An interview with retired colonel, Qassem Nematollahi - 1

Telecommunication in war

Zahra Abu Ali
Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan


Note: Telecommunication is needed for coordination, integration and unity in important battles and operations on a large scale; the coordination in a war is not possible without telecommunication. The issue of telecommunications is an important but unknown issue in war. To recognize the significance of this important and inseparable part of the war, we gave an ear to Colonel Nematollahi, an officer and the Commander of the Telecommunication of the 77th Division of Mashhad.


*Tell us about yourself.

*I am Qassem Nematollahi. I was born in Kerman in 1317 (1938). After getting my diploma in mathematics, I gave an examination and came to Tehran’s Officers University, joining the army officially. I was graduated in the field of telecommunication in 1340 (1961).


*Where were you sent for the first time after graduation?

*Before answering your question, I should say that when I was a student, they constantly reminded us to study; because the place of lazy students in division is in “Khaneh Garrison”. The last students in ranking always went to the Khaneh Garrison. It was known as the army’s place of exile. They said: The place of the hooligans, thugs, and lazy people of the unit are there.

We were afraid that our average became low and were sent to Khaneh Garrison. We even were afraid to hear the name. But fortunately or unfortunately, that year, the Commander of the Khaneh Garrison had asked the Commander of the Ground Forces not to send here the last persons of the term time anymore. Thus, in dividing the forces, they worked contrary to what was always common. 131 students were graduated in that year. The first twenty students were sent to the areas of Kurdistn, Mahabad, Jaldian, Pasveh and Khaneh, and the last ones were sent to the Ministry of War in Tehran. According to the guys, they became deskmen and we mountaineers. I should introduce myself to the Khaneh garrison on the first of Mehr (September 23). I had been sitting in the minibus, and the more we approached the garrison, the more the unknown panic filled my being. "We've got the Khaneh," the driver shouted as the minibus passed the last mountain.


*How did you see the Khaneh Garrison?

*It looked like a small village at the foot of a mountain from a distance. The Americans built the most modern military garrison in the Middle East here. I later found out that the heaviest army division was stationed in the Khaneh, perhaps because of Mullah Mustafa Barzani, who was causing a lot of problems for our Kurdistan. The Khaneh Garrison was after Maragheh garrison in terms of size. I got there before noon. It seemed to me that it was full of beauty and color.


*What was the geographical situation of the Khaneh?

* The town of Khaneh had a cold climate due to its location in the plains and high altitude. It is located on the border of West Azerbaijan with Iraq. From the north, it is limited to Naqadeh (Soldoz), from the south to Sardasht, from the east to Mahabad and from the west to Iraq. The garrison had been located in a pristine and beautiful nature and a beautiful river flowed behind the garrison.


*Who was the commander of the Khaneh Garrison in that year?

*Brigadier-General Mobin


*What job was given to you?

*I was appointed as the Commander of the Telecommunication Unit of Artillery Elements.


* Tell us about the available facilities in the garrison?

*There were an equipped hospital and shops inside the garrison and no shortage was felt except for being far from the big cities.


*Was there a school for the children of the officers in the residential area of the Khaneh Garrison?

*Yes. The officers had turned the garrison’s prison into an elementary school. Because the school environment in the Khaneh town was not good, the officers' wives taught the girls and the young officers taught the boys. In the first year, the school had classes until the third grade. But after a while, the school grew and there were classes until the sixth grade. After a while, the Ministry of Education recognized the garrison’s school and sent books and teachers to the school. Of course, books used to be provided by the garrison itself. On the first of Mehr (September 23), the school of the garrison also started operating. Some children went to school on foot. But in the winter, when the weather was very cold, they established school service for the children.


*Given the mountainous conditions in that area, were there any special training courses?

* Yes; in the spring of 1341(1962), an eleven-member team of American and West German officers came to visit the division and held a guerrilla course for forty personnel. The classes lasted about two months. Captain Buck commanded the guerrilla team. It seemed that Captain Buck had served in the Shiraz advisory group for several years and knew a little Persian. It was a difficult and breathtaking course. Interestingly, the team brought a detailed map of the area with them. We were all amazed at what the military map of Iran was doing in their hands! It was a compressed and heavy course. At the end of the course, the foreign officers left the garrison and our life returned to normal again.


* To which country did the army send officers to train in telecommunications at that time?

*I along with ten more officers went to Canada in 1351 (1972) to take a course in wireless radio relay. We spent the course at the Marconi factory, which made wireless devices. The radio relay device was made jointly by the United States and Canada and was given only to Germany, France and Iran. They tried not to sell these devices to neighboring countries.


*What was the feature of the device?

* Wireless radio relays were exceptional in telecommunications. The device did us the greatest service in the war. I always think that if his device did not exist, how I could communicate with the elements of the division; a device that did not have the slightest telecommunication error. No one could eavesdrop on it.


*Where were you in 1357 (1978-79)?

*I was in Mashhad


*What was your position?

*I was the Commander of the Telecommunication Battalion of the 77th Division.  After the victory of the revolution, the entire telecommunication battalion set to work to repair the damaged machines, devices and radios, and I even enlisted the help of personal forces outside the garrison so that I could sort out the battalion's poor condition.


*Where was your first mission to the military areas, and as the Commander of the Telecommunication Battalion of the 77th Division, how did you see the area in terms of telecommunication?

* On 16th of Esfand 1359 (March 7, 1981), the Telecommunication Battalion and the leading group under the command of Colonel Engineer Sirus Saeed arrived in Mahshahr with all the equipment of the division. We settled in the Nova Barracks of the Air Force, which was five kilometers away from Mahshahr. I visited the telecommunication facilities of the camp with the telecommunication officer, Arvand. I saw that they use a lot of telecommunication devices such as (Mapcore and RF) wireless devices; that the enemy could discover all the information exchanged. I said surprisingly: the division's coded machines have dozens of keys. If you send two messages with one key, the enemy will be able to detect it; especially the Israelis who are masters of this.

There was a wall of tanks and burnt cars on both sides of the Mahshahr-Abadan road. It seemed to me that the reason for most of these destructions and the arrival of the Iraqis inside our territory could be nothing but ignoring the issues of information and telecommunications. I remember; It was dusk; I was under the Khorramshahr bridge. It was getting dark. I noticed a civilian under the bridge. I went toward him. I saw him talking with a (PRC 77) portable transceiver in code; of course, with the local accent of Gha'en. I said: hey guy, what are you doing? There is no way from this side of the bridge to the other side of the bridge, the enemy can overhear you. He said: I speak in Gha'eni dialect and no one but a Gha'eni can understand what I am saying. I realized that it was these negligences that the Iraqis were able to enter Susangard, Hoveyzeh, Bustan, etc. and pass through Karun River and enter the country through Qasr-e Shirin, Sarpol-e Zahab and Gilan-e-Gharb.

More tragic than the city's destruction was something that I did not expect it. Phone devices had been installed in some places and the officers, soldiers and Basijis used them to communicate with their families. I approached myself to a serviceman. I noticed that he was giving all the information about the area to his family unconsciously and without any intention. Ranging from the name of the unit and where they were deployed to name of the commander and the area where he was guarding. How many forces were in their unit and in which street were they deployed ... I realized that most of the failures were from the same phones and wireless and telecommunications devices. Is there the distance between Iraqi cities near Abadan more than the width of an Arvand?! Eavesdropping was done very easily in this distance. The enemy does not need to pay for information. They can obtain the best information easily in this way.

I was not quiet even for a moment. I didn't sleep two hours in twenty-four hours. Colonel Engineer Sirus Saeed and his personnel as a leading group, selected the Nova Barracks, the Jarahi Garrison, the Azadegan School and the Sepehr School for the deployment of the headquarters, and commandership of the division.

I and my friends started installing radio relay device in a school where the headquarters of the division was supposed to be deployed. We worked round-the-clock. Now that I think, I see all the officers and even the soldiers of the Telecommunication Battalion worked shoulder to shoulder with me day and night sincerely and without any complaint. I am proud of these people. They worked in concealment and anonymity, just to defend the homeland enthusiastically.


To be continued …      


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