Three hundred and ninth memory night-1

Memories of Mosul Camp

Maryma Rajabi
Natalie Haghverdian


According to the Iranian Oral History Site, the 309th Memory Night of the Holy Defense was held on Thursday, 26 December 2019 at the Surah Mehr Art Hall. In this program Abdul Rahim Farrokh Sohrab, Sayyed Yahya Rahim Safavi and Fathullah Jafari recounted their memories of the captivity and the victory of Operation Faw and Karbala 5.

At the beginning of the 309th Memory Night of the Holy Defense, a short video of the war veteran Hassan Mohammadi Karkani and his speech in the 89th Memory Night was aired. He was in captivity for ten years and spent the last five years of his life in illness. Martyr Hassan Mohammadi joined his martyr friends on 14 December 2019 due to injuries sustained during captivity. The first narrator of the 309th program was a friend of martyr Mohammadi who spent nine years in captivity with the martyr. "It’s well said that we wouldn't appreciate something precious but when it is gone," said Abdul Rahim Farrokh Sohrab, General Director of the Society of the Holy Defense Captives. Freedom. The art of this dear friend was ignored. Hassan Mohammadi served other captives by keeping their hopes up. I was captive for 118 months and 7 days; almost 10 years. We were the second group to enter the camps in Mosul. Before us were forty to fifty friends who had been taken captive by Iraqis during 1978-79. The Komala had taken them and delivered them to the Iraqis. Saddam knew he was going into a war and had captured some soldiers even before. First, I want to highlight the ambiance of the Iraqi camps, especially Mosul. In Mosul, there were four camps; Mosul 1, 2, 3 and 4. The Mosul camp that originally opened was Mosul 1. We had a small camp, two medium camps and one large camp. The camps were like castles, and we could see nothing but the skies. The sanatoriums were around the camps. There were four storerooms on the four sides. The courtyard of the camp was like a crossroad, with lots of green grass around it. From the very first days I met Mr. Hassan, giving others hope and bringing them happiness was his key objective. One day when we were all gathered together, he said, 'Let's go camping?' We asked with surprise: Camping? How can we go camping out of here? He said: Gather all the things that I tell and I’ll take care of the rest. He asked: Do we have vegetables? There was an old man in the camp who would pick vegetables that we didn’t know and eat them. I told him: “I’ll take care of the vegetables.” He said: “I’ll take care of the rest.” I want to serve you a seven-year old garlic in vinegar. We were even more surprised at how he is going to serve us a seven-year-old garlic in vinegar in the early days of captivity! He said I hid it and brought it and the Iraqis couldn't find it. We asked where did you hide the jar that they couldn't find? He said: “Don’t worry about that, I would give you a seven-year- old garlic in vinegar. Soldiers in the camp talked about their travels around the world. I’m telling you this so that you know that not all the captives were Basij and young, like us. We had captive teachers. Everyone explained the places they had been in such details as if we had seen them closely. To cut the story short, Hassan Mohammadi proposed that we camp in the yard next to the grass. I think it was Friday. We took off our blankets and first experienced camping inside the camp.The soldiers collected the food they had for a few days and brought it with them. We spread the blankets in the middle of the camp. It was a very beautiful thing. We got together and shared memories. I turned to Hassan and said: “You were supposed to bring us seven-year-old garlic in vinegar! He gave the jar to me and said: “Here is what I promised! If you've seen it, you know that seven-year-old garlic is sweet and sticky. I said how did you do that? He said I've been making this for a week. One layer of garlic, one layer of sugar, one layer of garlic, one layer of sugar until the jar was full and then I put it under the sun. We would then make jams and other things in the same way. I was in charge of the theaters. I gradually became acquainted with Hassan Agha and the others. Early on because of the camp ambiance, we tried to run historical theaters. The soldiers would write the scenario and I would direct them; theaters such as Muslim children and Hajj Ibn Adi, and so on until Haj Agha Abutorabi was brought to the camp. After some time I met Haji. From the conversations with him I realized that his main concern is out physical health until we return home. Early on we thought we were going home in Eid[1], but it lasted 10 years. Some proposed that we arrange Comedy Theater to cheer up the soldiers. I said: “I don't know, talk to Haji, if he agrees then I’ll arrange it.” Friends spoke to Haji and he said this is not only good, but it is something that I want you to do. These soldiers have to have spirit, be happy. Anyway, we started our comedy theaters that year, and the director of all our comedy theaters was Hassan Agha; he would speak and everybody laughed. He always tried to make the soldiers laugh. We were paid one Dinar and a half there, which is equal to 30 Tomans now, and at the end it was about 200 to 300 Tomans. We played one act and it was very effective. I was the director and Hassan Agha was the actor. When we came backstage, an old man had gone out and bought a packet of raisins from Hanot (the grossery stores we had). One three by four dorm was the stage and another was the backstage. The audience would sit in the front. The old man came backstage. We asked him, "Why did you come here?" He said that you made me laugh even in captivity; it was the mental and psychological impact of the comedy theaters we were performing. Of course we did other theaters, but it was more comedy. Hassan Mohammadi was very happy and cried after hearing the old man. We had a really good logistics; that is, we made everything out of nothing. I remember we were going to do an act in which a donkey was needed and somebody had to ride it. The scenario was about gardening. The soldiers made the donkey head with what we had so nicely. Each dorm was approximately 20 meters by 9 meters, with a capacity of 100 to 120 people; so if we would lie on our back, our shoulders would shrink so we had to turn to the side. At night, the enemy guards would walk at the two ends of the camps and we had red and white signs during rehearsals. We had two guards on both sides to control the movement of the soldiers with mirrors. They would sign red if the soldiers came. We had the same sign systems during rehearsals so that the actors would be ready and put down the curtain and collect everything and with the white sign everything was back to normal. Theater was not that simple there. The acts were so funny that our watchman didn't notice it and a soldier saw us and wondered: Donkey?! Where did you get it?! Before we could answer, he ran out and informed the camp commander that we had brought a donkey. We quickly separated the donkey into parts and divided it among others. The commander came into the dorm and asked for the donkey and said: “My soldiers would not lie.” They were afraid that we would escape. We denied it and they threatened to beat us. Mohammad Reza Harati was in the program and he proposed that we assemble the donkey to avoid punishment. We did it and the commander laughed and said what did you need the donkey for? We said we had a theater performance. If this is the donkey for an act, he said, why don't you play for us? We said: “we thought it might be prohibited.” He said: “It is not, but the fact that you do it behind our back it means that you ridicule us? And you made this donkey as the symbol of Saddam?” We said no! That's not the case. He asked for the director of the act. Herati and I were introduced. They took us out, beat us first, and then said that you have to arrange an act and play it for us. After that, we did two great collective works where some captive soldiers got together and wrote the scenario. In one, we played comedy basketball; in fact one group were actual basketball players and the other group were some shorter guys. The shorter guys would help each other to score a goal and the other team would do that easily. At the end the commander came to us and said you teased us. The professional team represented you and the other team represented us! We set up a football comedy theater that was supposed to be played on Eid al-Fitr in the morning. I don't remember what year. We would collect extra bread during Ramadan and make pastries and cakes with it. We would usually said the Eid al-Fitr prayers in the dorm. In the process of trying to run the show, there was a part that really mattered to us. We had to get a mouse. We told all the other dorms to catch a mouse so that we can keep it. One night there was a lot of noise in one of the dorms and later we figured that they wanted to catch a mouse but ended up killing it. It was two or three days to the Eid and no mouse. We though to use a frog or any other animal that we can find. Just have one animal for that day. Even once in the dorm, 120 people were running after a mouse. I was upset that the best part designed for a football match is the animal part. We had a tall team of different shapes and sizes. Goalkeeper of the short team was a tall guy and the goalkeeper for the tall team was a short guy. You have probably seen in the old comedies that once they grab someone to take him away another person grabs the hand and the hand stretches. We even did that and the Iraqi commander was scared. The performance was around 10 in the morning. There were a lot of people in the football court all gathered together to see the play. We had appointed some people to keep the order. Some would sit on the ground in the front rows and the others would stand in the back. I was upset that we couldn't find an animal because that was the best part. Suddenly Mohammad Reza Golshani came running and said that he has caught a rat. Sadegh Jahangir had to grab the rat’s tail and show it to the goalkeeper of the other team. He had to run away so that they could score a gola. The rat was big, frightened and quiet and motionless. I put the mouse in the box and gave it to Sadegh Jahanmir. He looked at the rat, and he was scared and said I can’t do it. I said that it would ruin the show. Anyway he accepted and played the part. In the middle of the show Sadegh released the rat. It ran around and in every corner he saw a lot of people then it had a stroke and died. There were around one to two thousand people there. In my knowledge, there are forty thousand and sixty six hundred war captives across Iran. So far, 5,000 of these loved ones have died and become martyrs. "


[1] Iranian solar new year at the beginning of spring.

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