SABAH (43)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


SABAH (43)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami

Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

Published by Soore Mehr Publishing Co.

Persian Version 2019




Although he was right but my friends and I wanted to go to the young man’s grandmother’s house who seemed to be very religious. We said: “poor guy has gone to grab the key. It is not good that he returns and we are not here.”

The ranger was not convinced and ordered us: “No! Get in the car to go to my father’s house.”

We had no choice. If we insisted more, it was not right. We got into the car. As the car set out, we saw the young man running after the car showing the key. We felt so sorry for the inconvenience we had caused him.

A few moments later, we arrived at the ranger’s house. The ranger had old parents. Although they did not know us, they greeted us warmly. Their son said: “these ladies need to take a shower.”

They prepared the bath for us. We took shower one by one and washed ourselves completely. My hair was coming out. I had not combed my hair during this time and they were knotted together. My hair had turned into a rough object such as dishwashing sponge since we sweated a lot and were in the middle of dust and smog. I became devastated and made a pony tail at the back of my head.

Zahra had a comb and we combed our hair after bath. We were totally clean and neat. After bath, mother of the ranger set the table for us. She had made a small portion of rice with lentils stew in a small pot. It was not much but since we had already eaten bread and pickles, we were all full. After lunch, the old woman said: “Stay and rest. Leave after.”[1]

We all lied down to rest. Belgheys fell asleep quickly. I just lied down and waited for the news at two o’clock. The news anchor announced that the Iraqis have targeted Dezful with a twelve meter missile last night. As soon as we heard the news, three of us jumped and started talking together. We could not believe that the war has progressed so far. We thought that sooner or later the aid forces will reach Khorramshahr and the destiny of the war will be decided. The image of the war reaching Dezful or other cities devastated us. Belgheys woke up hearing us talk. When she saw our faces, asked fearfully: “what has happened?!”

We told her about the news. She hit her face out of grief! The one or two hour rest was wasted. The rangers hurried back to Khorramshahr when they heard that Dezful has been targeted by missile. They left us near Sheybani’s office at three o’clock and drove away.

The team in the office had heard the news from the radio. There was a humming going around. We were worried. Little by little, we came to believe that this war is going to last longer than we suspected. There was no serious update till night. At night, after saying evening and night prayers, we gathered together. We were all sad. We asked Zahra to read Rawda for us. Zahra had a good voice. Sometimes when we were alone in the office or we were going somewhere by car, she whispered monodies. She mimicked the style of a panegyrist from Boushehr whose name was Jahanbakhsh Kordizadeh and was known as captain Bakhshou. Besides her nice voice, since her father and brother had just been martyred, there was a grief in her voice which was mordant. Zahra said: “Which Rawda do you want me to read for you?”

We asked her to read Imam Hossein Sham-e Ghariban and the story of Hazrat Zeynab in captivity. Hazrate Roghaye.

When Zahra started by saying “being an orphan is a disease with no cure” we all started crying and our sobbing voices filled the room. All of us were waiting for a reason to cry to feel lighter. All the faces of martyrs and injured whom I had seen during the past days were parading in front of my eyes one by one. The grief of martyrdom of youth of my city, the sorrow of my fellow citizens being displaced, worrying for the land that the enemy had invaded and thousands of other reasons and ifs about the war, all kept my mind busy.

The situation of the rest of the team members was the same. We were all devastated. Zahra changed the Rawda and we all cried from the depth of our hearts and felt a bit lighter. I could not sleep at night. I was worried about tomorrow and the days after.

The sixteenth day passed with no incident. It was a really quiet day but around the Morning Prayer Iraqis started targeting the city. The sound of blasts of mortar bombs and cannon balls and five-fives did not stop for a minute.

The Iraqi infantry forces were targeting the city with shots and raids and mortar bombs and cannon and we anticipating their invasion to the office and mosque. Therefore, we were in alert mode. We arranged the aid equipment in a regular and disciplined method on the trolleys and waited for the injured to arrive.

On the morning of seventeenth day of the first month of autumn, I grabbed my aid package and weapon and set out towards customs with Zohreh Farhadi and Joneshan. In the past if I went out of the mosque or office for aid work or transfer of injured to the hospital, I did not carry my weapon and I handed it over to Maryam Amjadi but when I wanted to go to the fronts, I took it. The Iraqi raid had intensified and we did not want our soldiers to waste time fetching the aid teams. In the past seventeen eighteen days the number of forces had decreased. We had to defend the city with the forces we had left. Therefore there was a significant need of aid workers to provide assistance in the frontlines. In this respect I had decided to be in the place where I felt there is a need for me and I can be of any help.

We went from Darvazeh square to Mowlavi crossroad and then moved to Santap. The Mowlavi Street was covered with electrical wires which had fallen after the mortar bombs had hit the electricity posts. Besides the wires, the shutter doors of the shops and the bricks of the houses that had been damaged were everywhere in the street. The dead hens and roosters and the animals which had been hit by shrapnel had turned the Mowlavi Street into a strange place. There, the enemy invasion was fully felt. Due to the strike of the mortar bombs, the asphalt of the street had also been damaged and this hindered our speed. The closer we got to Santap, the intensity of fire increased.

The Iraqis were in customs. If we wanted to resist them, we had to go behind the customs. We had to pass Santap Street and reach the rear of port houses. I knew the path that we were going pretty well. That district was near our area.

The weapon was a drag while running. M1 was heavy for me. Besides, the first aid equipment bag was also heavy on my shoulders and reduced my speed. Considering the structure of port houses, we were targets of Iraqi forces in many parts, therefore we had to go crawling or in a seated position. While we were running, the trousers of Zahra Farhadi were stuck in the barbed wires which were on the side of the road and she stopped there.

Iraqis were hitting with RPG from inside the customs. The RPGs and their mortar bombs were endless. Crossing the Santap Street was not an easy task. The Iraqis were constantly firing at us. As they were right opposite to us, we had to make a fire line for each other to be able to pass the street. Joneshan made a fire line for us and we passed. We kept a fire line for him from the other side of Santap Street and he joined us. Only God knows how hard it was to get behind the custom wall. It took us two hours to get there.

Iraqis had opened fire to the entrance of the customs. We kept fire line for each other and after half an hour delay and conflict, we could finally enter customs. The speedy approach of a 106 Jeep caught my attention. When I looked carefully, I saw Maryam Amjadi inside it. Maryam had become the attendant of the Jeep! They passed us with high speed and went to front line.

At the entrance of the customs, there was a guard room. In front of the room a young injured soldier was lying on the ground. A bullet or shrapnel had raptured his temple and the blood stream was running slowly from the wound in his head and was piling up on his face and on the ground besides him. He was still alive, and his hands and feet were twitching but he was unconscious. He had an oppressed face. Although his face was covered in dust and blood, but his attached eyebrows and long eyelashes made his face different from others. He was barely eighteen or nineteen years old.

We were looking at him that we saw Joneshan grabbing his weapon and preparing it for shooting. He went to the injured soldier and put his weapon on his forehead and wanted to shoot. I ran towards him and shouted: “what are you doing?!” Joneshan said: “Can’t you see he is suffering?! I want to set him free from his pain!”

I got furious and said angrily: “you want to set him free with a bullet?! Who do you think you are?! Are you the prophet of got with a license to kill?!”

Zohreh said: “do you think it is a horse that you want to put him out of his misery?!” He said: “well, this poor guy is suffering. Until when?! He won’t survive with this wound?!”

I told him: “who are you to decide? Are you a doctor to know if he is going to make it or not?!” He said: “in Kurdistan, when a soldier was shot and there was no hope of survival, we shot them to free them from pain.”

I was not sure if he was telling the truth. I told him: “If that’s what you did then you were wrong! I will not let you touch this soldier. We will send him to the hospital. If he is meant to live he will and if it is his destiny to be a martyr, there is nothing we can do.”

When I realized that what I say has no effect and he does not move his weapon away from the injured, I set the spinner of my weapon and said: “if you shoot him, I will shoot you!”

When Joneshan saw my devastation, he moved his weapon and said: “it is none of my business! Do as you deem appropriate but I do not think he will survive more than one hour!”

I moved forward. I put a few gauzes on the raptured part of his head and bandaged it firmly. Then we put him in the back of a pick-up and sent him to Taleghani hospital with one of his fellow soldiers. The pick-up was driving at 120 km per hour swirling to avoid being targeted. It reached Mowlavi Street and thanks God was safe from the Iraqis fire.

This was the first time that I entered the customs and saw inside. I had always wanted to see the interior since we were living next to the customs. When I saw the ships berth in the port and dismount their cargo in customs, I was curious to know what is packed inside these packages and cargos.

Inside the customs, there were a lot of wooden containers. The containers were considered as a sort of storage and were filled with different kinds of new equipment. The containers were sealed, and I could see the content of those hit by mortar bombs or cannons since the package was damaged. A large number of sewing machines, lots of kitchen utensils such as pots, dishes and boxes of spoons and forks, electric devices, big generators and … filled the containers.

Joneshan was not trusted despite his claims and all the documents. In that situation we had no choice but to follow him. Nobody agreed to take us to the frontline. Little by little we reached to a location where a big volume of imported marble stones were placed on top of each other; stones in the shape of big cubes with the width of two meters and height of one meter. We followed Joneshan and got to a space where three sides were filled with these stone. Joneshan said: “sisters, wait here for a few minutes. I will be back.”


To be continued …


[1] This story is also narrated in the memoirs of Ms. Zohreh Farhadi.

Number of Visits: 50


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