SABAH (32)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

2020-10-21


SABAH (32)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami

Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

Published by Soore Mehr Publishing Co.

Persian Version 2019


 

I went to the nurses’ station and asked about the injuries of Chehel Metri Street. One of the nurses said: “two of them are martyred and one of them is injured. Those who have been martyred are in the hall.”

I could not believe what I heard.

  • Two martyred and one injured!

I gazed at the nurse’s mouth. I came to myself hearing my mom crying. I turned back and saw my mom and Shahnaz standing above two corpses and crying. I went to them. Both Shahnazes were martyred; Shahnaz Mohammadi and Shahnaz Haji Shah. Shahnaz Mohammadi was lying there on her stomach in the hall and Shahnaz Haji Shah was lying on her back. They were both covered by their chadors.

My mom kept saying: “Sabbah, her bridal dress became her grave clothes. She had been inspired that this would happen!”

Shahnaz was crying. She was also trying to calm mom. I was experiencing a new feeling. Besides the body of Shahnaz Haji Shah, I felt that my body became hollow. I leaned to the wall. She was my first martyr friend. I remembered her jokes and laughter. I remembered the trip to visit Imam. Shahnaz was an emotional and kind girl. I remembered her cooperation and sympathy in that trip filled with memoirs. I could hear her laughter in my ear so clearly as if there was no sound and humming around me. She was lying there beautifully.

Their bodies were in the way. A nurse passed us hastily and said: “take them to a corner. They are blocking the way.”

At that instance, Zahra Hosseini also joined us. I looked at her and my mom and said I can’t. My mom said: “step aside! Zahra and I will move them.”

Zahra held Shahnaz Haji Shah’s feet and my mom got hold of her hands. The corpse was physically sound. At that moment we did not know where the shrapnel had hit. They had moved only one two steps away that the body of Shahnaz fell on the ground.

My look froze on my mom’s hand. Shahnaz’s left arm was torn away from her shoulder and was in my mom’s hand! Zahra, who could not understand what had happened at that moment, shouted: “What are you doing Ms. Vatan Khah?! Please respect the martyr!”

She thought that my mom had been distracted and had dropped Shahnaz. My mom stood stoned. All of us were. It was obvious that the shrapnel had hit Shahnaz’s shoulder and had wounded the left shoulder area specially the heart. My mom bent slowly and put Shahnaz’s hand back on her body and moved her with Zahra.[1]

We were standing in the hall still, confused and helpless with what had happened to Shahnaz’s hand, when we heard the continuous beep of a vehicle followed by the yelling of some individuals from the yard.  In a few seconds, the nurses ran to the yard and started calling for help.

I ran to the yard. I witnessed a scene that I was sure I would not forget for the rest of my life. The beeping sound came from a truck which was loaded with corpses covered in soil and blood. The driver was hitting himself in the head and was crying, saying: “I am destroyed, my house is ruined! Please help me!”

There were 14 corpses in the truck; 14 corpses of old and young and children; Bodies who had been martyred brutally. Not even one body was sound. The shrapnel had torn the bodies and all their inner organs were inside out. They had Arabic clothes, Kurdish trousers, torn thawb all covered in soil and blood. While we were moving the corpses from the truck, despite the care that we showed, one organ would fall off the bodies. I was terrified to see the heel of the foot of one of the martyrs which had been hit by shrapnel. The heel was hit by shrapnel and torn and had turned into the size of a coconut. Most of the faces were burnt and decomposed. They had no sound place in their bodies.

The driver of the truck was hitting himself and crying loudly, said in a cutoff word that these bodies belonged to the members of one family who had gathered for lunch; grandfather and grandmother to daughter-in-law and son-in-law and grandchildren. All of a sudden a cannon ball had hit their table and martyred all. He had survived because he had gone out of the house for a short while. He was the only survivor of a family of 14! It was a disaster. I couldn’t say if he would survive this tragic accident.

The bodies were transferred to Jannat Abad directly. The morgue was not in a good condition. The morgue was small in size and could not accommodate the huge volume of martyrs.

We went back to the hospital. Bodies of Shahnaz Haji Shah and Shahnaz Mohammadi were transferred to the morgue. Shahnaz Haji Shah had said previously that her mother and sister had left Khorramshahr. Her brother, Hossein, was in the frons. Shahnaz and Hossein were very close. We had to wait for her family to return and then arrange for the burial.

As I was thinking about the incidents of that morning, I was arranging lunch for the soldiers with the help of friends in the kitchen. We had split peas stew for lunch. We poured the stew between the bread layers, place them in covers and knot. Two soldiers who were fighting in road police line had come to take the food and water. They were waiting for us to prepare the food. My father had told my mom that he is in road police besides the soldiers. I hoped that one of these packs of food would reach my father. I was knotting the last cover that one of our companions who was in charge of boarding people into trucks and sending them out of the city, said: “a few days ago when we were boarding people into trucks, all of a sudden a woman hit her head and fell out of the truck. When we asked her what was the reason, she replied that she had left her baby at home in the cradle! She was crying and hitting herself in the chest and calling her child’s name. As she recalled, a mortar bomb had hit near her house and she had rushed to go out and had forgotten to fetch her child!” This was also one of the ugly aspects of the war. Who could believe that a mother would forget that she had a child?!

It had been a few days that some of soldiers in the mosque, took food to some areas and districts where the soldiers were stationed for defense. In one of those days, while returning to the mosque, they brought Ali Amjadi. Ali was the older brother of Maryam and was about 23 years old. He was tall and had broad shoulders. He had been hit by shrapnel on the ankle. The socks and boots were stuck on the wound. He told that his foot had been wounded two days ago and had been wearing those boots all the time. It seemed that he had no chance to take his boots off and dress the wound. The wound had somehow stuck to the socks and boot in that warm temperature.

Maryam was crying non-stop. She was upset about her brother’s condition and was agitated. When Khalil Najar found out that the wound was badly attached to the boot poured an amount of Dettol, Savlon and serum on the wound and let it rest for a few moments. He wanted to soften the sock and the boot so that they would detach from the wound more easily. After a few moments, he could take off the boot with a lot of care and hardship. The wound was festered. The infection could be seen from the appearance of the wound as well as the odor which spread as the boot came off. I loved the odor of nail polish and fuel and oil since childhood. Dettol had almost the same odor. But the wound had become infected so badly that even the strong odor of the Dettol could not cover the odor of infection. Ali was enduring a lot of pain. He was pale and drops of sweat were covering his noble face. He did not make any noise despite all this. He was sitting calmly and held his head down. When Khalil Najar was taking off his sock, he was praying with a low voice and did not complain. The war had transformed our children to men in one night. Maybe if this wound had happened in a normal situation to an individual, he/she could not tolerate this pain as such. Maryam was sitting beside Ali and was holding his hand and praising him. Poor Ali was embarrassed and was trying to take his hand away and was saying: “don’t do this Sister, don’t be restless, be calm, I am fine.”

Khalil Najar washed the wound with Betadine and closed it with sterile pad. While washing the wound, Ali was pressing his lips against one another and saying God is great. While he was in a great pain, he knotted his fingers of both hands together and pressed them against each other. He was very patient. If it was somebody else in that situation, he/she would have fainted. Khalil told him that he should stay in mosque for a few days and rest and be able to walk again. But Ali went back to the front line on the same afternoon while he was trembling!

 

To be continued …

 


[1] My mom said: I could hear Shahnaz’s hand tearing away for a very long time in my head.



 
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