Proximity in a Strange Land-2

Amin Kiani
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi

2020-11-24


On March/April 2019, a precipitation system in two waves from 25 to 29 March and also from 31 March to 2 April, caused floods and damage in cities of Lorestan. In these rainfalls, tolls such as landslide and submerging parts of Dorud, Khorramabad, Mamolan and Poldokhtar cities were reported. Following flood in these areas, in addition to Housing Foundation of Islamic Revolution, Iranian Army (Artesh) and IRGC, some people also in the form of jihadi groups were sent to Lorestan to help the victims. What you read below is the second part of narration of one of the jihadi forces who was present and active in this area for a few days.

3.

The population of jihadists in Amin Hall was increasing hour by hour. The hall was also managed more eagerly and regularly than before. There was a desk and a notebook in the corner of the courtyard and at the entrance stairs, and new comers were registered. Although the person in charge of registering was very standoffish and we had a small quarrel, but bully for them, their work was well-organized. Several printed leaflets were also stuck with the theme that you should not enter with muddy clothes. I was one of the main audiences of the warning. Arranging a few fruit boxes as a shoe rack was also very effective in regulating the slippers and shoes spread out and flattened at the entrance. I was sitting on the chairs in the corner of the yard for airing. A perfect and full-bodied man scratches his bulgy abdomen and comes forward. He approached, and I got up from my chair and stood up out of respect. He said hello, and I answered. It became start point of talking about everything related to Kashan until one quarter to four o'clock. I was so sleepy and deeply napping. I felt ashamed to say let it go; I feel sleepy. I squinted him, in a way that he did not notice I set my cellphone on alarm clock for next minute. A minute later, the phone alarmed. I apologized and got up under the pretext of answering the phone and never came back. I went into the hall. I saw several people used high beams in the darkness of night. They had thrown themselves into the arms of the " Al-Shaf' and Watr Prayer" prayer. I passed one of them, tears streamed all his face. How enviable was their mood and spirit!

The hall crowd was much more than two nights ago. Everyone laid down and asleep wherever he could. One his Keffiyeh was his blanket and one his backpack was his pillow. I stumbled to reach my place. I laid down, and my eyelids hugging each other. I heard a piercing sound. Unconsciously, I noticed that a young man about my age had slept there before me, and I could hear his snoring sound which was like start of a Peykan Javanan (young people). May God forgive my faults, and Inshallah, this poor guy would not see me on As-Sirāt and would not challenge me. I scratched his nostrils with tip of my Keffiyeh, he woke up scared and I feigned asleep. I woke up in the morning. I remembered last night's story and tried to apologize the young man and seek religious pardon, but unfortunately, I did not see him nor that morning, any other morning or in the evening.

***

Too much sleep deprived me of having honor of accompanying to our mission site. According to Sheikh-e Ajal, silver-tongued Saadi, of course, with a little change, the sweet sleeping in the morning of the journey, prevented me from the way. It's saddening to be left and arriving late to the path of mercy and service.

Our plan was that in the morning, after breakfast, we would go to the mission site in groups with Nissans that were rented by Imam Reza lovers’ headquarters. It became every day more regular than yesterday. The gathering place before leaving was a flat ground covered with a thin silk dress of beautiful green grass. I liked the earth. She had carpeted her silk dress under the feet of jihadi guys; non-condescending and generous. jihadists guys had huddled. One morning, Hussein Yekta climbed on several stacked boulders and said, "guys, look, we gathered and talked to the guys of AJA and IRGC. Every organization was supposed to take over a neighborhood and an area and start cleaning up."

Evidence showed that area along the river downstream of the city and alleys of Resalat fell to the Imam Reza lover’s lot. Ali Nazari was in charge of the field and axis, and unlike Sayyid Emad, who was a warm-hearted and sincere seminary student, he was nonstick and standoffish. Sayyid Emad had a funny figure; He wore a small black turban over his bald head, and his long, bristly beards with raven black eyes reminded me of one of my comrades in arms. The neighborhood of Resalat was divided among the guys part by part. Priority was also given to cleaning houses, emphasizing preferring houses that their door is open and preferably residents are also in the house. It was emphasized that houses that are closed and owner isn’t present, you should not climb up the house door at all; Because being interested in service would cause the guys to climb up the house doors and sweep mud in the empty house.

Deployment from Amin Hall to the mission site had two major advantages. The first was that we drove from the hall entrance to the mission area, and the second was that jokes and play-fullness of 20 people behind the Nissan multiplied spirits in the morning. There was no penalty for sleeping here, but has something on one’s conscience. You woke up and saw you are straggler in shoveling and squeegeeing; You would be both jealous of the more shovels they have done so far, and you would have something on your conscience due to the nutrition that was free. The misfortune of conscience-ache was that its place was not known so that to be tied with a cloth!

I woke up at about 9 a.m. The first view, and perhaps the worst, was the long toilet queue. Most of those who were in queue were new comer jihadists guys. The queue was so long that I skipped going to the toilet. It was a big risk, of course! Especially since it was almost impossible to find a toilet in the mission area! The flooded areas had no water and their toilets were full of mud and unusable. I ate two dates from the tray on the table. I took the disposable glass under the milk boiler. I put a few sugar cubes in the glass. With my eyes wandering between sleep and wakefulness, I confused and made pending tea between two glasses; from this glass to the other. I took my flat shovel from the headquarters warehouse. The corner of the courtyard was separated from the rest of the courtyard by blue sacks, and it acted as a storehouse for shovels, squeegees, wheelbarrow, boots, and clothes. A pair of boots number 43 flashes from a distance. I walked to the mission place.

I knew I had to walk to Basij Square. From there onward, one thing that was many were free Nissan cars; they were eighter for the natives, or military vehicles, or the Imam Reza lover’s headquarters. I was fully conscious of the behind myself, and every two or three steps I looked behind myself maybe a Nissan passes. I saw a blue Nissan which was coming fast and approached. The driver had put his foot on the gas pedal shoulder in a way that I became disappointed, "No, he does not slow down for me." He approached nearer. Several people had stood back of the Nissan. For the least possibility, I raised my hand, he stood up. I jumped up in celerity and got on the car. "Hello, Amin," said a familiar voice. I raised my head. I saw he is Saman Ahmadi. I asked:

- What is the pot, Saman?

- Bean feed. Would you like to pour a bowl to eat?

Laughingly I said, "No, pal, bully for you. Digestive system is seedy, and its sworn enemy is beans! Especially in the morning!" Saman had come with some of his friends who were seminary student and a few teenagers from their educational institution, and here they had integrated with the guys of unmarked congregation of Azna. Saman had become a seminary student, but I knew him since student period.

From the second day after the flood, Saman and his friend group had settled in a mosque in the village of Valiasr (AS), five kilometers far from Poldokhtar, and cooked food for the surrounding villages. They also provided hot breakfast. From the second day of the flood until today, they had distributed hot breakfast incessantly. The guys blazed around, "Hot breakfast; Hot Breakfast", it was end of their hot breakfast. Their spatula and cauldron were clashed and scraped the bottom of the barrel. Saman asked: "Where are you going?", I answered: "After Shohada Square, towards alleys of Resalat". He said:

- I have a small job to do. First, let's go to the seminary for two minutes, then we are going to Shohada Square.

- Very good, well, let.s go together.

The blue Nissan stood in front of the seminary. A few bowls of bean feed had been remained. Several people had also stood there. Amin Saberi and two of the guys offered them a few bowls of beans. Saman shouted in the back of Nissan:

- Hajji Sabzi.

Saman pronounced fast "Hajj Sabzi", and a middle-age man heard it mistakenly. He had heard something like Ghormeh Sabzi (in Persian, Sabzi means vegetable and here refer to Ghormeh Sabzi, an Iranian herb stew)! He shouted to Saman:

- Humbug, shipshape larrikin! you give us beans and brought Ghormeh Sabzi for them?!

I burst into laughter and guffawed. He was unjust, not because he had heard wrong, but because Saman wasn’t really shipshape. Hajji Sabzi came out of the seminary. Saman jumped down from the Nissan rear bumper. He went forward, took Mr. Sabzi’s hand and approached and said to the man:

- My dear buster, God knows, this is Ghormeh Sabzi!

When a man from Poldokhtar found out the issue, he firstly laughed and then apologized. Near to the Martyrs' Square, Nissan slowed down and I jumped down. Saman insisted much that I should visit them surely. I turned my head and looked around. I saw the guys. I did not recognize them by their appearance, but flag of Imam Rezaie group was hoisted. They had worn cover and I recognized them. Imam Rezaie group headquarters had been established under leadership of Hussein Yekta and operated in areas of poverty alleviation, and jihadist laagers, and after Sarpol-e Zahab earthquake and floods of 2019, it established a regularly and strongly in the affected provinces and began relief activities. I went forward and contemplated. I found our group. They entered the houses in two or more people groups. I joined caravan of lovers and melted in the sea of ​​their morality.

***

It was noon and time for our lazy group to flee. Special Unit’s Toyota arrived. We said hello and as soon as we heard answer to our house, we got on the car. They had set up a Mokeb around the square. A few nice old men were arranging disposable glasses of water and tea on the table in front of the mokeb. I said to a jolly old man standing in the station, "Hajji, please give me a glass of water." As soon as I said that, the car started and I did not have a chance to get water. I raised my hand and laughed. A thin old man took two bottles of water and started running toward us. He ran about three and four hundred meters behind us. Before reaching the bridge, he gave me the water and returned without any reaction or saying anything! I was petrified, and was embarrassed by humility of this great man.

***

We stayed in the hall for less than half an hour at noon and quickly returned to the mission area. The guys had involved with mud in the basement. The height of mud was high and the basement area was small. As the landlord insisted, they themselves cleaned kerosene heater and some bric-a-brac in the basement corner. Following finding next house, we entered the adjacent alley with Hossein Simbor, Amin Kermanshahi, Hojjat Karzai, Behzad Boroujerdi, Mohammad Javad, Mehdi and Amir Mohammad.

Most houses were open and there were jihadi guys in each house. Most of the local people were standing in front of the houses and talking to each other. They had a dual mood. Upset by the devastation and relished of that they were not alone. An old man came forward with a wrinkled neck and sunken eyes. When he saw us, his eyes smiled and his lips trembled with storm of enthusiasm. He kept our fingers crossed. We said hello, he replied warmly. He relentlessly welcomed us and laughed as wide as his face. But a weird sadness rippled in his eyes, and tiredness on his face. He took my hand and said in broken Persian:

- God bless your father. Your friends came yesterday and cleaned the living room and chambers. The poor guys worked very hard, it was almost night and they did not have time to clean the yard. Now, please you clean it.

I shook hand with him and said:

- Hajji if you speak Lorish we understand. We are from Khorramabad.

-All of you?

- Not.

I mentioned to myself and Hussein and Hojjat and said that we are from Khorramabad. I pointed to Amin and said: "He is from Kermanshah," and I showed Behrooz and said: "He is from Boroujerd." I showed him Mohammad Javad, Mehdi and Amir Mohammad and said: "They also came from Tehran. Two of them are seminary students and one of them is a university student." He hugged each of the guys and kissed everyone on the cheek. We said "Ya Allah!"[1] and entered the yard.

When we entered from the big and two-pair door into the yard, my mouth was locked because of bewilderment. "Oh my God, such a big yard! How is this possible?!" its yard was at least eight to nine hundred meters. A short, pleasant terrace was in adjacent of the yard. I untied my clothes from waist and lent it to a 7500 evaporative cooler at the corner of the terrace. Those who had shovel started from the corner of the yard. The distance was long to the entrance of the house. The guys brought a wheelbarrow and they became two with the landlord wheelbarrow. We all filled the wheelbarrows one by one and the wheelbarrow drivers emptied mud. Amidst the jokes and laughter of the guys, things were going well and fast. The toilet had cringed in the left corner of the yard and sunk to mud to the throat. I was careful not to approach the toilet, lest the landlord tell me to renovate it too. Mohammad Javad was close to the toilet with his muddy turban, and this was the best opportunity for the landlord. He approached Mohammad Javad. He stared at the skinny and swarthy face of Mohammad Javad and pointed to the toilet with his hand and said:

- Hajji, look, the toilet is full of dirt!

Mohammad Javad barged in on the old man's words and called Mehdi, who crouched and was shoveling. They started cleaning from entrance of the toilet and polished it. I envied their good mood but I was not upset, because if this situation repeated again, I would still dodge cleaning the toilet. Two hours passed from working in that rambling house. I laid on the old kilim spread on the terrace. "isn’t tea prepared?" The old man said to his wife.

- yes, it is going to be brewed.

The old man stared at me. He said:

- How long have you been here? If you like, I can trim your hair.

He thought I had been so long in the Polkdokhtar that my hair had become so long?!

- No, it's beautiful as it is. I like it to be long.

Amir Mohammad, who was close to us and listened to our talks, told:

- Hajji, he is our Che Guevara?

The old man asked in surprise:

- Who?!

I winked at Amir Mohammad and said:

- Salty, now come and explain who Che Guevara was!

Two minutes later, the landlady brought a pink flask full of tea and placed it on the concrete terrace next to the old man. The old man filled all the glasses and said several times:

- dear guys, please come here. Let’s drink tea before to be cold.

The old man, who allegedly got more acquainted with Mohammad Javad and Mehdi after incident of cleaning the toilet, shouted:

- dear Hajji, I would die for you, please come here with your friend. Guys, you also come.

The old man turns and looks around and laughs happily. He laughed, but his laughter could not cover the great sadness hidden in his sorrowful face. After drinking tea, it took two hours to squeegee the yard and surrender it to the old man. I put my shovel on the wheelbarrow and burden of carrying it to driver of the wheelbarrow. I took my clothes from the evaporative cooler and tied it around my neck.

***

Number of people in the lower floor of the hall had increased greatly. The lower floor had three neat toilets and three wash basins suitable for the wedding and reception hall. This hall was one of the few places in Poldokhtar that water was connected. Ministry of Communication personnel had also launched a bad-shaped balloon in the air, which made acceptable internet and telecommunication line situation. The white balloon had been tied to a head-less trailer. Sometimes the balloon stood at a higher height and sometimes at a lower height. Bully for them, generally telecommunication network was fine.

It was after midnight and the hall and its campus was much bustling. The chairs arranged in the front of the toilet were full of anxious waiters waiting for their turn., I waited in the queue and counted those who standing in a rule of thumb. I went next to the table and ate three tahini stuffed dates. Dates on the table were always present like the toilet queue. One of the guys said, "Amin, go upstairs. There are also three toilets, but there are much less crowded." I thanked him and set wore an unknown owner pair of slippers, and I went upstairs from the first floor to the second floor, two and three at a time, and the last when I saw and one person was in the toilet queue, four at a time, and I reached the queue.

A man who had passed middle-aged and its crisis was standing in precinct of the toilet. He had a thick and tidy mustache; it was solid black. He leaned his heavy, square-shouldered body on a squeegee. He was squeegeeing the inside and outside of the toilet, emptying the water left inside the closed front slippers and drying the slippers. He had polished the precinct by a squeegee. He gave a very spectacular order to the upstairs toilets.

It gulped and was almost bursting to tear. Why has this man left his wife, children, grandchildren and job, come here and wash the toilets? In the midst of gulping, I thank God for throwing me in this humanizing factory and showing me these chivalrous men in order to reflect and think. Reflect and learn morality of chivalry and understand meaning of manly.

Before going to bed it was a good opportunity to think about some things! In Poldokhtar, I often heard that the houses that were destroyed had been often built illegally and without a building permission, but at the same time they had a knotted document. A local person whose house had been severely damaged said, "Before we started building the house, we went to the municipality several times to get a building permission but they said the lands in this area are not allowed to be built. However, construction was done daily. It was enough to bribe money of a truck of brick to one of personnel who accidentally was related to affairs of construction, so that municipality officers didn’t check your area and you could build house at night." He would kick wall of his yard with his hand palm and said, "What can you expect from a house that was built in the night? We still thank God it did not crumble." Yusuf said angrily, “after finishing building houses, and almost all the houses were constructed at night, and some who were well connected build the house in the day, the municipal gave knotted document to all in return for penalty. Whatever we said, well, your problem is a penalty! Ok, penalize before construction and give the document and building permission, but they did not and will not accept it!"

4.

Javad Mogouei had bandaged his left shoulder and wanted to put on his clothes. Mohammad Topol (roly-poly) was helping him. Javad was a historian and documentary filmmaker, but in the days of the flood, he covered for journalists in the capital who analyzed the crisis from a distance of about seven hundred kilometers. I went out of the hall and waited in the front of the hall amidst tumult of jihadist guys. The shovel men crowd milled around. Nissans were started one by one and were ready to deliver the jihadist guys.

 We went to the mission and returned to the hall with Hussein, Amir and Amir Hussein at noon. Amir and Amir Hussein had come to Pokdokhtar together. Amir had just finished his military service. Together with Amir Hussein, they had reached from Khorramabad to Poldokhtar in Red Crescent cars.

"are you free?" Said Javad.

- I said for what?

- We want to go to the surrounding villages to distribute some goods.

- Yes, let's go.

- We have to take a Nissan to Valiasr Village. Fill the Nissan there. With one of these Nissans that is full and another Nissan that is on the way, we have to go to Jolgeh and Murani villages.

- Ok, I got it pal.

- Just go and see if the Nissan is empty?

I went in front of the hall. The Nissans were all full of goods. Two were empty. Mehrdad Lak came and talked, but the driver did not accept. Mehrdad was in charge of Imam Rezaei group of Amin Hall. We were familiar and friend for a long time. In 2012 and 2013, we were classmates in Abali’s camp of Sayyid al-Shohada. We spent those two years course of teaching works of Shahid Motahhari.

We walked with Nissan to Valiasr village. Hussein, Amir, Amir Hussein, Ismail and I jumped back of the Nissan. It took us twenty minutes to reach the village and the mosque. We were supposed to go there to get the goods from Reza Mogouei, Javad's older brother, and then return to the hall so that all toghether go to Murani. We stood in entrance of the mosque. We were hungry and they had Istanboli Polo (like Spanish rice) in the mosque. One of the guys went and brought some food from inside the mosque. There wasn’t a spoon in my dish. I went to get a spoon inside the mosque. I entered the yard and saw Ahmadinejad! My jaw dropped. What is he doing here! I went forward and after greeting I said:

- please give me a spoon.

Ahmadinejad came forward. I knew him from the first moment but he did not know me! Ahmadinejad himself went inside the mosque warehouse and one of the guys who was inside the mosque told:

- Give me a packet of spoons.

I said:

- Hajji, only that one is enough.

He made his eyes small and said while he laughed:

- One is for you. What happen, why should I give you a package!

I took the spoon and I came out the mosque with Amir. Amir asked:

- Who was this man, Amin?

- Didn't you know him?

- No really.

- He is Ahmadinejad. He has a Hajj and Pilgrimage office in Khorramabad. He must be now in Karbala and I do not know what he is doing here!

We loaded the Nissan and sat on where blankets were. We had lunch there on the way. We arrived at the hall. Javad had prepared the second and third Nissan too. I said:

- let's go?

- let's go. Just before that, let's get some water from IRGC and then go.

We entered yard of IRGC station without asking anything by military police station. There was a large crowd. I saw Sayyid Bahman Alvari. We kissed each other on cheek and greeted. In the case of going to Syria, he was about to be fired from the bureau. He said I have been here for five days without any leave or reforming my bureau! The Nissan came in front of the warehouse and we loaded the water. Javad was flustered and took someone's arm and shouted, "Who is in charge of guarding here?" A young second lieutenant came forward with a soldier. The second lieutenant asked:

- For what, what happened?

- Why did this gentleman come here?

The man shook his emaciated body, shrugged and said:

- I came to get goods for our village.

His face was very familiar to me. I put pressure on my busy mind. I knew him. Two days ago, in the courtyard of Amin Hall, Javad again took his shoulders and said, "Do not let he come in!"

"Sir, take it easy," said the young lieutenant.

Javad responded in exasperation:

 - Sir, it was my religious duty to say. The rest is history.

How much can a man be inhuman to fish in troubled water? We suppose you fish, but does it taste to eat!

After loading the waters, we moved. I rode shotgun. Javad and Abdollah also came with Reza Mogouei's navy blue Pride car. Abdullah was a 17- to 18-year-old teenager from Azna. His quick-wittedness and boldness discouraged everyone. He was very active and lively. Several of Azna guys also came with the second Nissan. Parts of the road had been flooded. In some places, under the road was empty and very dangerous. In one place, about fifty meters of the road had been fully destroyed. Excavator and loader had built an alternate road in a dirt rocky uphill. The second Nissan got stuck. It had been overloaded and the car could not force and move. For the grace of God, the loader was there and pushed the Nissan from behind and we passed. More than ten times, underneath of the Nissan got stuck in rocks and ups. Every time there was clatter in underneath the car, the driver gritted his teeth and cursed gabbling in rage and fury, but it was not clear to who! We reached Jolgeh village with the driver grumbles. We waited for five minutes for Javad and the other guys to arrive. Jolgeh Village was along the road and its coastal part had been flooded. We distributed some of the goods among the flood victims and moved towards Murani Village. Murani was between Jolgeh and Poldokhtar. In the evening we reached Murani. Javad and one of the residents went by a motorcycle to bank of the river to see the coastal areas of the village and the flooded areas. We also waited in entrance of the mosque. An old man came forward and said sadly:

- Swear to Qur'an, our house was flooded, and what we had was flooded. Nothing remained for us, last night we were chilled to the bone, we even hadn’t a blanket to cover ourselves.

Reza Mogouei said:

- dear father, haven’t you given blanket and goods?

- No, I swear to Abolfazl.

Reza said sadly:

- Guys, we gave a Nissan full of goods to Sayyid, the servitor of the mosque to distribute. So, why has not he distributed them?

It was in the midst of such talks that Javad returned. Reza explained the story to Javad. Sayyid's son also arrived. Javad said:

- Where is your father?

- He is not here. He will come next hour.

- Why hasn’t he distributed the donations among the residents?

- He said let’s be free for a while, we will distribute it later.

He spited me. I barged in on their words:

- When you are left and free! Four days later these goods aren’t useful for these people? They chilled to the bone last night, pal.

Javad continued, confirming my words, with sadness and grumbling:

- You should have distributed them by now. Open the door and let's distribute them ourselves.

- God knows, I do not have the key.

A middle-aged Sayyid with a grey beard and thin body came out of the mosque and joined us. We greeted Haj Agha and his group. The village mosque had been turned into a collection and distribution center for donations and a kitchen. In addition to holding congregational prayers, they performed these appropriate and humane activities in the most possible intimate manner. We were sitting on a stone and concrete platform in entrance of the mosque and talked about the village with Haj Agha and some local people who now helped Haj Agha's group. We gave half of the donations to the kitchen of the mosque and distributed the rest. It was getting dark. The wind blows incessantly. The shotgun seat of the Nissan was empty but we all sat back. The dark air and the black and rough mountain and ragged road and twinkling stars and howling of wind and crackling of the banner on roof rack of the Nissan had frightened the space a lot, it was remained only the mountain to fall!

We were very bored and tired and laid on the floor of the hall. I ate dinner while lying down. At night, I put my head on Amir's backpack in its length. I checked telegram messages and searched on Instagram. I opened story of one of the guys. I was petrified. They had storied a photo of one of my neighborhood guys and condoled his death. "dear Danial, Happy New Home!" Danial was a few years younger than me and a member of the national volleyball team. I had not heard from him for a long time. On the way back from the flooded areas he crashed and surrendered to the Creator. May God have mercy on him and befriend him with master of the jihadists.

Instagram was full of flood news and various comments. The voice of selfishness came from afar and smell of humanity came from near.

 

To be continued…

 

Proximity in a Strange Land- 1

 


[1] “Ya Allah” is an Islamic phrase that is said when a Non-Mahram man wants to enter a house and he expresses it so that female in the house to be veiled.



 
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