SABAH (14)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

2020-06-16


SABAH (14)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami

Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

Published by Soore Mehr Publishing Co.

Persian Version 2019


 

My father, mother and sisters also voted in the mosque. I will never forget the joy of that day. As if, we were celebrating the birth of our victory with this election. We stayed until late at night and counted the votes. Except for a few cases, all votes were affirmative[1]. This election, officially stated the Islamic Republic of Iran. The results of the election on the tenth and eleventh of Farvardin (29-30 March) which was a referendum held on the order of Imam Khomeini to avoid any ambiguity, was announced on twelfth (31 March).

A short while after the victory of revolution, there were some issues in Khorramshahr. Near Seif bazaar and in Imam Khomeini Street and on the river bank, there was a building that once belonged to the USA Consulate, before the Revolution. This building had been given to an organization called “Arabs’ Committee” affiliated to a group called Arab people. The reason for formation of this Committee was that most of the members of Islamic Revolution Committee, which was formed in all cities based on necessity of the situation, were Persian speaking and can not address the issues of Arab speaking people!

This committee changed its name to “Arab People Warriors Headquarters” after a while and Arabic music was pronounced off the building speakers and was supported directly from Iraq and they were making every effort to highlight the ethnic nervousness and spread the nationalistic and ethnicity spirit. Individuals who visited that place were requesting the independence and respect of Arabs in Khuzestan and all had to wear Arabic clothes.

One of the main ideologues of this group was an individual called Ali who was originally from Iraq and used to live in our neighborhood. People called them “prevalence”. Prevalence people had gone to Iraq and became the follower of Iraqi party and now they had returned to spread their beliefs among the public. Arab People Group was constantly provoking the emotions of the public by highlighting the problems and issues of some Arab people residing in Khuzestan and Khorramshahr that stemmed in the Shah’s regime. Through this approach they managed to attract more followers.

The movements of The Arabs Public like many other movements which had been formed in Kordestan, Sistan Baluchesan, Gonbad Kavous and …, were looking for independence and a separate government for Arabs; a government which wanted to connect Khuzestan to Iraq and give it an Arab original! Nothing could be funnier than this!

In different declarations issued by the Arabs Public in Khorramshahr, there were some requests that they themselves couldn’t believe. For example, at the time, there was only one Iraqi school in Khorramshahr and only the children of Iraqi Embassy employees could study there. The rest of the Arabs residing in Khorramshahr could not send their children to normal schools since they did not speak Farsi and for this reason only one or two in most Arab households could read and write and their children didn’t attend schools.

This was one of the weaknesses of the Pahlavi regime, and we were hoping that Arab children could also study under the Islamic Republic regime; however this was the issue that Ali had taken up for protest. In the declarations of the Arab People, one of the demands was to change the national official language, or at least that of Khuzestan province, to Arabic so that the Arab children could go to school. Moreover, once the official national language of Iran or at least that of Khuzestan changed to Arabic, the Arabs could claim their positions in offices and governmental affairs and regain their status in public!

Everybody knew that this group had its roots in Iraq and the Ba’ath Party. One evidence of this fact was the financial support of this group and other expenses they endured to attract members and weaponry and artillery of their members, was the other. Sheikh Shabir Al Khaghani was one of the most prominent people which was fooled by this group.

Little by little the thoughts of the Arabs Public Group which were being governed by Saddam and the Ba’ath Party gained power in the Arabs of Khorramshahr. Every day there were protests in different parts of the city and they believed that they will soon form the Arab government! Almost eighty percent of our neighbors were Iraqi immigrants and they would quickly join protests! Our family and families of Haj Habib and his three brothers were the only ones who remained in between.

The Arabs Public had more influence on teenagers and youth. It was the same in our neighborhood. They even threatened my brother Ali once or twice that they would drop grenade in our yard if we did not join them. At that time, my father was not in Khorramshahr. My mom got very agitated and went to Haj Habib and explained the situation. He comforted my mother saying that there is law in the country, and nobody can act as he wishes. Then he had gone to the group and had threatened them. They did not dare to have anything to do with us but had bothered many people in Khorramshahr.

We heard many times that the Arabs Public have put bomb in a corner of the city. They also had some recommendations for their followers such as the Arab men married to Persian women should divorce them otherwise the Group would kill those women. They really did what they said. I remember that once they had given a message to one of our school bus drivers that he should divorce his wife. His wife was from Borujerd. Poor driver said: “this woman is the mother of my children. Why should I divorce her if she has not done anything wrong?!” they exchanged this message a few times and once when the driver had gone out of the house, the group entered into his house and killed his wife with a weapon.

The activities of the Arabs Public were spreading quickly. We heard a few times that the residences of the revolutionary families in Khorramshahr were identified and they threw bombs in their yards. The security of the city was unstable. Once Azam Taleghani, daughter of late Ayatollah Taleghani, was invited by Red Crescent Organization and came to Khorramshahr to give a speech. The ceremony was held in the amphitheatre of the organization, which was near Rah Ahan square. I, Shahnaz, Fouziyeh, Saleheh and my mother went to hear her speech. Due to the heavy population in the hall, we found a place to sit on the second floor.

After Azam Taleghani entered the hall, a loud noise was heard. The crowd started shouting and crying and there were dust and burn smell everywhere. The explosion and the noise were coming from one of the entrances of the hall. At first, we were very terrified but soon we could gather ourselves and comfort the public. The crowd were pushing each other to exit the hall because they were thinking that there might be another explosion. Some people who had been near the explosion, were wounded but fortunately nobody was killed. As we were told later it was a noise bomb and had little destruction capacity.

A few days after the explosion of the bomb in the Javanan hall of the Red Crescent, Bazargan and Ghotbzadeh and a delegation affiliated to the temporary government came to Khorramshahr. Bazargan went to Jameh Mosque upon his arrival and announced that he has come to have talks with Sheikh Shobeyr. I remember that on the same day, his shoes were stolen from the mosque! A few minutes after the speech of Bazargan, we heard shootings from the streets around the mosque. These shooting noises were followed by the noises of people sitting among the crowd and made the speech a chaos.

I was in the mosque that day. When we heard the shootings, we came to the door of the mosque and noticed that the armed forces of the Arabs Public have surrounded the mosque and intend to disrupt the speech of Bazargan. They succeeded. They made a lot of noises and shot with weapons in the air that Bazargan was forced to leave the mosque barefoot.

There was unrest in the city. It had been a while that some of the religious individuals of Khorramshahr had confiscated the residence of Khorramshahr SAVAK Chief. This residence was located near the building of the Arabs Public. They had turned the residence to the “Khorramshahr Muslim Youth Military Cultural Center. It was also called “Khorramshahr Muslim Revolutionary Cultural Center”. The members of the center were the youth who were arrested, imprisoned and tortured during the protests. The center had different activities; activities in schools and collecting young followers and arresting SAVAK members as well as the security of the city and border areas and fighting against drugs. The members of the center later formed the main core of Khorramshahr army.

To be continued…

 


[1] I have kept my ID with the first stamp of the Islamic Republic of Iran government stamp as a keep sake.



 
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