Introduction to “How many of us were there?”

Iranian Kazakhs in the Holy Defense

Zahra Qassemi
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


The book “How many of us were there?” focuses on the memoirs of the Islamic Revolution and the war imposed by Iraq with the subject of “a glance on the presence of Kazakhs[1] in the Holy Defense”. Hojjat Shahmohammadi, the author, in a seven page introduction defines the reasons of the subject selection, the constraints for research and interview with the Iranian Kazakhs in Golestan province and method of compilation. The content is gathered through interviews with the Kazakhs and library research. Interviews and book compilation were conducted with the support of the Office of Culture and Resistance Studies of the Art Department of Golestan province and published by Soureh Mehr Publication. The book is octavo size in 272 pages published in 2018.

The book is structured in 5 chapters. The first chapter titled, “History of Iranian Kazakhs” is composed in 32 pages containing a preface by Haj Mohammad Shadkam who was a key feature in the composition of the book. In these pages he speaks of Muslim Kazakhs, reasons of their immigration, history of their presence and status in Iran. Following the preface there are eight sections structured in numbers and titles: 1. History 2. The meaning of the word “Kazakh” 3. Origins and meaning of the name Kazakh 4. Language 5. Religion 6. Migration to Iran 7. Support and settlement 8. Martyrdom in Kazakh culture. The information in the first chapter is gathered through interviews conducted with the Kazakhs residing in Golestan province and the written literature available. Reference is made to the interviews and resources in the footnotes.

The second chapter in 18 pages, titled “Islamic Revolution and Kazakhs” is divided in two: A. Kazakhs and the Islamic Revolution which defines the titles of the book “How many of us were there?” and contains the memoirs and narratives of Kazakhs of their presence in the activities for the victory of the Islamic Revolution in six pages; and B. Memoirs of the Revolution days; interviews with two people are included in this section: memoirs of Alireza Aday of his participation in the Islamic Revolution in the months prior to its victory and Ms. Hajiyeh Bibi Shadkam who speaks of the hardship of life for Kazakhs during Pahlavi regime and their satisfaction of their life in Iran compared to Kazakhstan.

The third chapter, titled “Kazakhs and the Imposed War” in 164 pages is the key body of the book structured in to segments of A. the imposed war and B. memoirs of the imposed war.

In the first part titled “the imposed war”, Hojjat Shahmohammadi speaks of the role and participation of the Kazakhs in the Holy Defense based on interviews and research conducted. The second part contains an interview with Abjad Armand. He served in the fronts for 19 months voluntarily. Most part of the narration focuses on the difficult life of the Kazakhs during Pahlavi regime, kinship, work and responsibilities, description on the Islamic Revolution and the Holy Defense. The narrative falls short of any memories of deployment to the fronts. This section is structured in 10 pages.

The second part titled “Memoirs of the Imposed war” in 148 pages includes the memoirs of 8 Kazakhs who served in the Holy Defense as the soldiers of the military of the Islamic Republic of Iran. These memoirs are gathered through interviews. At the beginning the producer gives a description on the memoirs and the corrections made. In the footnote of every interview, the date and location is stated. The contents of the memoirs are as follows:

  1. Mousa Vali (7 pages): deployment to Beit Olmoghadas operation area in 1982, injury after Valfajr 1 operation, problems the narrator encountered since his unit was unaware of his transfer to Isfahan for treatment.
  2. Ramezan Ali Shadkam (5 pages): deployment to Meymak operation site in 1982 and transfer to Soumar.
  3. Ramezan Bekdar (16 pages): memories of his service and deployment to Panjovin and Gilan Qarb operation sites in 1984 as ambulance driver and transfer to Soumar; memoirs of martyrdom and injury of soldiers and attacks on the hospital.
  4. Sakhi Babegh (4 pages): voluntary deployment to Sousangerd in 1980 as Canon antiaérien specialist.
  5. Abdolkhalegh Bigdar (17 pages): memoirs of his service, deployment to Ilam operation site in 1987, injury, transfer of the unit to Abugharib, martyrdom of his friend, fights against Monafeghin in spring of 1988, efforts to save a friend.
  6. Ashour Dordi Shadkam (6 pages): deployment to the south in 1983, presence in Khoramshahr fortress, self-injury, deployment to the west and south, art activities, and involvement in identification missions.
  7. Abdolghader Piltan (56 pages): deployment to the south in 1980, promotion to sergeant, deployment to Ahwaz, transfer to Farsiat, confrontation of a soldier, building trenches, annulment of his leave because of the senior master sergeant, transfer to Sousangerd, 48 hour mission near Karkheh river, Iraqi attack and destruction of artillery, martyrdom and injury of the soldiers, affected by the explosion wave, meeting with brigadier general Zahirnejad, telecommunication line repair, transfer to Jaberhamdan village, camping in Kushk for Beit Olmoghadas operation, martyrdom of a number of soldiers and the situation afterwards, injury of the narrator and presence in Majnoon island.
  8. Alireza Aday (36 pages): deployment to Meymak in 1976, friends in the military, mouse in the food pot, transfer to Soumar, digging trenches, injury of the commander, the operation site situation and fear, efforts to secure a chute, issues in getting food, stealing food and artillery from the Iraqi warehouse, Meymak operation, coming across an Iraqi Turkmen in the fronts.

The fourth chapter titled “Kazakh Martyrs” is about 4 Kazakh martyrs designed in 10 pages: 1. Safar Ali Araqbay 2. Abdolmotaleb Shadkam 3. Mohammad Pakan 4. Abdol Paviz. The date and place of birth, date of deployment, the unit, the date and place of their martyrdom, their grave site are included along with the memoirs of the family members for two of these martyrs.

The fifth chapter includes photos and documents on the content (28 photos of the martyrs and their families, narrators and Kazakh soldiers and 6 documents of appreciation, financial support of the fronts, support of the earthquake stricken areas, appeal of Mr. Taleb Olalam and a letter from him). The last two pages of the book indicate the references.


[1] Kazakhs are a tribe in former Soviet Union who mainly inhibit in Kazakhstan. When communism came to power in Russia a group of Muslim Kazakhs migrated to Iran and Afghanistan.

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