The Tragedy of Abadan Rex Cinema from the Memories of a Prisoner of Imposed War

Compiled by: Jafar Golshan Roghani
Translated by: Fazel Shirzad


Note: Abdul Saleh Khaknejad is one of the prisoners who has recounted his life memories, focusing on his five years in captivity in Iraqi camps. He was born in 1952 in the village of Godartakhti in the central part of Bahmaei city in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad provinces. In his diary entitled " From Godartakhti to Ramadieh", which was prepared and compiled by his nephew Ms. Asieh Khaknejad, he describes his situation, family, and upbringing in a few pages at the beginning; Then he deals with the days of his presence as a worker in Abadan, which coincides with the burning of the Rex cinema in Abadan. From page 30 onwards, he mentions his condition and his family in the first years after the victory of the revolution and the occurrence of the imposed war and going to the front. In about 90 pages, He describes in detail how he was taken prisoner on February 13, 1985, and his time in the Ramadiyeh camp during the five years until August 1990 (the time of her freedom) and returned to his homeland.

One of the most significant aspects of his memoirs, which is related to the events and developments related to the victory of the Islamic Revolution, is his memory of how the Rex Cinema burned down and his observations of the tragedy in which more than 400 spectators in the cinema were burned. The importance of this memory is that he is one of the witnesses of that event. Therefore, his narration should be considered as a native, inside the context and first-hand narration that he has personally seen and understood; as the event was very effective in the process of intensifying the confrontation between the revolutionary forces and the Pahlavi government. Of course, the expression of his memories after more than three decades, like any other memoirs, can be criticized and evaluated and rejected, or confirmed. However, recording and expressing these memories is very valuable from the perspective of clarifying the different angles of the events of the Islamic Revolution.

Before expressing his observations of that tragedy, Abdul Saleh describes the reason for his presence at that night in Abadan as follows:

"At the age of 15, I used to go to the surrounding cities to prepare living expenses due to the lack of work in our area. One of those cities was Abadan. I chose the city of Abadan for my job because of the existence of different companies. The people of our village and the surrounding villages had to go to either Shiraz or Abadan to work. I was going to Abadan because it was about 450 km distance to our village and closer to Shiraz.

After my marriage in 1977, I mostly went to Abadan for work ... I worked there for days until the evening prayer. After that, I went to the Khorramshahr Grand Mosque. After prayers and dinner, I slept on the carton there. Ayatollah Jami, the Imam of the congregation, was there and said things that many of us were unaware of. His words were about the situation in the country, the misery, poverty of the Iranian people, and the existence of a leader who said that the people had followed him to fight against the imperial system. This is how I became acquainted with Imam Khomeini's thoughts. When I came to the village, I repeated the words of Ayatollah Jami and informed them about the situation in the country. Because people were so close, they would go to a villager's house every night and sit together, and I would talk about those lectures at nightclubs. But, some of them did not hope for the situation to improve and said: "It means that our situation is getting better" (pp. 25 and 26)

Furthermore, Abdul Saleh states his observations as follows: "On the night of August 19 in 1978, because I had not covered myself, I lay down next to the mosque on cartons that were very hot due to the weather to sleep. Suddenly flames and smoke rose. I got up in surprise and went to the smoke.

The people of other streets were moving fast in the middle of the road. The fire was rising more and more every moment. Barefoot and screaming people marched towards the cinema. We walked along with the Grand Mosque to the Rex Cinema with the other workers. Our distance to Cinema Rex was about 20 minutes. When we got to Cinema Rex Street and saw the flames and smoke, I stood for a moment and became sad deeply. Amid the flames and smoke, some were trying to save themselves. I came to my senses and moved forward. One of them, who saved himself, was talking to Lori (one of the Iranian accents), and one of his hands was amputated. I went to him and I was very upset. Before taking him to the hospital, I asked him how the cinema caught fire. He said we were all watching the movie and after a few minutes, there was smoke and fire. We all shouted and ran to the front door. Some could not leave save themselves and were still in the flames. While the blood was flowing from his hand, he was picked up and taken to the hospital.

After he left, I saw fire engines that were sanding and trying to put out the fire. For some time the police prevented them from putting out the fire. As we approached the Rex Cinema, officers would not allow ordinary people to come forward and help put out the fire. We also had to attack the agents. We went to the palm trees and cut some of the leaves to put out the fire. The fire was extinguished in the middle of the night and we entered the cinema with the other people who were there. The smell of smoke and burns bothered us, and everyone was looking for their family or children, or acquaintances. When we reached the corpses, none of them were recognizable and we only found burnt bones. People were moaning and collecting burnt bones. We were so upset that we could not hold back our tears and we all chanted "Death to the Perpetrators" together. After the Cinema Rex incident, my family objected to me going to Abadan, saying that the situation was insecure and you should stay in the village and work here." (Pp. 27 and 28)


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