SABAH (79)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


SABAH (79)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami

Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

Published by Soore Mehr Publishing Co.

Persian Version 2019



A few days after joining emergency ward, Fatemeh Bandari and Noosheen Najar came and said: “Please talk to the manager so that we can also join this hospital. The personnel in OPD hospital are sufficient and we have nothing special to do and our presence is more required here.”

I talked to Mr. Hassani. He said: “You know how sensitive medical sections are during the war. There is the possibility that the enemy might want to enter these sections and we have to be cautious accepting new personnel. Since you claim that they are your friends and you know them enough, tell them to join and be in emergency ward with you.” They were very happy to be accepted.

Dr. Sa’adat who was in the frontline, commuted to hospital a lot and brought patients. I saw him almost every day in emergency ward. Saleheh was also with us in emergency. Khorramshahr army had moved its male forces to Persian hotel and female forces to Sarbandar. The army girls in Sarbandar and Ebika were free to commute and could visit their families. This was the reason that Saleheh and some of her friends had come to Taleghani hospital.

One night, near Morning Prayer time, they brought us an injured soldier covered in dust from head to toe. We laid him down and starting checking his vital signs. He had no pulse and his heart was not pounding. Poor soldier had been martyred. We fully checked him. He had no injury and wound and there was no blood on his body. The phyisican in emergency ward said: “What should I mark as the reason of his martyrdom?”

I went to the two soldiers who had brought him and asked: “How did your friend pass away?” One of them said: “Sister we don’t know ourselves. We just saw him coming out of trench and a few second later a mortar bomb hit the trench and he was thrown right in front of our feet. We don’t know whether it was the wave of explosion or something else that we didn’t understand.”

It was very strange. We had to find a reason for his martyrdom. I took a small amount of cotton and water and started cleaning the dust from his face. I didn’t want to leave him in that dust. First I cleaned his forehead and then his eyes. As I was going to clean his nose I noticed that near the nose bone and near his eye, there is a very small hole which was the size of a millet caused by quiver that has no hemorrhage.

I went to the physician and told him that I had found the hole of a quiver on his face. The Physician checked the wound and said that this small quiver has entered his brain and martyred him. I was very happy to find out why he has been martyred.

The next day I went to surgery ward to meet my friends and help them if needed. I had just returned to emergency ward that Alireza, Esmat’s husband’s brother came. His mouth was dry and he was pale. We greeted and he told Esmat in a trembling voice: “Wife of my brother! Nader has been martyred. I am alone. Let’s go and receive his body and do the burial.”

Nader was Alireza’s brother and Esmat’s husband’s brother. Esmat Jan Bozorgi was the bride of Ahan Koub family and her husband, Mohammadreza, had been captured on the first month of autumn. Since that day she had not felt well and was acting introvert. Poor woman acted like depressed people who are often silent and act slowly and prefer to be along most of the time.

On the nineteenth day of first month of autumn, Iraqis seized Ahwaz Abadan road. On the same road, after Shadegan road, Esmat Jan Bozorgi and her husband along with a few others were coming towards Abadan when the Iraqis capture them. Esmat told me that when the Iraqis stopped the minibus and tell them that they are not allowed to go further, the minibus driver tells them in Arabic to let them go. They are women and children and not military so that you kill or held them prisoners … The Iraqis shoot him at the head as soon as they hear him saying such a thing.

Esmat’s husband was from military and his ID card was with him. Esmat said that she had taken his card quickly and then has removed their wedding rings so that they won’t find out that they are married. This might give them the idea to act disrespectfully towards Esmat to torture or bother her husband. Then the Iraqis have brought all passengers out of minibus and made them sit on the side of the road and have taken men away.

When they take the men, Iraqis gather around the women and each hold a grenade in their hands to operate at the order of their commander and destroy them. A few minutes later the commander orders them to move away instead of ordering them to fire. Then he orders two three soldiers to accompany the women until Shadegan road. They had told them to go to your military forces directly.

Since the first day of the war until nineteenth day of first month of autumn, the Iraqis tortured the prisoners severely and martyred them. This was the first time that they had shown a propagandized act and in order to show their humanitarian side, had set our prisoners free. Maybe they wanted this act to be reflected in the news and introduce ugly and criminal Saddam as a good and humanitarian individual.

Esmat said that we all fell on the ground in Shadegan road. We poured the soil on our heads and were whining saying that we are doomed and they have taken our husbands and sons. She said that the women hit themselves so badly that they nearly died. The army forces get there and take them to Pirouz mosque of Abadan. Some of them return to Khorramshahr and some of them, like Esmat, stay in Abadan.

A few months prior to the start of war, the gas balloon in Ms. Ahan Koub’s kitchen, Esmat’s mother-in-law, had exploded and she had burnt and died. When the war happened, Nahid, her older daughter, was studying in Jondi Shapour University in Ahwaz; at that time she had gone to Mahshahr to her grandmother, Bibi’s house together with her sister, Neda. After Mohammad Reza was captured, this family had suffered a lot. Now that Nader had been martyred, poor Alireza who was only sixteen seventeen years old, had to bear the difficulties of the family. He had to receive the body of his brother and bury him.

Me, Shahnaz, Fouziyeh and Esmat along with Alireza went to morgue of Mihan ice cream factory. Before going, Alireza set a condition for us that we wouldn’t cry in the morgue. Maybe he didn’t like other to see the sorrow and grieve of his family. We had to go into the morgue and find Nader’s body.

Although this was not the first time that I was going inside the morgue but this time, there was a special good scent in the morgue. I really wanted to know the source of that smell. I looked at the faces of all martyrs hopelessly to see if my brother Ali could be among them.

As we walked between the martyrs, I noticed the bodies of a father and son who had been attached together with quiver. Father was wearing Dashdasheh and looked about forty years old. He was hugging his three four years old son in a way that his son’s face was on his shoulder. A big quiver, the size of a hand palm, had entered the little boy’s shoulder and had reached father’s chest and stopped there. Father and son had been martyred in each other’s arms.

The upper part of the body of the father and the whole body of the son were covered in blood. Some of the blood was also on the floor of the morgue one meter away from their bodies and had frozen. It was a strange scene. They both had been martyred very suppressed and estranged. Without saying a word, we were watching their bodies. God knew where his mother was. I cursed Saddam for thousandth time and passed the bodies of father and son.

I felt that my blood pressure has dropped. My fingers were frozen. I checked my blood pressure in the hospital and it was never higher than eight.

Alireza was a true believer. One could see the light of faith in his face. After Mohammad Reza had been imprisoned, he had gone to army to fill his place. He was a shy and kind man. Although he was not that old, but when he talked, one could feel the sobriety and tact in his speech. It was as if I felt the heavy weight of sorrow in his heart. It was not a simple event to lose to older brothers in a short while.

Inside the morgue, nobody talked. The bitter and long silence was among us. Alireza was five six feet ahead of us. I approached him and said: “Have you informed your sister Nahid?!” He said: “No. I haven’t told her yet. My mother’s death and captivity of Mohammadreza has affected her a lot. I didn’t want to tell her. I knew that if she knew, she would come here.”

A few steps forward when Alireza found Nader’s body, he dragged him slowly among the other martyrs and kneeled beside him. He caressed his face and kissed his face. Nader was wearing army uniform, Alireza started talking to his brother with sobriety and slowly. He said: “Dear Nader, happy new home. Congratulations on your martyrdom. I envy you for this happiness!”

I saw Nader Ahan Koub for the first and last time in morgue. His face was like Alireza, only his skin color was darker and he was taller. Quiver had raptured his chest and had caused him life. The tranquility of Alireza besides his brother’s corpse was very interesting for me.

Although Alireza had emphasized not to cry in the morgue, but we were all crying silently. He was also trying to control himself and stop his tears but he couldn’t. With the help of service workers in the morgue, we placed Nader in an ambulance which we had brought. We went to Abadan martyrs cemetery. Alireza took Nader to the men’s bathroom. We waited at the door.

They hadn’t still washed Nader’s body in the bathroom, when a young man who was one of the workers there, came out and approached us and said: “Sister, for the sake of God, please help us. It has been two days that they have brought a female martyr but since we don’t have female personnel, we haven’t been able to wash and bury her. Can please one of you come and wrap her in shroud so that we can bury her. It is a sin to leave the dead body unattended.”

We looked at each other. During the war we had done all sorts of tasks, except this one. I felt very bad for a while. It was not acceptable by God to leave the body of a woman unburied for two days only because there was nobody to wash and shroud her. Although after dealing with high number of martyrs, I was still afraid of dead bodies, but I told the young man: “Sure. I will come. I haven’t done this task, so please tell me how to do it.”


To be continued …


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