Book review:

"Relief Worker, Where Are You?"

Mina Kamaiee
Translated by M. B. Khoshnevissan


The book "Relief Worker, Where Are You?" is the memoirs of "Ali Achrash" a relief worker during the Sacred Defense years in Khuzestan area. It has been authored by Mrs. Masumah Ramhormozi in the year 1397 (2018) in 375 pages and published by the Publication of the Center for Sacred Defense Documents and Research at the price of 30000 tomans.

In the book's introduction, the word "relief worker" has been defined from the language of the narrator as follows: "Next to every combatant worker who takes up arms and fights, there must be a relief worker with a backpack to bandage his wounds when needed, carry him, and keep him away from the scene of conflict and danger. The ambulance driver is also a relief worker. If he cannot get the injured person to the medical center in the shortest time, his life will be in danger."

From the viewpoint of the book's author, who is also a wartime relief worker, the narrator's definition of a relief worker is an empirical and tangible definition of the role of a relief worker and ambulance driver in the midst of the war. A role that complements the combat of the combatants, and its significance is not less than fighting the enemy; Ramhormozi considers the first reason for choosing Ali Achrash for the interview the comprehensive and continuous information he has about the role of male relief workers and ambulance drivers; according to the author, his interest in relief working and his constant presence in institutions such as the Red Crescent, the Treatment Relief Headquarters, the Front Relief Headquarters, the Imposed War Immigrant Foundation, the Hajj Medical Board, and the Front and War Support Headquarters are other reasons for his selection.

The author's attention and sensitivity to documenting memoirs, gathering information from available sources, and conducting research, as well as conducting in-depth interviews, doubles the transparency of the book's oral history.

By conducting more than 60 hours of interviews over several years, Ramhormozi brings to an end the memories of "Ali Achrash". Although the main topic of this book is war relief therapy based on the activities of popular and volunteer organizations and related to the Red Crescent and medical centers, it has dealt with topics such as: "Anthropology of Abadan, their culture, interests and lifestyle, a look at life of Arab nomads in Abadan, the tragedy of the fire at the Rex Cinema in Abadan, the simple and humble marriage of young people during the war, and the information of the Hajj Medical Board."

The book "Relief Worker, Where Are You?" is formed in eight chapters, each of which is related to one part of the narrator's life. The first chapter, entitled "Far Away Days", deals with the naughtiness of Ali Acharsh's childhood and adolescence, which the author calls him as "Haj Ali".

In a part of the first chapter of the book, Haj Ali says about the entertainment of Abadan children: "Our entertainment on hot summer days was swimming in Shatt (Bahmanshir River). We competed with the children and swam across the Shatt, and on the other side of the Shatt we reached a green island full of palm trees and grapes, and ate dates and grapes as much as we could, and snoozed under the shade of the palm trees. We were not aware of social issues, we did not know what was going on around us, we had a simple life and were satisfied with everything."

The second chapter is entitled "Days of Awakening" which deals with the events before the revolution, the fire of Abadan's Rex Movie Theatre, the return of Imam Khomeini (God's mercy upon his soul) to Iran, the victory of the revolution, etc. Haj Ali says about the fire tragedy of Cinema Rex: "The people of Abadan will never forget the night of 20th of August 1978. No one slept that night. People were terrified and worried. Police did not allow grieving people to see the bodies of their loved ones. At midnight, the bodies of the victims were taken to the cemetery and people were asked to go to the cemetery in the morning to identify and bury the victims. Early in the morning there was a horrible scene on the graveyard road, it was the holy month of Ramadan and people were fasting and the weather was very hot; The burnt bodies were piled up for families to identify. Many bodies could not be identified at all due to severe burns."

In another part of the book, he says: "We were ordinary people who lived carefree until a few months before the revolution and had nothing to do with the work of others. The Imam made us aware of the society and pulled us out of indifference. On the morning of the 21st of Bahman (10th of February 1979), the people of Abadan demonstrated in front of the Mojassameh (statue) Square to pull down the statue of the Shah. I and My brother Majid got there and finally, with the efforts of the people, the statue fell to the ground."

These events actually cause the narrator of the book "AliAEchrash" to grow up, and the third chapter is called "Growing Days". Cooperation with the IRGC and the Red Crescent, the Arab People's unrest, the Cinema Rex court, etc. are the topics of this chapter.

"Days of Resistance, Migration, and Days of War and Life" are the titles of the fourth, fifth, and sixth chapters of the book "Relief Worker, Where Are You?" respectively which deal with the activities of the narrator; the activities that ultimately made him the head of the Mahshahr Red Crescent and Haj Ali's role as a relief worker was well exposed.

About how he became the head of Red Crescent, Haj Ali says, " "In 1982, Dr. Firoozabadi ordered the establishment of the Mahshahr Red Crescent. Due to the proximity of the duties of the Red Crescent and Treatment Relief Headquarters, the city officials asked me to take charge of the Red Crescent in addition to the activities of the headquarters. In fact, what we had been doing spontaneously and revolutionarily until then, became formal and legal. When we were fully prepared for the Operation "Fat'h al-Mubin" in Mahshahr, I realized that there was no news of going to the operation until the end of the operation, I could not wait. I asked Changeez Abedi to watch the situation in my absence and keep everyone ready. I picked up one of the ambulances and went to Shush and started working at Shahid Kalantari Hospital. I took the wounded from the emergency room behind the frontline to the hospital and the wounded from the hospital to the Vahdati Base in Dezful. After returning to Mahshahr, the guys had been upset why I had gone alone."

One part of the fourth and fifth chapters of the book deal with simple marriages during the war; marriages that were very beautiful and instructive while being very simple. The story of the narrator's marriage to his wife is very interesting and was held in extreme simplicity. "All the wedding shopping was just a golden ring and a simple pair of shoes. Although my father had good financial means, we both decided to stand on our own feet from day one. Our dream was to start our lives like Hazrat Fatemeh and Imam Ali (Peace be upon them)."

The continuation of the narrator's activities in the seventh and eighth chapters of the book "Relief Worker, Where Are You?" is more intertwined to the issue of relief. "Days of Hajj and Relief, Final Days" are the titles of the last two chapters. Topics such as: "The first Hajj trip in 1983, Mena and Arafat clinics, Hajj relief workers, Valfajr Operation, Red Crescent Peykan (an Iranian-made car) in Faw, relief responsibility for the Ahwaz front, accepting the resolution, etc." These two chapters are very interesting and readable, and the type of the author's writing makes it possible for the reader of the book to illustrate well.

On page 319 of the book, the story of the "Red Crescent Peykan in Faw" is told: "For a while, I had decided to go to Faw and was looking for an opportunity to do so. One day I got in the car of the Red Crescent and went to Faw. The technical and engineering forces had built a moving bridge called "Khezr Bridge" on the Arvand River to take the forces and equipment to Faw. I went to the other side of Arvand with my Peykan car with a trailer from Khezr Bridge. Seeing the Peykan, the fighters started laughing and pointed at the car with their fingers, and they must have said to themselves: "Who is this that has come to the front with the Peykan?"

The sources and pictures have been included in the last pages of the book "Relief Worker, Where Are You?"

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