SABAH (45)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

2021-01-19


SABAH (45)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami

Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

Published by Soore Mehr Publishing Co.

Persian Version 2019

 


 

Zohreh had fallen on the ground and was crowling in pain[1]. A bit farther Amir Sameri had fallen on the ground. His situation was bad. Stream of blood was jetting from his neck. Maryam Amjad was shocked seeing Amir Sameri and was screaming. She thought that he has been beheaded. Besides him, one of the soldiers called Jafar had been hit by a shrapnel in the waist and was moaning in pain.

I went to check on Zohreh quickly. The shrapnel had hit her knee and her trousers was soaked in blood. The pain had made her pale but she was trying to keep calm. When I found out that it is only her knee and it is not a big deal, I ran towards Amir Sameri[2]. Maryam Amjadi was healthy and was only keeping her head down and shouting. She was afraid to look at Amir Sameri. I yelled at her saying: “Maryam! Stop it. Come and help me.”

She did not give up. I went besides her and said: “listen my sister! That poor man who has been wounded is silent and you, who are safe and sound and should help, are sitting and shouting? Be calm and let us help him. We have to stop the bleeding. Come on, hurry.” Maryam said crying: “whom shall we attend to?!”

I took all the sterile gauzes I had in my bag and placed it on the wound on the neck of Sameri and tried to pressure the wound with my whole strength. The gauzes were soaking in blood a few seconds later. I had to take off the bandages from my bag and place them in the form of a pile on the gauzes and pressure. The depth of my tampon was about ten centimeters and I hoped I could stop the bleeding.

A few moments later, his bleeding stopped. Thanks God the vehicle which had brought us food, had not returned yet. With the help of driver and Maryam, we placed Amir Sameri in the back of pick-up. I ran towards Jafar Mousavi. He did not have severe bleeding and it was easier to close his wound than that of Amir Sameri. He could not move at all. With the help of two soldiers, we lifted him and placed him in the car.

I went to Zohreh. I expected Maryam to close her wound but she had done nothing. With the help of Maryam, we lifted her and placed her in the pick-up and sent them to the back. There was no time to close the wounds and they had to move. Zohreh wanted to stay in the frontline but with the shrapnel that had hit her, she had lost mobility in one foot and could not stay there in that condition.

The voice of machine gun fire was being heard constantly. The shooting of RPG bullets and mortar bomb towards our direction did not stop. Our ammunition was out. We had three four wounded and were transferred to the hospital. We needed extra forces and equipment but due to few number of soldiers in the frontline, we could not move back to bring logistics and forces.

Even if we wanted to go back, there was a possibility that the location we were in, be sieged quickly by Iraqis and our soldiers would have been massacred. From the other side we had to do something to bring back the bodies of Riyaz and Bijan. If the bodies stayed there, there was a probability that Iraqis would progress and God forbid will insult the bodies. The whisper of sending one of the soldiers to bring extra forces and ammunition was spreading among men, I raised my voice and said: “I can go and bring help.”

They were shocked at the beginning but then said: “are you sure you can go?! Aren’t you afraid? Do you know the way?” I said: “Yes I am sure. I know the area well. I took one martyr to the back today. I have recently discovered a second way to exit the customs.”

They agreed. They advise me a lot to be alert and vigilant. They said: “the route is under the Iraqis’ radar. Be careful not to be shot.”

I started with the name of God, read two versus on martyrdom and hit the road. I went back from the same path I had come. I did not know what would happen to me in one second. Although the situation was bad but God knows I was not worried about myself. I only whispered to God that I could pass safe and sound until I get to the back of the customs barriers. This was where the army forces were stationed. In this way I could inform them to go for help.

I exited from behind the wall where we were stationed. I was in the fire range of the Iraqis. I started running in crinkle position. The Iraqis were on the left side of where we were stationed. The mortar bomb which hit us was coming from the same side. But now I was in a path with good vision. I could understand this from the bullets which hit near my foot or to the girders lying on the ground. None of these bullets were shot to the above my kneed. With the thought of being captive, I summoned all the strength I had in my feet and ran and was calling Imam Hossein constantly. The bullets kept hitting the ground with little distance away from my feet. It seemed that this kind of shooting was used for capturing soldiers alive. I was about fifty meters away from the first curve that could hide me from the target of Iraqis; it was fifty meters but seemed like five hundred meters. It was as if it took me one year to get there. Finally I survived that part. Behind the curve there was a big hole in the wall; the same hole through which we transferred the martyr to the forces of Major Aghareb Parast in the morning. They were near the port houses and behind the door of Santap. The thought of our soldiers being held captive was eating me alive.

I reached the soldiers and told them the story. I expected them to take action after hearing me but at the end I saw surprisingly that they started complaining: “Our hands are empty too and we need aid forces. One of our soldiers has been martyred and we have not been able to bring him back. We have lots of injured too.”

I got furious hearing these. I could not believe that these forces were giving justified and unjustified excuses not to help our forces who were only a few meters away without ammunition and were at risk of martyrdom and being taken hostage.

All of a sudden I raised my voice and said: “haven’t you come here for the sake of Imam and preservation of the Revolution? Why are you bringing excuses? Think that here is Karbala desert. We have nothing. You do not want to help Imam Hossein? You do not want to help the religion of God? I am somebody like you. I am a girl and you are soldiers. I was in the customs as a girl. Are you less than a woman and a girl….”

I could not control myself. I was on fire. I was reading epopee. Although I knew that Major Aghareb Parast and his forces have orders to maintain an establishment in the region and cannot leave their location unless they receive orders from the senior officials, but I could not keep silent. When I finished,  Major Aghareb Parast got angry and yelled at his forces: “don’t you have honor! Are you less than a young woman who goes to the frontline?! Quickly get ready.”

He disregarded the orders that he had to maintain his location and said: “Sister, tell us where we have to go?”

The soldiers followed me. They were ten fifteen soldiers. I told them to follow me through the path that was less visible for Iraqis. We passed the hole in the wall but this time we did not pass that fifty meter path which was in front of customs buildings and was at the target of Iraqis. This time we looked for a way between the buildings and storages inside the customs that had been hit by mortar bombs and had a passage to be able to get to our soldiers safe and sound. Although the path was a bit longer but thanks God we finally got there.

Soldiers were very happy when they saw the help specially the mortar bomb they had brought with them. They did not think that I could survive and get help. They placed the mortar bomb in the location where the mortar bomb bullet of Iraqis had hit the ground. The Iraqis did not stop shooting bullets and mortar bombs. Their ammunition was like an endless treasure chest. Our soldiers fired a few mortar bombs and clashes started. The enemy had surrounded us in the form of a horse shoe and we could not do anything to bring the bodies of Riyaz and Bijan.

We had to withdraw. Together with soldiers and Major Aghareb Parast we withdrew. We could not bring the bodies of Riyaz and Bijan but with the entrance of soldiers and their participation in clashes, the volume of fires of Iraqis decreased and we could withdraw without further damages and deaths. We were in the office around four o’clock. We had spent lots of strength. The heat had drained us. In the office I told Belgheys and Keshvar and Ms. Akbari about the events in the morning. They felt pity that they were not with us. I asked about Zohreh and the rest of the injured. They had no news. The car had gone to the hospital directly.

That night I thought about Riyaz and Bijan all the time. From the early days of the war I had heard from the soldiers that when our soldiers are martyred, the Iraqi forces disrespect their bodies right in front of our eyes; crimes such as cutting their ears and tongues and urinating on the body of the martyrs were only part of that insult. Although I did not know them but the thought of Iraqis insulting their bodies, did not let me sleep.

In the morning, I waited for Masoud Paki to arrive. Yesterday, when I was saying goodbye to the team members to go to the office, Masoud Paki told me that they will go to the Customs to bring Riyaz’s body. We asked them to pick us up on their way to the Customs. The joy of going to the frontline was in us. Since day one Zahra Hosseini, Maryam Amjadi, Zohreh, Ashraf Farhadi and I constantly asked and begged the soldiers to take us to frontline but they never agreed. They said: “as long as we are alive, you will not go.” Only the aid workers such as Dr. Sa’adat and Dr. Mostafavi went to frontlines with them. When we asked Major Sharif Nasab to take us there, he did not say no and only said: “ok, sisters, when you gather ten armed individuals, I will take you. I cannot take less than ten.”

It never happened that we would gather ten armed girls in one place. Many girls were in the kitchen and many were active in the field of rescue and transfer of the injured and were not armed. But as the war progressed and the number of defenders and soldiers decreased, the possibility and probability of our presence in the frontlines increased. In the meantime there had been enough opportunity for girls to prove their noble and strong personalities and the soldiers had full trust on us. Therefore, when we told Masoud to take us to the frontline, he did not say a word and agreed.

 

To be Continued …

 


[1] Of course, Ms. Zohreh Farhadi, based on the documents received from Taleghani Hospital believes that she was injured on the twenty second day of autumn.

[2] Later, Zohreh used to joke and say: “Sabah you owe your head to me. My knee caught the shrapnel and saved you head otherwise it would rip off your head clear.” She was right. The way we were seated, Maryam’s knee guarded my head. Had the shrapnel that penetrated her knee passed it, it would hit my head and God knows what would happen.



 
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