SABAH (36)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


SABAH (36)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami

Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

Published by Soore Mehr Publishing Co.

Persian Version 2019


All other soldiers had the same condition and were in dire need of clothes and shoes. Mostly their trousers were torn in the knees since they had lots of activities and the fabric was worn out. I had even seen soldiers in the fronts wearing slippers. There were some who took them off and walked bare foot!

The dire situation of soldiers ached my heart. I had even given my shoes to one of the soldiers and was wearing slippers myself.

While remembering the scenes of the front line, I changed my route towards the damaged shoe store. I was sure that if the shop owner was there, he would have donated these shoes to the soldiers. Some of the shoes were burnt due to explosion, most of the shoes were lying in the street but a big number of shoes were in the shop. I arranged the shoes in pairs and knotted them together. I wanted to carry as many shoes as possible, but I could not let myself enter the shop when the owner was not there. I collected all which were in the street. I took one simple pair for myself and went to the mosque.

Accidentally, I saw the young man whose shoes were torn. He had come inside the mosque with his companion soldiers to rest. The mosque had turned into the home and shelter for all of us in those days. All took refuge there when they were tired and worn out. Only God knows how happy I was to see him. I put all the shoes in a corner. Then asked the young man to take one for himself and his friends. He was so happy. It was obvious that he was suffering in his torn shoes.

There were no good news from the fronts. They said that Iraqis had invaded Santap district from Customs. Santap was our district. I felt so bad thinking that our house and our neighborhood has become the commuting and refuge area for Iraqis. Before hearing this news, I had high hopes to return home. I hoped that the government would send forces and equipment and settle the war and we could go back home but hearing the news, I lost hope completely.

Belgheys and I had become quite acquainted with different medication as we were working with Dr. Saadat. I learned the name and categories of the medicines very quickly when Saadat explained them. I had a special ambition and talent in this task. I knew groups of medications well like Anti-biotic such as amoxicillin, penicillin, gentamycin, 6.3.3; pain killers such as Novalgin, baralgin, aspirin, naproxen; medication for stomach ache and diarrhea; syrups and medicines for digestion such as Aluminum MG and Dimeticon tablets, Ranitidine, simethicone, sharbone and heart medicines and valium for nerve problems.

We categorized all medication. We also categorized and classified ampules. We had access to muscular injecting drugs such as Amoxicillin and Penicillin; they were good medication and solved our issues most of the time. Dr. Saadat had taught us to read the expiry dates of the medicines and throw them away when expired. Some of the medicines such as nerve medication and tranquilizers which were more specialized were not used by us in mosque and we took them to the hospital.

Dr. Saadat taught us how to administer serums for the patients. He was against calling him a doctor and had a special attitude. Despite his busy schedule, when it was time for prayers, he stopped working and prayed. He prayed very beautifully; in peace and calmly. He also said Komeyl prayer on Thursday nights. He was very conscious of his hygiene. While we ate with our hands covered in soil and blood, he washed his hands thoroughly.

One night, the surrounding areas of the mosque were bombarded and we all ran out. The explosions were so close that I could feel the vibration of all the bricks of the dome of the mosque. We all assumed that the next bomb will land on our heads. The women were shouting. I whispered martyr prayer. I felt everything will end soon. I wished with all my heart that my father, Abbas, Mohsen, Mona, Ali and Saleheh were with us at this moment. It was better if we were martyred together. If some members of our family died, the others would mourn our death!

I was deep in my thoughts that I noticed the situation calmed down gradually. Now that the situation was calmer, we went out to see which location has been bombarded. The bombs had hit the surrounding of the mosque and we were lucky that they had not hit the mosque. The nearest location hit by the bomb near the mosque, was my elementary classmate’s house whose name was Tadayon. We started to move the rubbles. Thanks God nobody except Tadayon had been home and she had been in the yard. One of her feet was hurt severely and was hanging loose from knee down. She had severe hemorrhaging. She was confused due to the explosion wave. She was shocked and was staring at her injured knee. One of the men arranged for a car to transfer her to the hospital. I was holding her foot hit by shrapnel and was worried that it won’t cut off from knee down. Her leg was attached by a piece of flesh and skin. We accompanied her to the hospital with a friend[1].

Since the tenth day of the autumn, the number of those referring to the mosque for light injuries had multiplied. The Iraqis had made progress from road police and slaughter house side towards Dizel Abad. At the noon of the tenth day, the soldiers of the front line conveyed the news that the Iraqis have entered the city and have progressed up to Rah Ahan square and Ebne Sina girl’s primary school. The news made me shiver. I had studied in that school until fifth grade. I felt bad when I thought that instead of Khorramshahr’s innocent students, Iraqis are wandering around the school. They were very close to the mosque. The thought of the fall of Khorramshahr was eating my soul.

There was a hum all over the city and among those in the mosque. Everybody was busy doing something. Some took grenades and bullets from the store with the authorization of Mahmoud Farrokhi and Sheikh Sharif. The weather was very hot. All lips had turned white from thirst and there were drops of sweat on their faces and heads. Nobody could stand on their feet. The enemy had infiltrated the city and the danger was very close. Yesterday we had pushed them back until the Sad Dastgah apartments but during the night they had progressed.

Starting early that morning, Iraqis had bombarded and raided the city with heavy artillery. The number of injuries referred to the mosque were so much that we had no free time. We put adhesives on a dressing, then we had to clean the other wound from blood and wash it. We were still in the middle of the task, that a heavily injured individual was brought in and we had to get him/her into a car and send to Taleghani hospital in Abadan. Since a few days ago, when the Iraqi MIGs had bombarded Mosadegh hospital, it practically provided no services to patients and injured. The morgue was also useless due to blackout.

All these short-comings affected the injured. They bled for long hours and it took a while to treat them, but these problems encouraged soldiers and people to stay and resist rather than lose hope and leave. We had to stay and defend our city. This was our and Imam’s wish. We had lost hope in Bani Sadr. Army was under his supervision and could not act against his will. We all had hope in Imam and that was all.

I was whispering Salavat and was nursing a wound. Mahmoud Farrokhi who had just walked out a few minutes ago, returned to the mosque breathing heavily and said: “sisters and brothers! We have gathered bottles and soap from the shops to make cocktail Molotov. We have no choice. The enemy is at the door and we have to resist in any possible way. Help us grate the soaps and fill the bottles.”

We acted quickly. I was filling the bottles and closing wounds at the same time. At that moment, Sheikh Sharif who had gone out, returned. He and another member called Major Sharif Nasab were constantly commuting between the fronts and the mosque and doing coordination and provision for the forces.  Major Sharif Nasab who seemed to be forty years old, had a special mentality. He encouraged and triggered the forces to resist using his forces and speeches. Once when one of his soldiers protested for not having a weapon, he told him seriously: “the weapons and ammunition is in the hands of Iraqis. Go and get it from them if you are a man!” Although he had a military background, but he often worked with the public. He did not limit himself to a specific and pre-identified area of work and isolate himself from the rest. He fought with all his heart and soul and with honor.

Sheikh Sharif used to say that they will resist as long as the soldiers have energy and power in their bodies and if God wills, they will not let the Iraqis to move further. He said that the Iraqis have progressed with their tanks from 5 km away to road police, Dezh garrison and Dizel Abad and have reached Rah Ahan square. But the army and public forces have stopped them there with bare hands. The enemy had put pressure on Khorramshahr from the west.

We were all active; those working in the kitchen or involved in rescue or those present in the mosque were actively involved in a task. We grated the soaps so quickly that in many occasions we grated the skin of our own hands without realizing it. When the cocktail Molotov’s were ready, we handed them over to the soldiers. They could stop a tank by blowing the cocktail Molotov’s and throwing them from the roof tops.

We were waiting impatiently to hear the slightest news from Rah Ahan square and front lines. Close to the evening, Major Sharif Nasab and Sheikh Sharif returned to the mosque very tired but smiling. They told us that the soldiers have stopped the Iraqis in Rah Ahan square and forced them to withdraw. Only God knows how glad we were by this news and how vivid we felt. The sound of Takbir surrounded the mosque. Many bowed for appreciation. If the Iraqis continued to move forward, we could only expect martyrdom, captivity and fall and siege of the city.

One hour later, the army soldiers brought a few prisoners for transfer. They were happy. Although we had had many martyrs, but we were very happy that we had blocked the progress of Iraqis and had forced them to flee. They also said that the Iraqis have ran away leaving the tanks behind. The army soldiers had shown special bravery that day.

In the evening, they took the Iraqi prisoners out of the mosque. Based on the recommendations of the soldiers, we gave them food and water. They were terrified the whole time that we might kill them. They could not believe that we are treating them with patience.


To be continued …


[1] Despite the amputation she suffered, she continued her studies and got her degree in gynecology from Ahwaz University and set up an office there.

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