Women Nurses Narratives of the Sacred Defense

Soheila Farjamfar Memoirs from the first days of the Sacred Defense

Looking at the book, The Wandering Shoes

Arranged by Atieh Mohammadi
Translated by: Zahra Hosseinian


Soheila Farjamfar is one of the nurses who served on the front lines of a city during the sacred defense. Her autobiographical memoirs, in eloquent style and with detailed descriptions, make The Wandering Shoes more like a readable story. The narrator's account of the first days of the Ba'ath party's invasion of Iran is interesting:

"... Even though we saw people fleeing the city in groups every day, we still said that maybe tomorrow morning they would announce that the war was over! At our house, the debate was over whether to go or stay. One week had passed since the beginning of the war. The fighting in Khorramshahr had intensified and the Iraqis were advancing ... In the evening of that day, daddy took us home to pack our bags. ‘Pack up your bags.’ He just said. What unsaid were implied in this words..." (pp. 33-34)

"Daddy's voice startled me. He said, ‘Hurry up, girl.’ Mom immediately grabbed her luggage bag and went toward her closet. She packed up things she was going to take. Then, in a hurry, she took a few frames of photo from the wall and thrusted them into luggage... Mom walked around the house again. She throw another look at her arranged house. I felt how hard it was for her to lose it. Daddy was right that we should leave and flee there as soon as possible. I took a deep breath; I wanted to feel the scent of my father's house all-out. We left the house. I suddenly felt that in thousands of places in the border cities of Iran, thousands of women left tearfully their houses at the same time. ‘Let me see!’ Mom asked Dad, ‘Did you close the windows well? Did you lock the doors well? Lest...’ The sound of the explosion was heard again. We left and did not know that we would never return to that house!’ (PP. 36-37)

At the end of the maternity leave, Ms. Farjamfar had to leave her two young kids with her family and to go to the hospital of Dezful base with her husband: "The zone was crowded and bombed regularly. ‘I’ve missed kids so much,’ I told Ali. I was too tired. I said good night to Ali and went to the women’s resting place, at the end of the family section. ... I was at the nursing station tomorrow morning at seven o'clock. I checked the lists and signed the statistics of the present personnel and dated: the 6th of October." (PP. 58-59)

"...We heard an earsplitting sound of explosion. It came from a close distance. Less than a quarter of an hour later, the bombing resumed. Air strike sirens, anti-aircraft fire and the sound of Iraqi MiGs filled the space. Minutes later, ambulances brought the injured. ‘Two Iraqi MiGs attacked Andimeshk and fired four rockets at residential areas of the city.’ they said. We immediately moved towards the emergency department... a man who was injured badly was brought. The emergency medicine specialist immediately ordered the injured to be taken to the operating room. The operating room medical team began work. At the same time, a woman felt a severe pain. She was near her time. The emergency medicine specialist ordered the pregnant woman to be transferred to the delivery room. ... The medical team in surgery room was operating the man. He had been badly injured. Two surgeons were operating at the same time... it was useless. The man died. An hour later, the woman was informed of the man's death. Manijeh entered the operating room laughing and informed the doctor about the child's birth. The doctor had a kind face. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Fatherless baby! This is another story in itself!’" (PP. 60-61)

One of the attractive narratives of the book is the visit of the then president, Bani Sadr, to the zone on October 13:

"Everyone has been busy since morning. We tried to get our departments in order. The president was supposed to visit the hospital along with some of his entourage... On the same day, the then President Dr. Bani-Sadr, along with Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Rajaei and other members of the Supreme Council of Defense, visited the hospital and the wounded. The staff were all busy working as fast as they could. At night, in the rest room, it was talk of Mr. Bani-Sadr and Mr. Rajaei.

The city of Dezful, where once had a population of about 200,000, is becoming less crowded increasingly. Again, Iraq bombarded Dezful from the ground and air. In a short time, hundreds of houses and shops were destroyed and nothing but stone and iron was left. People were outraged. The women cried. The children were scared and the men called down curse upon them. After announcing the red alert, the ambulance entered the hospital yard. It brought many wounded. A lifeless Dezfuli child, who carried a baby bottle of milk in one hand and a Cheese puff packet in the other hand, attracted my attention. The shrapnel had cut off part of his face. I stared at him. How much he was like my own son, Houman, but younger. I missed my son. I took the baby from his mother and immediately ran toward the emergency department. ‘Send him to the operating room immediately! It’s an emergency case.’ Dr. Zarazvand said. I handed the child over to the operating room staff. His mother wandered outside the operating room, cried her heart out. After a while, Dr. Zamani came out of the operating room and said, ‘He couldn’t stand it. He passed away.’ I went out. The baby's mother had sat down on the ground, depressed and confused. ‘The operation isn’t over?!’ she asked.

It was as if my tongue was stuck to the bottom of my throat. I hardly shook my head. ‘How long did it take? Thank God my baby was well fed; otherwise, he would feel weak under operation!’ I heard she whispered.

I sat on the ground next to her. I wanted to comfort her, but what could I tell her? ‘Did the operation...end...?’ she asked in clipped voice. I stretched my hands and hugged her and burst into tears. The baby's mother shed bitter tears too. We rested our heads on each other's shoulder. No words were exchanged." (P. 78)

The author also has an interesting story about the spirit of Tehran on those days:

"... I handed over the two wounded to Torfe Hospital and walked towards the house in the always polluted weather of Tehran. In neat ironed clothes, people walked starchy around. It bore no resemblance to the front here. There was no dirty and bloody clothes. Their faces were smiling. The cars were clean, moving the passengers... I took a taxi and said, ‘Seyyed Khandan.’ I watched outside. It was cloudy, as if the sky was heavy-hearted. Finally it rained. I remembered a warrior who said, ‘in the south, the rain pours. We build the trench with great efforts, but it drowns in rain. After then we have no trench!’ I had reached my destination. I was climbing from the second floor to the third one when the managing director of the complex, who was a fat man with gray hair, came toward me. After greeting, he said: ‘Excuse me, madam, your apartment is very crowded. There are always ten or twelve pairs of big and small shoes in front of your apartment door. No offence, but this damage the prestige of the residential complex. Please think of these wandering shoes as soon as possible!’

I replied, ‘sure, put your mind at ease.’

His words hurt me badly and were resounded in my head: ‘Wandering shoes, the prestige of complex ... the prestige of complex... wandering shoes!’

These words were on my mind. I involuntarily remembered a wounded warrior whose feet had blistered. He explained to me that in order the Iraqis not to notice the sound of his footsteps and the operation not to be leaked out, he wandered around the trenches and camps of the Iraqis for two days barefoot on the hot soil of Khuzestan, in order to carry out his reconnaissance mission efficiently. Now I wrestled with myself. Which shoes were really wandering? The shoes in front of the apartment door in the residential complex or the shoes of a warrior in the front?!..." (pp. 129-130)


The book, The Wandering Shoes, was first published in 2007 with 175 pages and in trim format by Surah Mehr Publications, and in 2014, it was published for the sixth time with a price of 14,000 Tomans. Most of the memories of this book are dedicated to the bombings of Dezful, the wounded of the city and the warriors. The narrator believes that in all parts of the story, she has dealt with the date of events and characters; and had valuable and purposeful thoughts in her mind in expressing all the contents of this book. On the other hand, due to the intimacy in writing and communication with the characters of the story, this work has become tangible and objective and has created a kind of closeness and kinship for the reader.


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