reported that he is one of commanders. A few numbers of prisoners began whistling and clapping for fear of the guardians. Adel Varqaee raised his hand and said, "Allow me to speak, sir?"

The guardian who thought Varqaee wants to mock, pointed him to speak. Adel got up. He picked up the Quran and said: "hasn’t the Quran ordered not to do injustice? You say you are Muslim, but you really don’t know anything about humanity and being Muslim. Isn’t this prisoner a war wounded? Why have you done it to him?"

One of the guardians said: "Calm down. Shut up and sit down."

"Why should I shut up, he is my compatriot. You're inferior to the animals." Adel who had become angry of Iraqis’ savagery, said.

The guardians rushed to Adel and beat him up. They left the quarters and took Rezaei.

At Friday, the camp commander in chief came. It was whistled and we all were gathered in the ground. Two or three IFA truck full of soldiers arrived and all soldiers stood around us. The commander was angry. Perhaps he scared Saddam execute him if a prisoner escape. If he was lucky, maybe was demoted. The camp commander in chief said that they carefully watched everywhere and no one can escape. He sent a soldier to the kitchen to bring a knife. They griped the collar of two prisoners and dragged them along. One of them was laid down on the ground. They took his arms and legs and put a knife on his throat. The camp commander in chief approached the knife toward prisoner’s throat and said to the other one, "you shouldn’t let his blood shed on the ground when I cut his head. Otherwise, I cut your head too."

The prisoner was confused and did not know what to do, so he approached the commander and the prisoner who was under the knife. "Iranian kill Iraqis captives," The commander threw the knife and angrily said, "we can also cut your head like a sheep, and no one even the Cross Red knew it."

"They are in your hand. Do them whatever you like." The camp commander said to soldiers when he was leaving.

They formed ‘fright tunnel’ in front of quarters. They beat us up severely and then sent into and closed the door. Head, eyes, hands and feet of prisoners had been bruised and injured. The eye of one of prisoners, who came from Karaj, had been evacuated by the sever impact of cable. The sigh of wounded filled the space.

Some prisoners named that day ‘Black Friday’[2]. We paid the price for attempting to escape. That evening, the officer of political brief department came and said laughing and ridiculously: "how many have been beaten more? The head of who has broken?"

We were not in mood to answer him and he went. From that day on, punishment and the frequency of counting increased.

A whole week, they sent us to the ground everyday only with shorts, after counting. It had become a funny thing for the guardians. They wisecracked us sarcastically and hit us with batons and cables. After counting, they closed the door and everyday gave us just fifteen minutes to go to the bathroom. We did not have enough water. From the water tank outside the quarters, a few prisoners filled the buckets, which was used as a toilet bowl in the quarters, and we all had to use that water until next morning. We were many in numbers and the water run out very soon. Seyyed Salman filled their own ewer with water, then came next to the window and while laughing, emptied it on the floor in front of our eyes.

One of those days, when we all in shorts had been ordered to make a line in the ground, Adel Varqaee shouted at one of the guardians: "I swear to God that dying is more honorable than this punishment and disrespect."

Seyyed Kazem, one of the Iraqi guardians, stepped forward and slapped Adel. The guardian’s blow was so sharp that I also felt a pain in my head. In the morning, it was cool and when we stood motionless, shivered. They enjoyed and laughed and after one or two hours, left us alone. Some of the prisoners were in critical condition. They came and took them to the hospital.

Adel’s jaw ached three days and couldn’t open his mouth wide. Seyyed Kazem was on leave for three days and then returned. He also had brought some cooked chicken. "He offered me to eat the chicken," Adel said, "but I refused and said, ‘I don’t have it. You come to me to ask for forgiveness?' then he spoke of what had happened for them and said he had a dream about his mother, and now wanted me to forgive him."

I did not understand whether his mother is alive or dead, and what was his dream; but Adel forgave him and got the cooked chicken and divided it between prisoners.

After the story of ‘Black Friday’, I found out Adel Varqaee, Seyyed Kazem and Seyyed Abbas A’alTaha, and a few others tried to escape from the camp. I had seen Adel spoke with Seyyed Abbas and asked him to seek divine guidance. Doing this, he wanted to be assured. Hani, one of Shiite soldiers of the camp, was an electrician. For repairing facilities, Adel repeatedly went to the quarters, guardians’ room, and health service and little by little had made a good relation with Hani. He had taken the names of all prisoners of the camp from Hani; and had hidden them into gaps between toilets blocks to bring them to the Iran when escaping, and then handed them over to the Red Cross. "One day, I saw Seyyed Kazem, Seyyed Abbas, and two or three others have sat down together." Adel said, "Seeing them, I asked, 'What's up? Do you want to escape?' they said, 'Yeah, but it’s so hard.' I said, 'it’s not so hard.' They said, 'you don’t afraid?' I said, 'We should fear of God not them.'"

The idea of escaping had come to their mind, but they had withdrawn lest the other prisoners to be punished due to their action. Adel said that when he had been taken to repair the siren of one of cars, the idea of using that car had also been created in his mind. Those days, Adel had told Bahman Karimi, the radio telephone operator of their company, help him to flee and Bahman had told him that he is crazy. After the idea of escaping was no longer an option, Seyyed Abbas told Adel that whenever he sought divine guidance, the result was bad. A few days earlier, one of the Iraqi guardians had told Adel that they want to take him to the house of one of colonels, named Seyyed Moqadm, to repair their water pump; but repairing water pump was dropped by the story of Rezaei’s escaping and punishing prisoners.


To be continued…


[1] . Most likely his name was Mohammed Fathi and he was an army trainer.

[2] . It was rumored that Iraqi prisoners in a camp in the Gorgan, asked the officials to invite some women for them. It was like some of them had escaped and one of them had been captured in Kermanshah.

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