The project executed in Damghan

Night of Memory Show

M. M. Abdullah-zadeh
Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan


Telling and writing about memoirs of the Scared Defense period is a prelude in registering the oral history of an important era of the history of our country. In order to enter this field and play a major role for the greater number of the combatants, war veterans and the people who each were somehow involved in the course of the event, we should not let the daily problems and difficulties hinder this significant task. A proper solution for achieving this goal is to hold memory nights.

Memory nights have numerous public and hidden functions each of which has a certain value. One of the public functions of holding such meetings is to register and record oral memories of people who have interesting memoirs for others. Also, before and after the meetings, there is an opportunity for the old friends who were beside each other in the war fronts to chat friendly. One of the hidden functions of such meetings is the implicit message which it has for some people in order to know that the way which had been opened in defending the revolution and values has still followers who are still on the same promise.

With these main previews, a project for holding "Night of Memory Show" was compiled and presented: Taking the narrator, interviewer and the audience into an appropriate space that resembles what the memory has taken place, can help in a more complete reconstruction of the expression of memories and better understanding of the audience; the venue must be in such a way as to be the place of the gathering for different strata of the people who are able to come and go easily. In order to implement the proposed program in the Art Week of the Islamic Revolution, the theme of the project was shared with the Office of Resistance Literature in Semnan's Art Center and after necessary coordination between the headquarters of Nights of Memory in Damghan and Azadegan, "Art in Captivity" was considered as the subject of the program for the above project. This content was confirmed for the desired date: displaying a clip accompanied by images of the freed POWs from Damghan; arrival of at least 10 freed POWs clad in yellow with an etiquette on which the phrase P.W. is written; passing the freed POWs through the horror channel along with their beatings with the batons by the guards which wear Iraqi soldiers' dresses, and along with the sentences which the Iraqi soldiers shouted while beating the captives like "move, …"; when the 30-metetr distance between the arrival of the captives and the stand was went through, the guards stand in line in two sides; the resting of three freed POWs in the stand one of whom plays the role of presenter and interviewer and the two others as narrators; seven freed POWs sit in the lower part of the stand in front of the population, while a multi-ply blanket has been put for everyone and tactical bags have been installed above them; displaying some of the hand-made artistic works of the freed POW Alireza Majidzadeh; evaluation of the meeting with the method of survey; Duration of the meeting: 90 minutes; time: Tuesday, April 17, 2018 after the Isha (night) prayer. The venue for the performance of the memory show, Hall of Husseinieh Hazrat-i-Abolfazl (AS) in Damghan was proposed to provide both the necessary capacity and is respected by the people.

In this meeting, the freed POWs, misters Ali Akbar Amir Ahmadi, Kamal Rezaeiyan, and Abbas Darbani spoke about art in captivity. These war veterans talked about such arts as singing, instruction of calligraphy, making instruments, making various handworks, cutting stones, making elements and theater in captivity. The main story of these veterans was about theater in captivity.

Regarding theatre in captivity, Ali Akbar Amir Ahmadi said, "We had found out in practice that performance of a successful theater had an interesting and deep impact on the morale of the guys. It was the city of unawareness and silence there, and we had to distract the enemy's favorite order and what better way than the theater. The theater was a solution used by the freed POWs to eliminate depression and to escape psychological pressures. The art of theater caused the innocent captives to smile for a few moments; thus, one of the fixed program at celebrations such as 22nd of Bahman (11th of February) celebration was performance of theatre. That was why our friends in theater before Dah-e Fajr (Ten-Day Dawn) produced eight plays for performance in one year. Mr. Moslem Behvand took them before Haj Aboutorabi, explaining about the content of each of them. One of the satires had been produced according to Mathnavi Ma'navi. When the theme of the theater was humorous, and it alluded to the behavior of the Ba'athists, we laughed not only for hours, but for a week or two, the story of the play was to a subject for discussing and exchanging views among the friends. Mr. Adel form the city of Tabriz played comic roles skillfully. The theatre of Haji Firooz (a fictional character in Iranian folklore who appears in the streets by the beginning of Nowruz) was welcomed warmly During Nowruz (New Year). The brother of Ali Muzaffari also played very well in one of plays known as "Jarchi" or town crier. I also played the role of Satan two times since I was in charge of the sanatorium and nobody was volunteered to play this role. In another occasion, since the Ten-Day Dawn was approaching, we intended to perform a good program. We predicted a theater program some one of two months before the Ten-Day Dawn.  One of our problems was the provision of the necessary tools. A team was responsible for designing and making them. All stages of the show from pre-run to execution, should be hidden from the enemy's eyes. We cut the head and bottom of the rounded cans of cooking oil and put the torn tubes of football and volleyball balls in one side of it, using it for echoing the sound and performing military and epical marches. Another problem was how to hide these things from the eyes of the Ba'athists. We dried some vegetables and eggplants we had planted in the garden in the summer, hanging them hang in the bags above us for the winter. They had inspected the bags for several times and become sure that there was nothing inside them except vegetables and eggplants. With much difficulty, we swiped the foils, making swords and lanterns so that the swords shined. We did not find out which spy disclosed the place where we had hidden our tools and equipment, and they confiscated them. In order to remove their sensitivity, we told them that we were going to play Siah Bazi (a Persian theater); because they were not sensitive to Siah Bazi. They asked us to perform the theatre in front of them and we agreed. 

Kamal Rezaiyan also said, "It was about one year that the Red Cross officials had not brought any letter for most of the captives. The satirical theater of Rouhozi or Siah Bazi had been considered at sanatorium no. 11 which required a donkey to enter the sanatorium without any introduction and make moves. For performing this show, the guys had made the head of a donkey by using the sponges of mattresses and cartoons and had installed two ears for it too. The eyes and mouth of this animal had been shaped with the cigarette's ash. On the night of performance, two people who had hairy legs were selected by the director. The second person put his hand on the first person's waist, and the first one, with his hand, lifted the donkey's head which had been connected to a stick, and had also been covered with blankets. While performance, everything had been prepared behind the curtain. While we had just a few actors, the makeup artist and director were informed. The donkey had been made so artistically that when it entered the stage, the scene had become so interesting that the guard beside window who should be the mindful of the Ba'athi guard, had forgotten his duty; thus, the camp's guard watched the theater's scenes for a few minutes. The balky donkey! passed through the vacant seats considered for the captives, kicking the captives around there with its back legs and braying continuously. As soon as the Iraqi soldier knocked on the window, the window's guard shouted, "Red!" the two persons who had made the donkey's skeleton lied there with a blanket on them. The donkey's head was destroyed very fast and we established a normal situation at the sanatorium. The poor soldier who witnessed the scene form behind the window, had thought that the captives had really brought a donkey to ride it. Therefore, he shouted, "Who is in charge of the sanatorium?" I went to behind the window and said, "Do you have any order?" He said very seriously and frowningly, "Where is the donkey?" As if I knew nothing and with a denial state, I replied, "What is donkey?" The soldier who had angered a lot, shouted, "I myself saw that donkey!"

After the performance of the program and reception from the attendees, estimated at more than 650 people, the interested participants were asked to sit in a circle in one corner of the hall, expressing their opinion about the quality of the show. More than thirty people attended the meeting. Initially, the head of the Semnan's Art Center, Davoud Yarahmadi, talked about the benefits of holding these types of meetings in a new style and then Mir Ali Akbari, the Head of the Martyr Foundation and the Affairs of Isargaran (devotees) of the town of Damghan, thanked the organizers, asking strictly that he was willing to cooperate in running these types of programs. Seyed Abolfazl Taghavi, chairman of the Martyrs' Congress Headquarters and chairman of the Headquarters for Holding Nights of Memory of the town, also reported on the holding of these meetings. The comments were mostly positive and focused basically on more inclusive information and continuation of the show on a monthly and continuous basis.     


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