SABAH (26)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


SABAH (26)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami

Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

Published by Soore Mehr Publishing Co.

Persian Version 2019

The city was gradually growing empty. Those who had stayed had nowhere to go. They all left the city with the hope of coming back in the next few days. Many people like, khahar Rana, daughter-in-law of Elaheh’s uncle, did not even take their jewelry and had hid their valuables in the washing machine. They considered their houses as the safest place. The sound of the blast and five-fives did not stop for even a second. Most of the mortar bombs hit the empty houses. There were also times when the owner or the neighbors of the houses targeted, were martyred or injured. I thought to myself, how much supply Iraq has that keeps targeting the city non-stop.[1] I went to the Mosadegh hospital every day. We had no news from Ali and Saleheh. We were worried that they might have been injured and transferred to the hospital. In the hospital, I saw heart-breaking scenes; scenes I would not forget until the last day of my life. The injured were all over the hospital, from rooms to hallways and blood was pouring from their bodies. The quivers from mortar bomb and cannons had torn the faces and bodies of my fellow citizens. The doctors and nurses were confused and tired and ran around not knowing whom to treat first.

The wound caused by quiver had a special shape. The quiver did not cut the skin. It would tear it apart. Its heavy strike and extraordinary heat would turn the skin black. Somehow, that organ that had been hit by the quiver was completely torn. The bigger the quiver, the more awful the wound. Once, in the hospital, I noticed a wounded person whose thigh had been hit by a quiver and the thigh was three times more than the normal size. The burnt, hemorrhage and inflammation of the wound was so big that attracted the attention of everyone, even the nurses.

People brought many outpatients to the mosque and we treated their wounds. Khalili dragged the shallow quivers with forceps and with the primary facilities. If the situation of the injured was serious, Khalili would stop the hemorrhaging, clean the wound and keep the vessel so that we could move the wounded to the hospital.

I wanted to get some news about Ali. I decided to go to the morgue of the Mosadegh hospital and look there while I was transferring an injured person to the hospital. I struggled a lot with myself to be able to make that decision. I did not want to look for Ali among the martyrs but when I could not get any news from him, I decided to go for it.

The first time I went into the morgue, I was not alone. I did not have the courage to go alone. I asked Fouziyeh to go with me. She was very busy in the kitchen, but agreed to go with me as I told her that I am searching for Ali. Nothing new had happened in the hospital. It was full of fuss and hum. There were moaning sounds coming from every corner. The nurses were tired and were running around without taking a moment to rest. I thought about the morgue. I do not know how I came up with that decision.

I was afraid of the dead since childhood. I was not afraid but terrified. Once we went to Borujerd when I was in second grade. It was Thursday night. We went to Imam Zadeh Jafar, to my grandfather’s grave. We were saying prayers that I saw a crowd coming to us. They were taking their deceased for burial. There was no covering or any fabric on the dead and he was wrapped in shroud only. The deceased was a fat man and would move in the hands of his relatives. I started shivering. I was afraid of his appearance but I kept looking at him. I was stunned. I looked at the corpse until it reached its grave.

As of that day, I felt the same fear and shiver when I heard the word “dead”. I could not cope with this fear despite all my efforts. I could not get rid of this fear. But I had to accept that there is no other way than to look in the morgue.

I will never forget the moment I reached the morgue. The person in charge of the morgue did not allow us in. Fouziyeh and I begged him. We told him that we have no news about our brother. He is in the front line and might have been martyred and his corps might be among the others. Finally, he agreed and opened the door. When I put my first step into the morgue, a light shiver passed through my body. I started shaking all over. I did not have the strength to walk. Despite all these, I pulled myself together and walked in.

Contrary to the image I had in mind, the morgue was a small hall full of martyrs. There were four refrigerators and each had three drawers. There were martyrs in the drawers but something was obvious that this morgue had been built compatible to the conditions of the hospital and could not accommodate the big volume of corpses. Fear of the corpses on one hand and looking for possible corps of Ali on the other was terrifying. We had to look at the faces of each one of them and look for our lost one. I was terrified. Although Fouziyeh had been to the morgue for the first time, she was much better than me. I whispered God is great and moved forward. There were all kinds of corpses in the morgue. Women, men, old, young. Each martyred differently. Among the corpses, I saw the body of a small child, which burnt my heart. She/he was so innocent.

Some of the martyrs had their mouths and eyes open or semi-open and their fists were tied. Their position gave you the feeling that they have gone to the eternal world chanting God is great. The appearance of some of them were horrifying. Their bodies were surprisingly twisted without having any signs of hemorrhage or wound! This was the first time that I saw something like that. It was not clear what had happened to their faces and bodies. It was as if there were no bones in their bodies. They were tied like a piece of cloth. No organs were in their place, face, chest, hand and foot. Looking at the clothing they had on, it was obvious that most of them were poor and unprotected and this was the reason that they had not escaped the city.[2] The material of the clothing of most women was a cheap textile. The hands and feet of most of them were covered in crusts resulting from working in the fields and agricultural lands.

I was praying in my heart that I would not die of mortar bomb or quiver. The waves of mortar bomb blast had torn the clothes of the martyrs. I didn’t want anybody to see my body even after I was dead. I wished to be martyred by a straight bullet.

Thanks God we couldn’t find Ali there. We thanked the man in charge of the morgue and told him that our brother is not there. He said: “if you wish, you could go to Jannat Abad. Most of the martyrs are taken there for ablution and shroud covering and burial. Maybe you can find out something about your brother.” We went to Jannat Abad.

The cemetery had a short wall, fenced with railings. We went in. On the right side there was the office. A man named Parviz Pour was in charge of registering the deceased. After the war, we heard that he takes photos or piece of the clothing or another sign such as ring or any other thing from the unidentified martyrs and writes it down. He did it so that if any relatives come to look for their deceased ones, there is something for identification. I went inside. I gave name and specifications of Ali to see if he has been there. Mr. Parviz Pour looked in his notebook and said: “No! no corps has been delivered to us with this specification.” I was not content. I said: “can we see today’s martyrs. Maybe my brother is among the unidentified martyrs of today.” He said: “yes please go ahead.”

The funeral home of Jannat Abad was a few meters away from the office. It was a building with some rooms. I could not move towards it but I had to. Fouziyeh was braver than I. She grabbed my hand and we went in. In one room the martyrs were lined up to be washed and put in shrouds. There were about ten fifteen bodies. Although I was very frightened, I pulled myself together and started looking with Fouziyeh.

In one corner of the room there was a white and bloody knotted bundle. One of the relatives of the martyrs told that they have extracted this corps from one of the houses from under the rubbles. The corps was so shattered that they had to form it into the shape of a bundle. I was horrified. How could I believe what I was seeing? Was it possible that the body of a human being could be deformed like this?!

 We checked the rest of the martyrs. Thanks God we could not find Ali. We left Jannat Abad with mixed feelings of joy and sorrow.

From the fifth day of autumn on, the chores in the mosque were more organized. In the kitchen, a young man of 27, 28 years of called Isa was in charge. He was from Khorasan and was a cook. Isa cooked very well and did the best he could with the minimum possibilities. He mostly made dishes such as gheimeh[3], gheimeh with rice and lentils with rice, which was popular as ball bearings with rice.

Once a big amount of chicken and fish were brought from the refrigerators and freezers of the houses and shops in the city. If they were not brought to the mosque, they would rot. Cleaning that amount of chicken and fish was a difficult task but finally we did it. Ms. Moeen, Afsaneh and Parvaneh Ghazi Zadeh and Ms. Angali were also busy in the kitchen. Afsaneh and Parvaneh Ghazi Zadeh were sisters from a good and cordial family and their father was in military. During the recent clashes, their family had left Khorramshahr and had insisted to take Afsaneh and Parvaneh with them, but they had refused. They had said: “Imam has told us to stay and resist, therefore we are not coming.”

Ms. Angali was originally from Boushehr and lived in Khorramshahr. As she could not have children of her own, she had brought her nephew from young age and raised him. Her nephew was busy in Jihad at that time and had brought her aunt to the mosque to help other women.

The water supply of the mosque was cut starting the third day. Tankers brought water from the river on daily basis for cooking, toilets and drinking. Elaheh, the rest of the girls and I were trying to avoid going to the toilet in the mosque. We were ashamed of going to the toilet while many people were there. During the night we made a group of seven eight individuals and went to Khadijeh Bazoun or Ashraf Abbasi’s place which were close to the mosque. Before going, we took some water from the mosque for purity.

During the night, the mosque was pitch black. The Iraqis would start to target immediately after they could see a small light. Therefore, we had covered the windows with blankets so that the enemy could not target us if we had to do some chores with the light of a torch or lantern.


To be continued…


[1] Later, in the memoirs of an Iraqi prisoner captured in Khorramshahr, I read that in the days before the occupation of Khorramshahr, the Ba'athist army had set up ninety mortars on Khorramshahr that could strike the city around the clock.

[2] I soon found out that these martyrs were in this state due to a strong wave of explosions

[3] A type of stew.

Number of Visits: 114


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