Memoirs of Hassan Moulai

A Hundred People, Hundreds of People, or Thousands

Compiled by: Faezeh Sasanikhah
Translated by: Fazel Shirzad


It smelled like cooked meat. The asphalt of the street was scorched by the sun and next to the white towels, it looked blacker than ever. I had gathered the soles of my feet and slowly put them on the ground. I thought that if I left the alley of the Egyptian tent, I could quickly turn back to 204th street and reach our tent. The floor was full of pressed water bottles. As if a car ran over them or several people fell on them. From the top of the street, right where they blocked the road with cars and metal guards; the water had seeped to the bottom[1] through the bodies of martyrs and water bottles, and it was still flowing.

     It was my first trip. I didn't want to part with my friend, Mr. Ashrafi. After we ate breakfast, we left the tent. Shortly after the underpass, the cops were directing everyone to 204. After we walked a few meters, Mr. Ashrafi said: This crowd is not normal. It was his 20th trip and he knew everything and everywhere well. The further we went, the more crowded the street became. And Mr. Ashrafi kept repeating his words. Until once the crowd stuck together. Our breasts were stuck to the backs of the pilgrims in front. I turned and looked behind me with difficulty. The crowd was still pouring into the street. We were standing like that for twenty minutes and half an hour. The crowd had separated me from Mr. Ashrafi. I was breathing hard. It wasn't just pressure.

     Suddenly, a strange numbness appeared in my hands and feet. My eyes were heavy. My body was warning that something was happening. I felt death. I pulled myself to the side of the metal walls with difficulty. I knew that the more pressure there is in the middle of the crowd, the easier it would be to breathe in the corners.

I had to pull my towel out of the crowd with more effort.

     There were tents on both sides of the street up to Jamrat. The tents with ready structures. Between two and three rows of tents, there were small alleys with a door of one meter. Several people were gathered in front of the door near me. I threw myself into the door frame with difficulty and entered. I fell right next to the door, my breath came up and my eyes opened. A black woman was lying on the ground in front of me with her eyes closed. His neck was bent over his chest. The thin old man next to me was panting. On the other side, several other people were sitting on the dirt floor of the tent. They were all the same. Shortness of breath, thirst, low blood pressure and weakness of arms and legs.

     I was standing on a peak where one side was the world and the other side was the hereafter. If I died, it was not unlikely, and if I stayed alive. My phone rang, I remembered that I have to tell my friends about my health. He was from Tehran. They had seen the events in the news and wanted to see if I was alive or not. I called my travel companions. I wanted to make them feel at ease about me. They might worry about me. None of them answered their phones. Haj Muslim[2] and Mr. Moayidi[3] never answered their phone again.

     Water and food boxes were arranged in the corner of the tent. Oranges and boxes of food were ready, one of those bottles could make the mood of the men and women who were lying in the corner. But the food belonged to the Algerian pilgrims, and who could donate on their behalf? Who could handle their caravan? One of them was standing in the middle of the tent and watching us as we were getting worse every moment. From below, he seemed very big to me. My hands were clenched and my head was throbbing. My eyelids were falling when a young Arab threw himself into the middle of the story. He waved his hands in the air and said: "Find the pilgrims of God's house (Kaaba)!" The man left the islands that he was talking about the satisfaction of their visitors and went to the top of the water bottles. He opened the boxes and came over to each of us. Whenever I remember that day, I pray for it from the bottom of my heart. If it had not arrived, the fate of me and the rest of the people who were there was unknown. Above the head of the African woman, no matter how she called, she did not raise her hand to take the bottle. His breath was short. He sat next to her; He opened the bottle and held it to her mouth. He splashed the water on his face. He was young and big like their men. What could a person with that power and strength destroy like this? He looked at the card in his neck. The Gabonese woman's shoulders rose. His head slowly hit the wall of the tent and his face came closer to his chest. It still comes to me sometimes in my dreams.

     The old man next to me was getting better when two Iranian rescuers came in. They were scared and confused. They told us to get up and go to our tent as soon as possible. I said, "I can't handle it at all." I wasn't sure if I could take more than a few steps if I got up. They did not listen to my words. They took the old man's hands and feet and put them on the stretcher. When they were getting out of the tent, they said: "Get out of here soon, get out, they will get you in trouble!"

     For a few moments, I did not know where I was walking very slowly on the ground. As if it wasn't asphalt, it was like molten coal. The bodies were lined up as far as the eye could see. I was going through the corpses and I was estimating their number in my mind. A hundred people, hundreds of people, or thousands. I could not believe what had happened. I looked at the police and soldiers who were standing on the side of the street, talking and walking past the corpses. To the people who were sleeping under the towels and were going to do Jamrat a few hours ago. When the bodies were finished, I didn't know where to go back. I could not keep my feet on the ground. I cried there for the first time. I turned and looked at the white figures. The street was like a white cloth. I came to myself with the voice of a young man. He was standing next to me and was putting a pair of slippers in front of my feet.[4]


[1] The water pipe in one of the Egyptians' tents had burst. (Author)

[2] Muslim Qolipour Gilani (1343 to 1394) was martyred in the Mena incident.

[3] Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Muayidi (1329 to 1394) who was martyred in the Mena incident.

[4] Source: Kardani, Zahra, Street 204: Narration of a tragedy, Tehran: Surah Mehr, 2019, p. 43.


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