Interview with Ms. Sharifi;

Memoirs of a School Principal from the Sacred Defense Era (2)

Management of a school in a military garrison to the management of students under tents in the forest

Interviewed and compiled: Faezeh Sassanikhah
Translated by: Fazel Shirzad

2021-03-09


Note: As mentioned in the first part of the interview, Kafieh Sharifi was born in 1959 in Naftshahr, one of the areas of Qasr Shirin, and has served in the educational system for 31 years. Part of these years coincided with the imposed war. Sharifi, who is living in Ilam and working for the Gol Narges Al-Mohammad Charitable Foundation, which she founded, has valuable experience and memory in managing the school during the imposed war. It should be remembered that the reporter for the Iranian Oral History website interviewed her to talk about those years that, here, we read the second part of the interview.

In addition to education, did you have cultural programs for students?

Yes, we had cultural programs. We invited clerics and even the militants to give lectures to students. How enthusiastically we celebrated the days of the Fajr decade[i]. I had a camera, I always used it to decorate the school and the yard. We did not think at all that we were at war. I always shared my pre-revolutionary memories with my students. The first two or three years of my work have coincided before the victory of the revolution, and I had seen many things. Even before that, I still remembered what the issues and problems were, and I explained them to the students so that they would understand where we came from. I was active before the revolution. Before the revolution, I was secretly involved in politics. I usually tried to inform my students about different issues, but I tried to take into account all the aspects before making my decision so as not to be expelled. I was doing things in secret. I also entrusted a series of tasks to some of the students I knew to be in line with my family's intellectual outlook. Because I was from a poor class, I understood the poor students and tried to help them. I would describe those years to my students and say:" It is true that there is a war now, but instead we have freedom." I talked about issues such as hijab, religion and class differences, and the problems that were imposed on the oppressed before the revolution. The students cared about what happened before and where they are now. I told them: "This war will end one day and its memories will remain, and how should you be." I do not know now, maybe God will accept. My colleagues were really working hard. The students themselves ran all the programs of the Fajr decade, decorating and working on their own. But the Fajr decade has faded a bit in recent years, not to say that it has been forgotten! But we were very enthusiastic at the time. The Islamic Revolution had just won and the war had begun, and the students were very sensitive and active on these issues.

When did you move to the new school?

We were in the middle of the barracks for a year and a half until a school was built in the town and we were transferred there. The new school was very clean and beautiful and was equipped with all educational, sports and upbringing facilities. In those difficult times, building a two-floor school was very good for so many students and very costly for the government, but they did it after all. They had problems with water supply for some time. I talked to someone who was in the constructive jihad and consulted to solve the water problem. They installed a very large tanker and a purifier.

Were you there until the end of the imposed war?

No. I was there for 3 years. The last days I was there, the school had changed a lot. I found how easily the students were studying. I was upset that I was coming out, but I also was very happy that the students were in complete well-being. The worst date of my life was when I came out of Sarab-e Nilufar. Now that I look, I say to myself why I came out! But anyway, it was the fate of my life to get out of there after 3 years. I remember all the photos the pictures I have from those years.

Where did you move from Sarab-e Nilufar?

The Imam ordered you to go and serve the areas that need help. I asked Kermanshah’s education system that I would like to serve in Ilam; it was in great need then. They insisted on me a lot and said, "Don't go. We need you for Sarab-e Nilufar. If you are tired, you can come and work inside the city of Kermanshah." But I said, "I do not care about time and place at all, the situation is important. I go to Ilam and stay there for a few years. "If I see the situation is right, I will come back." Besides, I was responsible for my mother and family. My younger brother was also a soldier. I decided to go to Ilam and bring my sister and mother to Ilam after a while. When I went to Ilam, they did not agree to my permanent transfer for 3 years. I went to Ilam in September 1984 and after 3 years of temporary transfer, I tried very hard to agree to a permanent transfer.

What was the situation in Ilam?

Based on the knowledge I had through my family and some family members who were in the educational system, I was selected as the principal of the 13 Aban school, which was one of the very good and well-equipped schools in the center of the city. The work started with good memories and many successful students graduated from there.

What was the situation in Ilam during the war?

I was there for exactly two months when the bombing began. It also had its conditions there. Ilam has many forests and about 50, 60 km of the city is just a forest. Whenever the city was bombed, people took refuge in the mountains and forests. Everyone immediately and spontaneously pitched their tents under the trees and started living. With the beginning of life, people continued education and established schools under the tents in primary, elementary, and high levels. We were living under twenty 24-meter tents for several years. Students from that area came there, and I was engaged in regular activities as a principal. It was really interesting. The bombing continued, but students continued their education in the classroom. We ran the girls' schools, and the boys went to their own schools, in another place.

I also lived under the same tent. It was not like coming to the city. No one was in town. We would leave when the situation in the city was dangerous; For example, we were in a tent for 4 months. During this time, one day the children did not neglect their education, sometimes even the boys came and set up tents for us. The school was ready for 3 p.m. because the city was evacuated in the morning. Carpets were spread in tents and blackboards were installed in the classroom, and the teacher was ready to teach. The male teachers helped us a lot. The educational system also tried to provide the educational opportunity of the students, everyone was helped to get our work done. The stones around the yard were removed from the ground so that the children would not have any problems. All this time we were under the tent was a memory for us moment by moment.

How many memories can you have of those days?

I was holding the final exam of the fourth grade under a tent. Once one of the students' sheets was missing! It was very painful for me. I had worked with dignity for years and I had no problems. I did not let a student get out from the tent that was the exam area. We searched the whole tent; under the carpet, and everywhere, but we did not say that the sheet is missing. I went to the trash can, spilled its contents, and saw a crumpled sheet. I opened the sheet and saw that it was the same test sheet. When I had to hand in the forms, I told the head of the students' examination what had happened, and I found the sheet and there was no problem. At one time, Mr. Akrami, the Minister of the educational system came to visit schools. He wanted to give a speech, but there was no place to go and give a speech. They found a stone and let Mr. Akrami stand on it and give a speech. At that moment, a strong wind came and knocked down two or three tents, and Mr. Akrami continued his speech with difficulty. We didn’t cancel the final exam and national entrance examinations in our schools at all. The national entrance examinations are held in the halls of the Department of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. For example, Cattle Yard 1, 2, and 3, or poultry house which smelled bad. 3 days before the exams, we cleaned the halls. These halls had a capacity of 100 people and we held exams and national entrance examinations there. Once a person came from Tehran to visit and observe my examination process. "Where do you want to take me?" He asked before coming. They said, "Exams Halls!" He said: "so, why is the top of the door written cattle-yard!" They had explained that it was now an exam hall! That is, all the facilities were used so that the students would not miss school and education. When they came into the hall, they asked: "Who are the head of the examinations?" I replied: "I am". He said: "Ms. Sharifi, do you hold exams in this hall?!"Yes," I said, "It is important for us to support the revolution in any situation, and, even the war cannot stop us from educating our students."

In those situations, did you do cultural work and, for example, celebrate the Fajr decade?

Yes ... yes, we decorated the inside of the tents and made paper. We decorated the trees with ribbons and foil. We held celebrations. It was not at all like we were limited on cultural activities, upbringings, and educations. We were the man of war. If the paperwork was not available, the student would cut waste paper and used them for decoration. They decorated flags and tents with these papers.

Cultural activities were not limited to day schools. I did not even miss cultural activities in night schools. I even gave the necessary reminders to those students, most of whom had husbands and children. I was a strict manager. Now I tell myself that the students probably say we got rid of her!

With the special situation you had during the war years, did you have any personal plans for yourself or was it not a situation that you do your personal works?

I have never studied during the day or wanted something and could not get it. I was trying to reach it. For example, I always wanted to travel to Syria, but thank God, in 1986, when I was selected as the best manager of the school, I was sent to Syria. Every year, I wanted to visit Imam Reza until a situation arose. Of course, I did not go to the shrine of Imam Reza alone and I also took my family.

Besides managing the school, how did you manage family affairs?

My father had commanded me not to get married until the children got married. My brother, who was older than me, had also died, and I was left with a few younger sisters, my brother, and mother whom I should take care of them. I even worked in night schools to support my family. When I came out in the morning, I often did not even go home for lunch, and I worked in the afternoon and at night. I was going home at about 10 o'clock. I obeyed my father's will and just got married when my two younger sisters were being graduated. When I was in Ilam, and my mother and sisters were in Kermanshah, they would call me and say, for example:" what should we do if my sister is accepted to university?" I immediately took leave and went to solve their problem. As an instance, one of them was accepted into Mashhad University. I took her to Mashhad and did her registration process. Another of my sisters was accepted in Kermanshah, and I did all the school and university work for them and returned to my living place.

The lives of the children who were under your management in Ilam were involved in the war and the war had ruined their lives. Weren't these children in a state of mental crisis?

I must say that we had the strongest educational coaches during the war. We had an educational coach who would come to school throughout the war, and whatever we told her that you had family and children and had to go home, she did not go home. He only thought of serving the school and the students. Those educational coaches had predicted about two months in advance when she brought her plans to me; she had planned for the next two months. Ask anyone who has been a principal during the war, and s/he will says the best, most appropriate, and hard-working forces in the schools were the educational coaches. In addition to introducing the children to war, they introduced them to all religious concepts. Subconsciously, they became the most experienced people in the school, and the students followed the example of the educators. Of course, all cultural work was under the supervision of the director, and which director would oppose their work? Especially us who were all under the tent. For example, we were planning to do some works on Bahman 22 (February 13) this year. For example, the night we wanted to do this in the city, it was bombed and God knows, as soon as we were stationed under the tent, we would continue that program.

On the other hand, when I lived as a teacher or principal under a tent, and the same facilities that the student had and I was in an equal position with her, it caused confidence for the student. If she was poor, I would be poor too. We never separated the children from ourselves.

Did you cooperate with the war support headquarters in Ilam?

Yes. We did some works was under the supervision of the school principal and with the help of the educators such as the works we did, the things we made, and the money we collected. We knew those who were involved with the front and the war of Ilam. The ladies who worked there also knew me well; not only me but the principals of all the schools worked with the students. When we collected donations, we informed them to come and receive them.

Where were you when the war ended?

I studied in the summers. I was a student at Hamadan University in the field of educational management. I was in the dormitory when the war ended. The next day, I had an exam when I saw the Imam's message for accepting the resolution being announced in the news. It was the hardest day of my life. I said to myself: "Oh my God, Imam should not accept this! When I heard that the Imam said I drank the cup of poison, and accept it, I said to me: " Oh my  God! Help the Imam!" I was really crazy about the Imam's death. For a long time, I could not even talk to my siblings in my own family. Shortly after the resolution was adopted, the hypocrites attacked and entered the country. I was still in Hamedan and my sisters and mother were in Kermanshah. They had no tools, no one was there to help them. My brother was at the front at that time. My sister, who lived in Kermanshah, took them on an army Land Cruiser and took them to Harsin. I was also riding a Land Cruiser from Hamedan and came near Kermanshah. Here, the road was closed, because the enemy was bombing. Operation Mersad took place and I stayed there. Someone told me, "If you want to go to Kermanshah, where will I go there?!" We got in the car with a lady and came. On the road from Kermanshah to Biston, 10 lines of cars were leaving Kermanshah, and they were crossing the dirt road and the other way around, and some cars were going to Kermanshah in a line.

I came to the house and saw some words written on the door:" If you come, we will go to Harsin!" I was relieved that my family had left the city, so I got in the car again and drove to Hersin.

The counter-revolution had completely taken over the Strait of Mersad. That was their last route. There was nothing left. As far as Kermanshah, the enemy could easily fire well. On the other hand, Iraq was bombing there. I got on a truck and went to Hersin, where I arrived at 2 pm. We had an acquaintance there in the registry office, so I went to find that person. They said that a he had a guest had, as if my family were in his house. I immediately got his address and one of the office' staff took me to his house. I had lunch quickly and took my sisters and mother and we went to Isfahan. One of my sisters lived in Isfahan. When I settled them there in Kermanshah, I returned to our house and immediately got in my car and went toward Islamabad. They said you have no right to go to Ilam. Near Hassanabad, The road was closed and they were just moving the martyrs. The hypocrites were also scattered. Some were killed in that area. I returned to Kermanshah and stayed at my older sister's house for a few days. I returned to Ilam in the afternoon when the situation was a little better. I think I stayed at the house of the Kangavar corps commander for one night. My cousin's mother, whose son was in the constructive jihad and was martyred, was also there; I went there as well. I had a small Quran, I read maybe 15 parts of the Quran by morning. In the morning, after a quick prayer, I came to Kermanshah. It was one of the most painful days of my life. I was upset that we were being failed by the hypocrites. Iraq had not been able to get there all these years with all the military power given to it by other countries, but the hypocrites were coming forward very easily.

Was it hard for you that an Iranian and a compatriot betrayed you?

Yes. Hypocrites were not from other countries, we were hurting our compatriots. Every night I read every verse of Quran I asked God to bring this conspiracy back to them. For example, the news said where they came from, or when the name of Operation Mersad was announced, I kept saying, "God, end this attack in favor of Islam and in our favor, for the sake of this luminous word " Mersad" we have in the Qur'an. I say that all the martyrs who were martyred in that area were much more valuable, because they were martyred by the compatriots.

How were post-war classrooms set up?

After the war, when we entered the city, everything was ruined. The inside of the city was on the ground full of glass and the walls were all crumbling. We did not have a school and we transferred the school facilities to the mountains and plains. We rented a house in one of the villages; All the school property was in that house, and we used to go there every now and then.

The Reconstruction Headquarters did its first work of rebuilding cleaning the schools, on the first of October, when we left, the windows of the schools still did not have a glass. We covered the windows with nylon so that the cold would not enter the classroom so that they could build the schools slowly. But the schools started again and, thank God, education was restored to its place and every day brings its bread.

In 1990, after fixing up all my siblings’ affairs and following my father's will, I got married and have 3 children. I describe those days to my children and say that now we rest our heads comfortably and sleep. You did not see the war before the revolution. I describe what the situation was like before the revolution. Now my son is older. One of my daughters has been newly married and another daughter is studying nursing, but every time I tell them about those years and scrutinize the situation. I tell them that during the war when we want to sleep, we presumed the housing collapse on me.

When I tell them about before the revolution, they say:" mother! Were you living in that situation?!  Some say that there are also some people that are not in a good financial position. I would say that if we are at a low level economically now, we still have expectations and our expectations are high, but we did not have even a 6-meter carpet in our house until the revolution won. The carpets were not as comfortable as today's ones and we used rough carpets. My child says: " was it possible to live?!" I say, "Yes!" We had a right, but they did not give it to us and the right-left the country. Now if some say we don't have the property for living, they have high expectations of life. At that time, there were very small televisions, if we wanted to buy a TV, we would buy one of those small ones, but now if someone says I do not have a TV, he wants a very large-sized TV. Now the low-level people say that I need a car while we did not even think about the car at that time.

 I have been telling my children many things since they were children, but now that they are older, they have to recognize themselves. Or now I tell them about the shrine of Hazrat Zainab (PBUH) and the martyrs who defended the shrine, what you are reading in the newspapers or watching Syrian documentaries on TV was supposed to happen in Iran, but those who martyred did not allow it. I always tell my children to ask God not to give two blessings to the Islamic Republic, one is the health of the people and the second is the security of the country. A lot of effort has been done for the victory of the Islamic Revolution, and I never wanted to say where I worked and what I did after the revolution. During my activity in construction jihad, many people told me that you do all these works, at least attend meetings, but I did not allow myself, and I  say to myself that I have a debt to settle, because the people have worked hard for the victory of this revolution and many young people have been martyred for it.

Thank you for taking your time to interview with the Iranian Oral History website.

 


[i] In the political literature of the Islamic Republic of Iran, it  refers to days from 12 to 22 Bahman in 1357  ( 1 to 12 February in 1979)

 


 
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