Along with memoirs of Ali Sameri - 2

Days of resistance in Khorramshahr

Faezeh Sassanikhah
Translated by M. B. Khashnevisan


Note: The correspondent of Iranian Oral History website has conducted an interview with Amir Sameri to retell his memoirs of the first years after the victory of the Islamic revolution and the first days of the Iraqi imposed war against Iran. In the first part of the interview, he introduced the Abouzar Group. And here is the second and concluding part of Sameri’s memoirs.

*Where were you when the war broke out?

*On the first day of the war (22nd of September 1980), we had returned from the border and were getting prepared for the schools to be opened. The guys of Abouzar Group were thinking how to go to schools during the days and to guard at nights. It was about one year that we were doing this. Or sometimes, we protected different marches held on different occasions in the city and came back to the border at night. The Khorramshahr guys did not take a rest at all. They really worked very hard. You cannot believe that they resisted empty-handed. On that day (22nd of September 1980), we were in the city as the sound of explosions were heard from different parts of city. The sounds were unknown for us. We said what the sound was? They said it was the sound of Khamseh Khamseh (a kind of Russian rocket), the sound of cannon shell. We had not heard the sounds of Khameseh Khamseh and cannon shells yet. In the training courses, I had heard the sounds of guns, mortars, grenades, RPG7s and weapons like these, but not the sound of cannon shells.  

*How was the situation of the city on that day?

*The people were frightened. The hospitals were full of injured. Everything was messed up. The first day was really hard which cannot be described. We gathered the guys immediately and moved toward the border. You cannot imagine how my father took there. All of the guys were armed but they had confused. The driver had confused so much that he collided with a stall on our way. It was a strange situation.   

*Did you move toward Shalamcheh border?

*Yes. We went toward Shalamcheh border and started clashing with the Iraqi Ba’athists there. We had three or four border police stations in that area. The distance from Momeni Station to Shalamcheh was in our hands. We were three groups; Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and popular forces. There were two forces in the Gendarmerie; one soldier and Sergeant Major Abbasi, the commander of Momeni Gendarmerie Border Station who was there since old days. The number of army forces were four, five and IRGC forces five, six. Mansour Mofid who was my classmate was the machine gun man of my group. Ali Vatan Khah and a number of other guys were with us.

*How many troops did you have?

*If I don’t make a mistake, we were at least forty. We were sent food and ammunitions and we fought. The army’s weapons were also there. We did not allow the enemy to advance. We used RPG7s and weapons like these. A Chieftain tank had also been brought there but it was out of order. However, the Iraqis had stronger trenches than us.

Mohammad Jahanara, the IRGC commander in Khorramshahr asked continuously through portable transceiver. “What’s up? What are you doing?” and we reported. We were there for a few days until the charge of our transceiver ran out and no food had been brought for us for 48 hours. We did not know what to do. We had no connection with anyone and did not know what to do! We had connection just with the Iraqis with whom we were fighting. There was no electricity with which we could charge our transceiver. My last contact was 48 hours ago with Mohammad Jahan Ara. Some twenty hours had passed since my last contact with my father but still nobody had told us to come back. We were 21. The IRGC guys were five, and two had remained from the army. In fact, we were sieged by the enemy for 48 hours.

The Iraqis had reached the city from another side and we did not know. The Ba’athists had reached the railway station and pre-fabricated buildings. Where were we? We were still in Shalamcheh.  We had not slept during this period and had no substitute forces. We had become tired. What should we do? I decided to take my forces back and return to the city anyway. I told them, “Nobody comes to help us. We have to take back to find out what’s going on.” I also told the IRGC guys, “Let’s leave here. I think something has happened here. It is 48 hours that we have no food and our portable transceivers did not work too.” They said, “We cannot leave here. Mohammad Jahanara must order us. I said, “Mohammad cannot order, nobody orders me and I take my forces. I think you should not stay here. You are just five.” They said again, “No! Jahanara must order.” I said ok. At any rate, I was the commander of my group. As we were getting prepared to leave, I saw that sergeant major Abbasi, the commander of Momeni Gendarmerie Border Station came toward me and said, “What are you doing?” I said, “Nothing, I just want to take my guys.” He said, “What should I do?” I said, “You are the commander. The border station is under your command. Should I tell you what to do? I cannot tell you what to do. If I could, I would tell you to leave here.” After a little more talk, he and his troops boarded the Jeep and left there before us.

The IRGC had given us a two-cabin white Toyota. Since we were 21, it took time to board it. We had to drive some two kilometers from the dirt road. I was sitting in front of the car. As we were driving, I saw something like a sand storm was coming on the other side of the road. Mansour Mofid had been sitting beside me. First, I looked at him and then at other guys and said, “A sand storm has come!” the car belonged to IRGC and its driver was from their forces. The driver said, “What is there, a storm on that side but there is nothing on this side? I said, “I don’t know! The storm may have come on that side!” I think Mr. Abbasi and his troops were some five hundred kilometers ahead of us and had reached the road sooner. The road was about one and a half meters to two meters above the ground level. From afar, I saw Mr. Abbasi got off the car and threw himself down the ground. I wondered, "Why did Abbasi jump down?" Moments later, I saw the jeep was blown off and the driver couldn't get out. I wondered what happened. When the Jeep went off the air, we just found out that something wrong was happening. We reached ourselves there quickly. We saw that Mr. Abbasi with that fat body and his big belly was running toward us. We stopped and asked, “What has happened?” He said, “We are in real danger.” I said, “Why? Who fired at you?” He said, “A tank shell! That side is full of Iraqi tanks and personnel carriers!” at the same time, I saw that a tank was coming toward us. Since the Iraqis had also seen the dust rising and moving towards them, they had certainly told their troops that two cars were coming towards you, and hit them. One had been hit and the other was our car. Mansoor told me, “Amir, fire at it with RPG.” Now our distance with the tank was some two hundred meters and the tank driver was coming toward the road. I had just five RPG rockets. I said, “Am I crazy to fire at it, boy? Suppose I could succeed to hit it, what should we do with the rest? How many RPG rockets do we have?” He said, “It is coming toward us! What should we do?” Something came to my mind. I told the rest, “Everybody get off.” All got off. I got the key switch from the driver and sat behind the wheel quickly and turned on the car. I told the guys, “You wait behind this road so that the tank driver does not see you.” I stepped on the gas and headed back to the Momeni border station. When the car was moving at a speed of sixty seventy kph, I jumped down and ran towards the guys. I saw the tank standing about fifty meters from the road. He did not fire because he certainly had seen that our car was turning toward their own forces around the Momeni station and that the Ba'athists were waiting for us to shoot and had announced to them via transceiver that the Iranian car, for example, had passed from my eyesight, and was now coming back to you.

We had hidden ourselves from their eyesight. I prayed with fear and trembling to the Lord that the trick against them was successful, because if they fired at us, all of us would be killed. The car left and something about one kilometer farther turned around itself to distract them.  It was as if they had ordered the tank driver, who had stopped 50 meters off the road, to return. He came back and we could barely get back to town two by two. After 12 hours, I arrived in Khorramshahr.

*Where did you clash with the Saddam’s army in the following days?

*Our clash with the enemy started near the Khorramshahr’s entrance toward the prefabricated buildings. We organized a number of forces there. The city’s people had come to help. Until that day, since I was in the border, I did not see the people. When some of our forces were martyred, some left after a few days. Now, some claim that we know who were present and who were not during the 45-day resistance in Khorramshahr. One of such men claims that he was present. Is it possible that he had stayed and we had not seen him in that empty city? Now this building is empty, if someone passes by, don’t you see him or her? Certainly you do or else there is a conference or meeting and it is so crowded that you do not see or know some people. But when the building is empty and one or two pass here, you will hear even the sound of their feet; they were like this. A number of people left and we went and brought back some of them again. After Khorramshahr fell, I myself went and brought back some of them from Qom and said, “Sirs, you have come here to do construction, come and fight for your city and receive a salary higher than what you get here.” They found out this was a good thing and came back. 

*Were the leftovers of pro-Arab People rebellion active during the 45-day resistance in Khorramshahr?

*They were the enemy’s fifth column. They eavesdropped and threatened us. Other than this, they named us on Iraqi radio. Our guys had heard this many times. The host called me by name and said, “Amir!” A person who was active against us in Iraqi radio was my classmate. He called me and my dad by name and said, “You are Arabs, you must be with us!” First, he tried to attract us in a friendly manner, but when he saw that this did not work, he insulted me and started threatening. He said, “We should have seized Khorramshahr without fighting, you did not allow, but we will seize here by fighting!”    

*It is interesting that the names of you and your father were announced from the transceiver or in the radio …

*Yes. They were deceived. At any rate, they thought they could get advantages. It is said distance leads enchantment to the view. When the enemy comes, sorry, their wives and daughters are raped too!

*When did face-to face clashes between Iranians and Iraqis which were roof by roof and house by house started?

*When the Ba’athists entered the city.

*In which part of Khorramshahr did these clashes happen more?

*Everywhere. I clashed with an Iraqi in front of the prison. We saw each other on the roof. I was on the roof of a house and he was on the roof of another house. Fortunately, I acted more quickly. Again, in another place, I saw several Iraqis in a street. They were that side of the street and I was this side. Once again, I saw three Iraqis on a rooftop behind the Khorramshahr’s fire station. They saw me too. The experiences I had gained from confronting the Arab People rebellion and my military trainings were very helpful for me.

I had learnt that the speed of action was important. War is like football. If you do not score a goal, you will be scored. We had even engaged with rabid dogs. Once I was caught in ten rabid dogs. At that moment, I saw them as wolves and they had really become wolves. Their faces were really frightening. I was afraid of the dogs more than the Iraqis. There was also a situation where I had been faced with Iraqis single and even twenty. I had not been scared at all, I stood and fought. But I was afraid of these dogs. That is, they surrounded me so that I had stuck to the wall. I didn't want to kill them. I fired a few bullets and they ran away.

*What was the position of our forces and facilities against the enemy? 

* Our forces and equipment were very limited. We fought for hours, but we didn't have enough forces to back us, and we didn't get enough water and food. At night we were forced to go back, rest, and eat because of exhaustion without being replaced by fresh troops! At this opportunity, the Ba'athists seized the place where we were deployed and had maintained hard, and the next day when we returned to the area, resisted and pushed them back. It was not, of course, that if, for example, the enemy had advanced one hundred meters, we pushed them back likewise. We could push them back as far as twenty meters.

*How was the situation when the city was deserted and the forces were reduced?

*We no longer distinguished insiders from outsiders. One of the tricks of the Ba'athists was to capture the popular forces, then wear their clothes and stand beside the people in order to capture us. They liked a lot to capture us alive. We often didn't know whether the people close to us were Iranians or Iraqis! Of course, we had become conscious too. We had realized their tricks. If we saw a gathering of four or five ordinary people, we would not have gone to them, unless it was proven to us that they were Iranians, we would not have gone if it had not been proved.

*Do you have any memory in this regard?

* One day we were in the car with about fifteen to sixteen people crossing Hafez Street. A few people had stood fifty meters away. Before we could reach them, an old man saved us. The old man called us suddenly and said, "Don't go over there. Come here". Immediately, we ran toward the old man and asked, “What has happened?” he said, “I think they are Iraqis!” I said, “No, if they were Iraqis they had shot us.” Several Iranian captives were among them and we didn't know they had been captured.

I got off the car. When we went inside the alley, they also came at the alley. I called them and told one of them, “Come.” He said, “You come, don’t scare. We are Iranians.” I tricked and found out that they were Iraqis. The man could shoot at me easily but did not. You can target someone with a gun in a fifty-meter distance but he did not and I don’t know the reason. Probably, they wanted us alive. Irregular wars are very different with the regular ones. When someone stands in front of you, you do not know whether he or she is a friend or not. There, you have to decide very fast. We did not know such things at that time and had no experience.        

You cannot believe, we had been told lots of times about which artillery and division were reaching and coming. When in one part of the city, I saw a division, I came out of my shelter and stood in front of them and said, “Hey guys! They reached!” What division! The same division harassed us. I welcomed them, but they started firing at me. If I had done a preemptive act and targeted them – who were from Saddam’s army - with my machine gun, I had killed at least fifty.

*Did you empower by promising you that this division or that division would come? Had you been hopeful …

*And it had made me confuse the enemy forces with those of friendly ones! An Iraqi division was in front of me!

*Do you remember in what part of the city it happened?

*Yes, I remember exactly. They were coming from Taleqani neighborhood. The enemy's infantry was coming toward us in a way that they said the Iranians were coming! It was like a big snake moving. They went forward in three lines, one in front and two in the back by keeping the distance. As far as the eye could see, Iraqis were seen who were coming toward us. I was very sorry what I did not realized from the very beginning that they were the enemy so that I shoot at them.

*What was the role of the fifth column sine the middle of resistance days?

*There were no fifth column in Khorramshahr anymore. The Ba'athists killed good and bad together. They did know who was the fifth column and who was not. They were just advancing. We had stayed in the city center to the extent possible and did let them come forward.

* How much do you think the fall of Khorramshahr was due to the betrayals of the fifth column?

*There was no betrayal of the fifth column since a time onwards. It was the enemy's equipment and large number of forces which went forward the war in their favor. Supposedly, we went to fight them with twenty people, then gradually, we were decreased in number. For instance, Ali Vatan Khah who was taken as captive along with Qassem Madani were members of my forces. They took me on a two-day leave to visit their families in Mahshahr and return, but were captured. These twenty became eighteen. Some of the troops were martyred, and we became sixteen. Some of our troops were injured and our numbers were getting lesser and lesser. I myself was wounded twice, but Iraqi forces were not reduced.

*When and where were you injured?

*One of the main areas of fighting was the Customs site. We were there for a few days. For the first time on 14th of October 1980 when I was ready to fire an RPG7 rocket, suddenly a 60-mm mortar was exploded near us. I was injured in the neck and foot. I along with several others who had been injured were transferred to Taleqani Hospital in Abadan, but I escaped from the hospital and returned to Khorramshahr. A few days later, I was injured again; this time in the city. I was transferred for the second time to Taleqani Hospital. The nurse who knew me was mad at me. I had a lot of pain and told her, "Madam, I have a lot of pain." He pointed at me and told her colleagues, "He is tough. Let him wait outside and take care of the rest." I became very angry. I saw Abolhassan Banisadr, the then president in the hospital. He had come to visit the injured.  

*Where were you when Khorramshahr fell?

*I was hospitalized. The night the city of Khorramshahr fell, I didn't know.

*Who gave you the news of the city's fall?

*The guys of Abouzar Group gave me the news. Masoud Paki – God bless his soul, later he was martyred – Mansour Mofid, Alireza Dorr – who was a good guy, he was not from Khorramshahr and had come from Mahshahr to fight with the enemy – and two or three other guys who had come to visit me gave me the news of the fall of Khorramshahr.

*What was your reaction?

*I felt so bad. I had become crazy. I was shouting at the guys and say, "I wasn't one day! Couldn't you keep the city! I would be back in two days. "Of course, the resistance against the enemy had become very difficult. Really, it was not possible to hold the city! Only seven or eight of our group had left. Were we able to keep Khorramshahr with them?

*It is clear that Khorramshahr is falling since 13th and 14th of October 1980. If we consider this date until 26th of October when the news of the fall of Khorramshahr is released, the defensive forces have zealously kept the city in this interspace and are not ready to leave the city ...

*Yes, it is correct. When I had been injured, just one or three streets were in our hands but the forces were not ready to leave. The enemy had advanced with full power, but was not able to get us out of the city. The guys resisted empty-handed. If we had the forces of the first day, be sure that Khorramshahr did not fall, because we had learnt how to fight.

*How did you reinvigorate yourselves after the fall of Khorramshahr?

*The Abouzar Group was torn apart after the fall of Khorramshahr. A number of our forces were either martyred or capture. They had reduced significantly. Meanwhile, martyr Jahanara insisted that the forces should be merged.

*Did you take part in Operation Beit al-Moqaddas for liberation of Khorramshahr?

*Yes. The IRGC asked us for Operation Beit al-Moqaddas

*What was your feeling when you entered the city again?

*All of us were glad. But I had a special feeling. When I entered the city from Pol-e No and saw that everywhere had been destroyed, I did not continue. The Iraqis had put the cars in a standing posture so that our forces were not able to have Heliborne operation. My feet did not allow me to move toward the city. While crying, I got on the car and returned to our headquarters. I was there for a few days. The guys insisted me to come to the city. But I did not. And I did not go to Khorramshahr for one year.

*Thanks a lot for giving your time to Iranian Oral History website.

*I also thank you.


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