Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian



Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami

Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

Published by Soore Mehr Publishing Co.

Persian Version 2019


During that period, my father started working in Ministry of Oil and Ports of Khorramshahr but resigned due to the presence of English people in that Ministry. He used to say: “The money of Ports is not good. That land has been taken from people by force and no prayer is accepted there.”

After that, he found a job in a road making company in Kuwait and worked for a few months. He became homesick and returned home.

After a few years, my father decided to remarry. A girl from Borujerd was recommended to him by his uncle’s wife, Farangis. My father agreed. The introduced girl is the daughter of Iran Khanum who is the tenant of my maternal grandmother’s house. During the acquaintance ceremony, Iran Khanum insists that her daughter is an orphan and should not marry and go to another city. She insists that her daughter and son-in-law should live in Borujerd. My father does not agree, and the proposal is void.

At the same time, Farangis goes to see my grandmother whom we call Bibi. My uncle’s wife had no connection with my grandmother but knew her due to her frequent visits to Borujerd. At Bibi’s place, Farangis notices my mother who was fourteen years at that time and was very beautiful and petite.

She rushes back and explains the situation to my father. My father agrees and asks her to set a date for him. My mother meets my father and falls in love with him and the answer to the proposal is positive. Of course, at that time the opinion of the bride was not important and her father took all the decisions and the others agreed.

My father presents my mother the gifts and new clothing he had brought for Iran Khanum’s daughter and married during his one week stay in Borujerd. My father brings my mom, Bibi and my grandfather along with other elderlies of the family to Khorramshahr to have another wedding there. They celebrate their marriage in two days and my mother and father and Jasem start a life together. Bibi stays with them for a while and then returns to Borujerd after she is confident that everything is fine.

At the first anniversary of their marriage, year 1953, my sister Fouziyeh is born. During the same year, the family leaves Khorramshahr and moves to Bandar Anzali since my father had found a job in another road making company called ‘Malawi road making”.  They move to the north, but they don’t stay long and after one and a half year they return to Khorramshahr.

Two years after Fouziyeh, Shahnaz is born and two years after that Saleheh. After giving birth to Saleheh, my mother brought a maid called Firouzeh to help her with chores. Firouzeh was the daughter of one of our neighbors and was living in poor conditions. She helped my mother during the day and went home at night. She ate at our house and also received salary for the chores she did.

At the same period, my aunt Maryam married a man from Khorramshahr. Aunt Maryam’s husband, Mohammad Ali Hejab, whom we called uncle Hejab was a good and religious man. He was working at the Customs.

Two years after Saleheh was born, I was born in 1959 in Khorramshahr. Although my parents had four daughters they were very happy. They came from Arab and Lor background who are famous for loving male children. But my mother always said that my father was very thankful for his children and thanked God for giving him healthy children.

My father gave special attention to his daughters. He used to put cream on our hands and always instructed my mother to take great care of our hygiene and even boil the water before using it. During those days, it was not customary to take a bath on daily basis, but he had built a small bathroom in our house and instructed us to take a bath every night. This routine was even during the cold winter nights. After taking a bath, he gave us a warm water bag in bed.

I was barely three years old that my father decided to move to Iraq. He was very conservative and fanatic. Due to the issue of removing Hejab he decided to move to Iraq and believed that even if the life is hard there, it is worth it.

We moved to Basreh and resided in “Ashar” street. Our landlord was an Iranian religious man called Seyed Behbahani. We stayed there for more than a year. Our move to Iraq coincided with 15 Khordad uprising (June 5th, 1963). Mr. Behbahani who was a revolutionist, followed Iran’s internal movements carefully and always wanted to know the idea of clergy and Imam on each issue.

He had a small daughter who used to be my playmate. We often did not get along and got into a fight during playtime.

My brother Ali who was the fifth child of the family was born in Iraq. My mother was very happy and proud of his son. My father was a driver and an employee for an oil company in Iraq. We were getting used to our new life in Iraq while my uncle Nematollah arrived. My father was not feeling well, and my uncle was worried for him. He tried to persuade us to go back to Iran, but my father did not agree. Finally, my uncle said: “if you come back to Iran, we will be brothers, otherwise forget about me!”

My father gave in and we returned to Khorramshahr.

Upon our return, my father went to his previous job in Malawi Company. The company sent him on a mission to Tehran. We all moved to Tehran. We rented a house in Samangan Street, which is near Resalat square. The house had a water reservoir. We used to play in the reservoir and those memories are unforgettable. We had very good days. Fouziyeh was supposed to start school but my father did not like his daughters to attend school. He wanted us to stay at home with mom. He felt more confident when we were home. He was himself fond of study and books, but he didn’t like his daughters to attend the schools of previous regime. He was afraid that the improper behavior, common at schools, will affect his own daughters.

When he came home early, he gathered us all and read for us. Most of the books that he read to us were published in Egypt and Beirut and were in Arabic language and he had to translate it for us. Books such as one thousand and one nights, Leylie and Majnoun, Gheys and Lebneh, Antar and Ebleh, Amroo and Gheys, stories of Quran and … During the Ramadan fasting times, he read us one part of Quran and finished reading the whole Quran in one month. My father did not agree to send Fouziyeh to school despite the insisting of my mom.

One year later, my father’s mission came to an end and we returned to Khorramshahr. We had not completely settled back that the next mission was assigned to my father to move to Khorram Abad. We had got used to this life style. Everywhere we moved, we rented a good house and always provided us with best foods, clothing and cuddled us with affection. He wanted us to suffer less due to continuous movements.

While we were living in Khorram Abad, my mother insisted on sending Fouziyeh to school. My father did not agree but my mother could succeed and sent her to school. When my mother took her to school, they did not agree to let her sit in the first grade since she was nine years old. She had to pass the exams of first and second grades and if accepted, sit in third grade!

Fouziyeh was very intelligent. My mother bought the study books of first and second grades and as Fouziyeh was familiar with Quran alphabet and was familiar with stories that my father and Bibi used to read for us, she was accepted for the third grade. Shahnaz also started attending first grade.

After living in Khorram Abad for one year and getting used to neighbors and friends, we had to return to Khorramshahr. My sister, Ferdos, was born in Khorramshahr. She was a happy child and filled our house with joy. This helped us to overcome the sadness of saying goodbye to our friends in Khorram Abad.

Mother sent Fouziyeh, Shahnaz and Saleheh to “Parvin Etesami” school. She loved her children to go to school. That is why she registered me in the same school when I was six years old. After a while, the principle of school called my mom to school. The principle and teacher had told my mom:” why are you sending your child to school at this young age?” my mom had asked: “what has she done?” They had answered that she has done nothing wrong, but she is sleepy in class and taking naps.

They were right. I could not stand school and sit in class. I wanted to play around and if I had to sit in one place, I felt sleepy. I yawned non-stop. My mom used to wake us up very early to get to school on time. I had curly hair and every morning Fouziyeh had to put oil and water on my hairs and then comb them. This took a lot of time and we had to wake up early. When I came back from school, I played a lot and did not rest. This was the reason that I woke up crying in the morning. I got bored in class. My teacher’s name was Ms. Talaee. She liked me a lot but I was playful in class.

When my mother understood my situation, she took me out of school and decided to send me to school the next year.

The next year, my father got a mission to Shiraz. We packed to move to the new city. My mother informed her brother, uncle Gholam, who was living in Borujerd that we are moving to Shiraz. Uncle Gholam hurried to help us with the packing and moving with his bus since my father had moved to Shiraz one month earlier and could not accompany us.

We moved to Hossein Abad city in Fars province which was one hour far from Shiraz. It was the month of Dey (January) and we had changed our school and my father was very worried about our studies. When he went to school to register us, he noticed that the school has only one big classroom and all students from first to sixth grade sit in the same classroom. Mr. Khaleghi, who was the principle and only teacher of the school, said: “I can barely handle my students and cannot accept new students in different grades.”

My father proposed to help school and build another class with the hope that his children are registered in school.

Mr. Khaleghi answered: “I would be very happy. We do not have many facilities here. It would be a big help to us.”

My father went to his company and requested them to provide him with the building materials for the classroom. He had explained that he will leave his job if his children are not able to attend school. The Director of the company, who was an engineer, had to accept his deal since he was the sole driver of “dumper” vehicle. Dumper was a heavy and giant road making vehicle which was used in the stone mines. All the signs on that vehicle was in English and not every driver could drive it. The Engineer accepted to build a class with his own expenses.

Jasem had got married and had children. My father had arranged a position in the same company for Jasem and they came to live with us. Jasem’s son, Karim, was supposed to study in first grade with me. Saleheh was also in first grade since she had been naught and had not studied well.


To be continued…

Number of Visits: 81


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