Book review: “Line of Blacksmiths”

Fereydoun Heydari Molkmian
Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan


Autobiographical memoirs of a young man from Dezful during the imposed war

The "Line of Blacksmiths" uses a beautiful front cover which enjoys elegance and taste in its design; as the selected text on the back cover is proof of the authenticity and belief that shows the Iranian combatant proud and the real winner of the imposed war:

"I went to get my gun. They were looking at me. Their crying and begging increased. I put my finger on the trigger. I had to shoot. One of the captives begged on my knee for mercy. Her face was wet with tears. I pushed him aside. He turned to me again. He was moaning. He grabbed my pants. He stared at me with a dry mouth and wet eyes. He continuously asked us to have mercy on them in Arabic. My mind wandered through the meander of doubts that came to my mind one after another. All of a sudden, I saw that I couldn’t put my hand on trigger and shoot. I looked the other way. I said to myself: "Do not pay attention! ... Shoot! ... Shoot! ..." But it was not possible. I was full of doubt and hesitation. Killing a living human being who begged incessantly seemed difficult and impossible for me ... Although they had martyred our soldiers, whatever I thought I saw that I did not have the heart to do it. My finger does not pull the trigger! How cowardly and failed I was in those moments ..."

The book begins with a brief explanation of these memoirs under the title "Hint" by the Office of Resistance Culture and Studies of the Provincial Centers of the Art Center and continues with short texts "Preamble" and "Introduction" both by the author. The text of the narration consists of seven comprehensive chapters, and the black-and-white photographs at the end of the book, in addition to a complete description and introduction, which are of relatively good quality.

When the narrator (Mohammad Hussein Shamshirgar Zadeh) was born, according to his mother, the main streets of the town of Dezful were cleaned and decorated. The portals of the shops were decorated with colorful flags and strings of colored lights. Arches were erected in every corner of the town. The dance of the peasants and the farmers and the government employees and the instrumentation and the drumbeat changed the face of the city ... but this was just an accident and had nothing to do with Mohammad Hussein or any honor for him, because his birth coincided with the anniversary of the reign of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi; neither a day less nor a day more, that is, exactly 25th of Shahrivar 1339 (September 16, 1960).

Of course, years later, when Mohammad Hussein thought about this issue, he had another analogy:

"Between my moon and the rotating moon

The difference is from earth to sky

There is a long distance between the royal and kingdom and palace-dwelling life of the Shah, and our simple, blue-collar and hovel-dwelling life!" 

And as the narrator himself stipulates, his blue-collar life had nothing less. His family ate his blue-collar bread and was thankful and happy a thousand times. He, alongside his father, had learned to live within his means and what he expected was within his ability, and yet he had grown up in the blink of an eye and found himself in the uniform of a soldier. His military service coincided with the imposed war; however, he also analyzed the war with his own view:

“... We were not people of war at all. We did not even have the heart to kill a sparrow. Our culture is a culture of peace and altruism. The war was imposed on us, who were just practicing freedom. We had no war; we were defending the land, the religion, the honor, the freedom and everything that could fit in the thesaurus of humanity. We entered the battlefield from behind the school desk. We took the exercise of war in the battlefield ..."

In those days, he had a notebook with him called the "the war notebook" in which he recorded the events; the same notebook that became the cornerstone of this writing; memoirs of the fate of...

The first chapter of the memoirs, entitled "Riding on the Whirlpool Waves of Dez", begins where the narrator, accompanied by a group of forty members of the Dezful Vahdati Base Task Force, went to the Chenaneh area to supply and assist Site 5. Site 5 was close to the Iraqi border. Reports from the site indicated the movement of Iraqi troops along the border.

They were passing through Naderi Bridge on a bus on 31st of Shahrivar 1359 (September 22, 180) at 1:30 AM. An Air Force officer was teaching them how to use hand grenades and how to deal with the enemy in night battles. Everyone listened carefully. Most of the troops on the bus apparently only knew how to shoot with G3 guns. The narrator understood this from their looks. He and a few friends followed the captain's talks more eagerly than the others. Although he and his comrades still smelled of school, they did believe that they had grown up and could attend such gatherings.

After a while, when the narrator returned home, a few weeks had passed since the beginning of the war, and with dozens of artillery shells and missiles hitting Dezful, the whispers of people leaving the city could be heard.

The second chapter is mainly the narration of "Snowy Days of the Barracks" in the winter of 1359 (1981), which takes place in the 01 Cadre Barracks, formerly Farahabad, where the narrator was undergoing military training course. Together with others, they boarded the Ahvaz-Tehran passenger train at the Andimeshk railway station on 21st of Azar 1359 (December 22, 1980), and were sent to military service and as they had been justified, the whole train was the quota of the front and the war; the training course took place in Tehran and then they were sent to combat units in the war zones, but it was as if a war had not taken place. The train compartments were filled to the brim with young people whom the narrator laughed when they laughed and was inspired by their vitality. As he walked down the aisle of the train, he made new friends. Some of his comrades were thoughtful and calm. Being away from the family seemed difficult for a young man who had just graduated and had not yet left his family, but in any case, they had to start self-reliance from somewhere, and the best practice was the barracks and military service.

The third chapter deals with the end of the training course and the division ceremony and dispatching to the 16th Armored Division of Qazvin, and eventually the movement "To the South, the Land of Childhood Dreams." All units of the Qazvin Division were in the south. This time, the narrator’s lottery was the 3rd Armored Brigade of Hamedan. Of course, he was not supposed to go to Hamedan; because the Hamedan’s brigade was in the south and they were sent to the south from Qazvin directly. The Hamedan’s brigade was headquartered in Hamidieh. He in the brigade became a member of the tank battalion and along with other soldiers went to deploy in the battalion headquarters.

The fourth chapter has allocated to “Boneh Nights”. After a seven-day leave, when he went to the front again and arrived in Dasht-e Azadegan, he found out that their unit had been transferred to Boneh (the battalion headquarters). Returning from leave in high spirits, he wished he could go straight to the frontline, but things did not turn out as he had hoped. Boneh was within range of the enemy's long-range artillery, and Iraqi planes flew daily over the region. There was almost no place to rest, but for him the frontline had a different mood. He did not know how many days they were going to stay in Boneh. Although the days there were dull, the battalion members still had great nights together.

The summer in the south was approaching its half. It smelled like an operation. Finally, after a long waiting, they went straight into operation. The enemy had not yet regained consciousness and was pounding aimlessly here and there: one next to the car, one in wasteland, one in the water of Karkheh River. But it found itself little by little and concentrated the fire of its artillery on the passage. Nevertheless, some two weeks after the operation, when the enemy’s fire stopped, the army and IRGC units started consolidating their positions.

The fifth chapter narrates “Battle in Karkheh Koor” which is the longest chapter of the book (some 137 pages) which starts from the evening of 7th of Shahrivar 1360 (August 29, 1981). The personnel carriers were moving one after another in the sultry weather of the south on Susangard Road. They were sitting on the personnel carriers along with the soldiers. The sultry moisture was seen on their body, and as the personnel carriers moved forward, the wind blew into their shirts and cooled them. The personnel carriers accelerated. The draught of the wind and the noise of the acceleration of the personnel carriers echoed in his ears. The narrator turned his head and looked across the road. On the left side of the road, little children were waving at them from the farms. Laughter in their innocent and sunny faces appealed to him. He was watching their movements with a lot of interest. The movement of the children along with the sign of victory in their small hands excited him so much that made the will of anti-hostility more and more in his being every moment. He knew that their hope was to them the soldiers) to get rid of the Saddamists and to free their city and country. The battalion moved to fight the enemy, but the smiling faces of the children kept the ugliness of the war out of his mind. Their world was full of joy and exuberance; exactly like the childhood of these soldiers. The heartfelt laughter of the soldier comrades in response to the joy of the rural children showed that they had been affected. They waved at the rural children with all their might and laughed like themselves...

They were sent to Karkheh Koor from Tarah area. The next operation was in Karkheh Koor. In the very first few months of the war, he had realized that Saddam's attempt to conquer Qadisiyah was a vicious attempt designed to counter the Iranian people's revolution. The fires of Saddam's wars had affected the people of the border towns and the villagers and the barefoot more than anyone else.

The sixth chapter talks about “Khorramshahr, the Love of Southern Guys” and refers to the great operation of the liberation of Khorramshahr. It was an integrated and extensive operation that they had to attack the enemy line at night. The operation extended from the Ahvaz fronts to Susangerd, during which the Abadan front was also involved. All the lines had to work together. The guys were overjoyed in their dreams for liberating Khorramshahr. No one was bound by the reasons. Khorramshahr had to be liberated.

The seventh chapter reaches "Chenaneh, the End of the Line": the area of Dasht-e Abbas Chenaneh in Dezful. After twenty months of presence in Susangerd, Hamidiyeh, Ahvaz and Khorramshahr, they left for Shoush and Dezful areas. They had to say goodbye to Karkheh Noor, Jofeir, Talaiyeh, Koushk, Hosseinieh, and every inch of this land that was liberated with the blood of the purest youth of this land.

After crossing the Khorramshahr road, they reached the Khorramshahr intersection at the entrance of Ahvaz, and in the continuation of the route, they went with a column from the Shousha intersection to Andimeshk and from the Dehloran intersection to Karkheh and Dasht-e Abbas. His presence in the fronts of Dezful brought him closer to home. Now he could be with his mother with hourly leave.

It was late in his military service that he received a tempting offer from the battalion commander: After completing his service, he would work with the battalion as a contract soldier in the same watch post and was scheduled to respond to the headquarters a few days later, but that was not his concern. Whatever he thought he concluded nothing and finally did not accept the offer, until a few days later, after settling and receiving military service completion in Chenaneh area, he left everything to God and said goodbye to the army on 24th of Azar 1361(December 15, 1982).

“Line of Blacksmiths” by Mohammad Hussein Shamshirgar Zadeh has been written for the Office of Resistance Culture and Studies of the Provincial Centers of the Art Center. Its first edition has been published by Sooreh Mehr Publications in 496 pages and in 1250 copies.

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