Memories of Iraj Shiri

Rescuers Who Went from Abadan to Khorramshahr

Faezeh Sasanikhah
Ruhollah Golmoradi


The Red Crescent Society is one of the active organizations in serving people after natural and unnatural disasters. One period of active involvement of the young volunteer forces in the society was during the eight years of imposed war and on the battlefields. Iraj Shiri is one of the youth of that era who entered Red Crescent after victory of Islamic Revolution. Being born in Masjed Soleyman in 1959, he immigrated to Abadan with his family in 1971 because of his father's job as an oil company employee and that he had been transferred to Abadan. After graduating from high school, he was keen to go abroad to study, especially in United States, but relinquished because of Islamic Revolution and the country's fragile conditions. After victory of Islamic Revolution, he began his cultural activity in the Propagation office of Imam Khomeini, later called "the Islamic Propagation office of Qom Seminary". Buying religious books, including books by Shahid Mottahari with his personal money from Qom and Tehran and selling them in Abadan is one of his works at that time. After a while, with a number of young people of the city, he went to the Red Crescent for learning relief work and began his activity as volunteer after passing training courses at Shahid Beheshti Hospital, known as Shir o Khorshid (Lion and Sun) Hospital before the revolution and its doctors were from Pakistan. After a while, the imposed war begins, Shiri with other volunteer youth goes constantly to the conflict lines in Khorramshahr and treats the wounded. An Iranian Oral history Website's reporter set up a conversation with him to talk about his activity during the war and those years.


What were your first activities in the Red Crescent after starting the war?
First of all I have to say that before official start of the war, border conflicts had begun. So we went from Abadan to the border of Shalamcheh and its surroundings in Khorramshahr on the part of the Red Crescent as rescuer from September 10, 1980. In fact, activities of the front had actually begun since then.

What was your job as a relief worker there?
In the first phase, we would transport the wounded who were of the militants or public forces to the hospital. In the midst of these commuting, we saw that the border settlers were moving to Khorramshahr due to the clashes; so in the next phase, we attempted to settle the villagers and border residents and established the first aid unit for the war-torn people. We settled a number of them in a hotel, formerly called Hotel for Attracting Visitors which was located in the main part of the city, next to the river and Khorramshahr Hospital. In fact, there became the Red Crescent camp and next to it was headquarter for helping the war-torn. Others went to homes of their relatives living in Khorramshahr or Abadan. We hosted one of these families in our house in Abadan for some time. The Red Crescent provided food such as potatoes and onions to a number of those staying at the hotel. The clashes gradually intensified and widened and the war eventually was extended from the border to the city of Khorramshahr and number of immigrants increased. The hotel for Attract Visitors and gradually Khorramshahr were evacuated. Some even migrated to Mahshahr and elsewhere.

Were Abadan Red Crescent forces dispatched to Khorramshahr, or the forces were divided between Khorramshahr and Abadan, as Abadan also was attacked by Iraqi army like Khorramshahr?
At that time, the situation in Abadan was not as bad as Khorramshahr. But there were also air attacks, especially at night when the Ba'athists fired shell from other side of Arvand Rud mortars. We were divided at the maximum to five groups; five groups with two or three people, that is we were ten to fifteen people. The facilities available for operational works were scarce. Sometimes we didn't even have an ambulance. We used ambulances from the morning to the afternoon, and if there was a case at night, other coworkers used these cars. When we went toward the border we had no ambulance, and we used the oil company ambulances. The Red Crescent had coordinated with Oil Company and we used their ambulances. When conflict in Khorramshahr was extended, we used more pickup truck, and there was also a Simorgh Jeep that belonged to Abadan judiciary and was a scrap car. We renovated it. In addition to, there were a few old American Chevrolets so-called Chevrolet Station. They could somehow bring them out from there before Iraq customs possess them. The governor had given these to the Red Crescent. We had removed their rear seats and used them as ambulances. Because we did not have stretcher, we spread mattresses on the car floors and laid the wounded on them.

We took the cars to some parts of Khorramshahr and deployed them. Of course, in the mornings at first we analyzed position and then divided. Suppose a group went toward the highway patrol and one group covered Rah Ahan (railway) and custom house that were of serious axes of conflict with Iraqis. We went to custom house two or three times. Our other group advanced to Pol-e Now and settled in houses there, or sometimes a little further back, in Taleghani Alley; because conflicts were heavy and extreme there, especially at night. The Iraqis would come at night, and in the morning our troops retreated. During the day, Iraqis knew to fire where, and attacked that area too heavily, especially the highway patrol. At the beginning of the war, we were decimated highly near the highway patrol.

Why the highway patrol; because there was no house or building and had no hideaway?
Yes. You know that the highway patrol was exit of Khorramshahr towards Ahvaz. Parts of Pol-e Now to the highway patrol were almost widespread and wide lands. The highway patrol was on the right side of the road and on the left side there was an about 100 to 200 meters long brick wall which was one meter high. The troops were entrenched behind it. The wall had become like bulwark. We saw the first injured who were in very bad situation behind the same wall. In one of the advances that Iraqis had fired by tank, a bullet had hit one part of that wall and had split it and struck at some of the forces who had sit behind the wall for defense. When we went to the highway patrol, 9 people had died a martyr with this direct bullet. The tank also seemed to be very close, and enemy forces had come forward. Practically we had no choice and could do nothing. We brought one or two linens and spread it upon asphalt and collected bodies of the martyrs. If there was a head, hand, a foot, or any other member, we would gather them and put on the linens. Here was that we find out if a bullet explodes or bullets which were fired from the enemy and they say there are Khamsa-khamsa (a 122mm-type rockets that fired 5 bullets simultaneously, khamsa in Arabic means 5) or mortar, what did it cause if it struck somewhere? Or what happen if a RPG bullet would be fired?! We had just felt that how the weapons devastated.
At the beginning of the war most of the troops were public forces. A small number of troops had G3 and the rest had either M1 Garand or vz. 24 weapons or had no special weapon. We ourselves also didn't know the guns at all; because we hadn't passed any training in the matter. The heavy weapons of that time, if I want to say, or what I saw is: I didn't see any tank at all; we saw one or two Jeep 106 and one American personnel carrier that came from Abadan to Khorramshahr and a mortar was upon it.


Did your relief supports cover all those who had been injured within city of Khorramshahr or its villages or you had to transfer them to hospital?
We did the initial tasks for the wounded in order to get them to the hospital. For example, we quickly stopped bleeding in the same ambulance and injected IVs. The first hospital that we deliver the injured was Taleghani Hospital. Before the revolution, it was called Arian Hospital. We would also deliver the martyrs to a morgue called Bastani (ice Cream) Mehr (a morgue belonged to an ice cream factory), where they put there the martyrs during the war. We were no more than three to four groups. If a fighter was injured, they would get him on a car that was there and transported him to the rear anyway. When they saw us, they, for example, said that there were four people injured in that part of the city that we couldn't bring, if you can go and bring them. When we ourselves also saw there was a conflict or the conflict was heavy or some place was smoky, we visited there and dressed or collected the wounded.

Do you have any memories of the injured you saw that you still remember it?
The first wounded I saw was one we brought from the border. One of his kidneys had been perforated. When I asked my friends, "What happened?" They said, "A mortar quiver hit him." I said, "Aw, this is mortar that is always talked, so it is this!” We understood how a mortar damages body. Or, for example, once we were going toward Shalamcheh. Iraqi forces had come with tanks and fired directly. On the way, I saw one of these tank bullets had fallen in the dirt part next to the road. I said to my friend Mr. Ghazisharaf who was driving, "Stop Alireza!" he stopped. I went and fumbled a little with this cannon. I rolled it with my foot. My friend said, "Are you crazy? This is a cannonball. It may explode, come back quickly!” I went back to the ambulance and we went to Shalamcheh.

Didn't you feel bad the first time you saw the martyrs or the wounded? Or you didn't feel with yourself what was it, all other tasks I could do, why do I come to the injured and the martyr?
Not. We have practically involved in these tasks since 1979 during the revolution. We visited hospitals for a short time and I had seen blood and wound and like these at a very ordinary level. The first time I saw a wound in the hospital, I became weak a little and fainted, but I had no terror or fear. During the war, we really didn't feel afraid if we go they would shoot and kill us. We even once went to the customhouse and I felt I heard a voice, but I didn't understand what it was. My friend Mr. Ahmad Kada'i told me, "A red bullet passed next to your head!" I said, "I saw something passed, so it was a bullet?!" he said yes it was bullet. I saw its redness when it passed next to your head." While we were young and saw many wounded and martyrs, we were not frightened. I remember one day, ten to fifteen meters far from Khorramshahr's Jama Mosque two or three mortar shells or whatever was struck at ground and at the same time some people were wounded and fell. We were there and our ambulance was a Simorgh car. We didn't have a stretcher, and only a mattress was spread in the car. In order to place more injured in the ambulance, we even removed the spare tire at the back of the car and put the wounded in the car. Maybe we placed six or seven people in the car. One or two people had died a martyr too that we laid them on the floor of the ambulance. Then I told my friend, Alireza, "Move." I got on in the back of the car, and one of our friends couldn't get on and stayed in Khorramshahr. The driver moved. I still remember face of one of those we picked up. He was very handsome. He had blond hair and blue eyes. Perhaps he was two years older than me. He was 21 at the time. When I closed the car door, I propped him against the rear door. When the car moved I saw he fell. I thought he had lost his balance, so I sit him up again and propped him against the car door. I saw the fellow fell again, but his eyes were open. I told him, "Can't you lie, here is no place and we are going to the hospital so keep yourself sitting up till we reach." I saw him fell again, this time I understood he died a martyr and I myself close his eyes.



In the relief groups coming from Abadan to Khorramshahr, were women with you or just men would commute?
We had no woman force from Abadan Red Crescent in Khorramshahr; if there was I don't remember.  But in Khorramshahr's Red Crescent there were women who collected and distributed humanitarian aid in the Masjid Jama, did relief tasks and were armored too.


Did you travel to Khorramshahr before fall of Khorramshahr?
Yes. I always had a backpack in front of me that I placed only some special relief supplies and I always had two grenades in it. That is, without exception, I would never put this bag away from myself.

Why did you want grenades?
Well because we didn't have gun in order to use it in very drastic situation. Once, when I picked up my backpack, I saw the bullet had struck the backpack and had passed it; in fact, it had ruined the backpack. I told my friends, "God was merciful that the bullet didn't hit the two grenades, otherwise they would explode."

Do you remember anything about fall of Khorramshahr?
The last day Khorramshahr was falling was the day I decided to go to Masjed Soleyman and come round to my parents who had gone from Abadan to Masjed Soleyman. I was not there in the last day, but in the day before heavy clashes showed that the city was falling. The Ba'athists had made great progress. Being around Masjid Jama had become dangerous. It was somehow that we recognized where the Iraqis hit; it really was. That is, when we went in the morning, we felt and know that they might hit an area right now.
On the last days we commuted to Khorramshahr, we went from the road next to the river toward the masjid jama; because the middle road was no longer safe. Next to the bridge was a college called Persian Gulf. There was a dirt road between the college and the bridge and the road had been cut, from there we went toward dirt side of the road and went from under the bridge toward the coastal road and from there to the masjid jama. In the last day I decided to visit my parents and come back. I told my friend Alireza Ghazisharaf, "I don't come, but you take Bahman Qasemi and another guy with yourself." My friends go to Khorramshahr like last days. Before heading to Masjid Jama, they feel the conflicts have been intensified in comparison to the previous day and Khorramshahr is not safe. They go toward Masjid Jama and do their tasks. When they return, they pick up some of the injured at the rear of car and leave the town. When they were coming toward the bridge, Ba'athists sprayed them with bullets from the governorate side. A few bullets strike at the front and three hit from the side of the car to the car body. Two to three of these bullets had hit the guy bodies. One bullet had struck at forehead of the driver, Mr. Ghazisharaf and shocked him or numb for moments. The car is stopped; Qasemi and our other friend Mr. Keymasi bended toward the front seat. Mr. Keymasi had been shot because he had sat by the door. But Mr. Qasemi, sitting in the middle, had not been struck. He takes the wheel instead of the driver. He starts the car again and heads toward the hospital.


Did you have any activity after fall of Khorramshahr?
Yes. However, a few days after fall of Khorramshahr, Iraqi forces intended to move from Zolfaqari District to Abadan and occupy Abadan like Khorramshahr; but they did not succeed in front of resistance of our forces, so in those days we covered Zolfaqari District. We also covered Abadan itself and went to the fronts of Fayyazieh too. After fall of Khorramshahr, we also covered area of Khorramshahr Navy and Kut-e Sheykh to Khorramshahr Bridge, which was in hands of our own forces. Backup forces also came. People had become aware of the situation. Some people gave cars like their Jeep Wagoneer and we used them as ambulance. For example, Ministry of Health had sent two Volkswagen Station cars from Tehran. Of course, it was difficult for their drivers to tolerate the war conditions and they left. But anyway public aids would receive; those who had Peykan or other cars, either they themselves presented them or we begged them to give us them. Jeep Wagoneer was more than other cars as our ambulance, until four to five months later Ministry of Health changed a number of Nissan Patrols to Pickup Truck, but not as ambulance but they give them to us to be used in relief services. But the equipment was the same and very poor equipment. Stretcher and medical device were also at the extent of gathering and giving some initial recovery aids to the injuries.
We divided the new forces in Berim District in Abadan and assigned leaders for them. Our repair facility was also expanded since our ambulances had been increased. A number of forces were for logistics, and they were responsible for food supplies and providing parts; because no one provided and we had to supply the parts ourselves. Sometimes we would get help from Jahad Sazandegi (a revolutionary organization) and IRGC, but they had their own problem. At that period, IRGC still had no rescue force, and if it did, there were very few. Artesh (Iranian army) was also the same; they had one to two ambulances, but our headquarter ambulances increased; as in a period, we had 150 ambulances apart from non-ambulances cars. The Red Crescent headquarters moved to the deaf primary school in station 12 for a while, but we changed the location again and used that primary school as our cars repair shop. After that, as suggested by friends, as I knew many of the war zones, I became responsible for division of forces and visiting them. We would divide the forces that would come and also our forces ambulance by ambulance, and then at the same time, we helped as a relief force in the front and participated in the war zone. We both visited from Khorramshahr to Abadan and remained as a backup force where we felt there was needed or was conflict. My brother Kamran, who died a martyr, was on the Fayyazieh front.


Was he among volunteer forces of the Red Crescent?
Yes. Later all these were known as Basij forces. I had sent him to the Fayyazieh front. Number of our headquarters had become too many and we could not visit all our sites in one day or replace the forces. That's why, for example, during a week we might visit each location twice. Wherever we went we had to stay a long time. Going and coming back was time consuming. One of memories I remember is this: we went to the mine hills near Abadan. Troops that were under control of martyr Seyyed Mojtaba Hashemi, irregular war expert, were going to carry out an operation. We were told there was a conflict. We had gone there from the night before the operation. Eventually at the night of operation, the guys went forward, but there was no conflict and they returned. We also returned to the headquarters. Again, as we felt there was a need for relief workers, we returned, but this time two doctors were also with me. One was Dr. Nasr who was from Isfahan, and another Dr. Qasemi, who I think had come from Gachsaran or around it. Dr. Nasr was a religious, active and clever doctor. We went to the mine hills and stayed there until noon. Martyr Hashemi also came. There was a heavy fire and conflict between two sides, but nothing was done as an offensive operation. On the way back, I drove the jeep we got on. Before the dirt road that its behind was Bahmanshir River and toward the front at one side, and the other toward Abadan and a side also toward the mine hills, Khorasan troops were there. They were commanded by Colonel Mr. Kehtari. On the way, we saw two injured people had fallen to the ground. We got off fast. I saw Dr. Nasr go too fast and brought a boot and put it into the ambulance. I said to him, "Doctor, why did you bring this boot?! Take care of the wounded!" He said, "Iraj, foot of one of the wounded is in the boot!" I looked and saw he was right; meat fibers of the injured's leg was hung on the boot. When I closed to the injured, I saw his leg had been cut off and another person seemed had died a martyr. We put both in the ambulance. Dr. Nasr and Dr. Qasemi sat back and aside them. Mr. Ghazisharaf sat in the front quickly. When we moved, one of the three persons, I think he was Dr. Qasemi, said that the other person is alive too and is breathing. Both doctors began examining him. They said, "A mortar quiver struck him from behind; the quiver has split lungs and the quiver crossed his body from the other side." I said, "There are necessary equipment in the backpack, open it and use them." They did some tasks and told me only take us to the front of Mr. Colonel Kehtari." We got there and took from them IVs quickly, and the doctors injected IVs to the wounded and told me, "As much as you can drive faster." We were in sight of the enemy, and went very quickly towards Taleghani Hospital. Luckily as soon as we arrived there the injured started to talk and told his name that was the same my brother Kamran.

You say about Khorramshahr that highway patrol was among the worst points of the conflict and very much within gunshot of the enemy, in Abadan where did you have the most injured?
In Abadan, residential areas such as Berim and Bovarde were very within gunshot of Iraqis. One night they had fired Brim very heavily from the other side of Arvand Rud or from side of Khorramshahr. We went there and took many martyrs to the morgue.


Was this after fall of Khorramshahr?
No, I remember it was before fall of Khorramshahr. As I took photo for cultural unit of IRGC, I went to the morgue in the morning. When I opened the door, I saw they had brought about 400 martyrs from different parts of Abadan the same night. Other places that they fired were Zolfaqari District and the border strip and places where they felt our troops stationed there. For example, before fall of Khorramshahr, oil refineries had been struck and the tank farms had been burnt entirely. The day they shot the tank farms, we had gone to Arvandkenar. There was a clinic with Indian physician and he had stayed still in the area. We settled in the same clinic. The gendarmerie forces were there. They had a 106 cannon car that we had headed with it. We even went around Al-Faw. There fighting had just begun, and I found out that there was Al-Faw and there had a number of the wounded. We stationed there for two to three days. The day we returned they had shot the refinery and the tank farms were burning in a huge fire. At that time I took photos of them during burning. Now I had a camera besides the backpack with two grenades.

Do you still have photos of that period or surrendered them?
I have its negatives, because I surrendered some of the photos to IRGC, or if there was an exhibition, I would take the photos and surrendered them and they didn't give me back.

Did you participate in Operation Samen-ol-A'emeh, that is Abadan seize in 1360?
No. I was not at the time of breaking Abadan siege. Why wasn't I there? because my brother Kamran had died a martyr the same year. We took him to Masjed Soleyman for funeral, it was very hard for my mother to lose his child and they did not let me go back to the front. After about six to seven months that I stayed with them and alleviated a little, I came to Tehran and we formed Tehran's Relief Unit of the front.

What did you do in Tehran?
Overall, some friends who were in Abadan including Mr. Salahshour and Mr. Mehrban went to Tehran at the suggestion of martyr Shirmohammadi. Following changes made in the General Red Crescent, under management of Mr. Salahshour and help of several friends, they formed a headquarters called Relief of the Entire Country Front. I joined them too. We were altogether five to six persons of Abadani friends who established the relief unit of country's fronts. In the words of current people, I was responsible for public relations. We did absorbing and dividing the forces.

Were these forces dispatch from Tehran to the fronts?

No. They were dispatched from all over the country. That is, we recruited forces from anywhere we could through a call, and then we divided them into different war zones of the country. We tried to train them. One of the places where we could communicate with it well and train forces in medical aid there was Imam Khomeini Hospital at the end of Keshavarz Boulevard. I myself even went there at night. We were young and had much energy. I was in the relief unit of country fronts from morning to afternoon, and spent almost three to four hours of night there and I trained the forces. We also registered many sisters in the war zones. Without exception, we would distribute the forces across all the border strip of war zones, from the south to the west of the country and wherever needed. All women who were trained were sent to hospitals in war zones, especially in Kurdistan. Even we gave relief worker to Artesh and IRGC. They had rescue worker themselves, but we divided their forces and they had a quota of our forces too. Our task in the Tehran Red Crescent was just this and logistics had become much more complete. Public aids were also very much. Conditions for providing ambulance had improved. We had formed a headquarters in every part of the war zone, and in Abadan the previous headquarters had complemented more. Wherever we had headquarters, we had the front relief too. In Ahvaz, for example, the front relief covered Dehlaviyeh, Fakkeh, Dehloran and other areas. We also had the front relief in Kurdistan, and in general we organized the headquarters of the whole country's front reliefs.

How long was active the relief staff?
The relief staff was active until end of the war.
Did you work there until end of the war?
I was in the relief staff until early 1983, but I stayed in touch with friends after that I left it.

Thank you for making your time available on Iranian Oral History Website.
May you be in good health.


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