Da (Mother) 12

The Memoirs of Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni

Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni
Translated from the Persian with an Introduction by Paul Sprachman

2022-09-13


Da (Mother)

The Memoirs of Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni

Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni

Translated from the Persian with an Introduction by Paul Sprachman

Persian Version (2008)

Sooreh Mehr Publishing House

English Version (2014)

Mazda Publishers

***

Ali was rarely at home after the victory of the revolution. He joined the Civilian Construction Corps to help in farming and the development of villages in deprived regions. Many nights he went on public safety patrols and didn’t return until morning. Not many months had passed after the revolution when word spread in the town that some of the heads of the Arab clans wanted independence from Iran. These were the same people who collaborated with SAVAK before the revolution and now were mounting terrorist plots, using arms and explosives they received from Iraq to make people sorry they had participated in the revolution. Every day there was a bombing somewhere in the city, slaughtering many innocent people. There were several targets, vulnerable places where crowds gathered: the Congregational Mosque, the Seyf Market, the sports stadium, etc. One time in the Congregational Mosque there was a speech and ceremonies attended by lots of people. A grenade was thrown into the crowd, wounding and killing many. Taking advantage of the support they received, the opposition groups expanded their activities. They would identify young people who had been active in the revolution and throw bombs and grenades into their homes. This brought chaos to the city, but their real objective was to separate the southern province of Khuzestan from the rest of Iran and merge it with Iraq. They drew maps using Arabic names for Persian places—for example, “Mohammerah” for Khorramshahr, “Naseriyah” for Ahvaz, and “Abbadan” for Abadan.

Though they were short on weapons and equipment, the revolutionary forces put up fierce resistance to the Arab separatists. Ali told us to gather as many blankets and as much gasoline as we could. Leila, father, Mohsen, and I went around to the neighbors and to relatives asking for clean blankets and soap and sent them to Ali and his friends. Finally the battle between the two sides came to a head in a three-day pitched battle. The Arab separatists surrounded the military-cultural building that was the headquarters of the revolutionary forces and, after an armed struggle, took a number of people prisoner. Things got so bad that reinforcements from Tehran and Khorramabad entered the city and took the pro-Iraqi school located in a building on the avenue that ran along the Shatt. After the taking of the first and most important source of the insurrection, documents were found that made the nature of the separatist movement and its ties to Iraq clear for all to see. A number of the conspirators were captured while others fled to Iraq.

With this, the Arab insurrection appeared to be put down, but it did not disappear and its agents continued to operate. There were nightly attacks on people and threatening leaflets were thrown into the houses of youth active in the revolution. To contain the problem city officials told the young people to keep a low profile and, if possible, leave Khorramshahr for a time. Ali was among those told to go. The only place we had relatives was Elam, where as a nine-year-old Ali had spent three or four months of his life in jail. He went to Elam and continued with his activities there. He wrote us regularly, commenting that the people there lived in extreme poverty. They even had to get their drinking water from the river. There wasn’t one pharmacy or clinic in the town to treat those victims of separatist attacks. He asked us to buy medicines for the villagers and send them to him. Ali became a one-man construction corps around Elam; he even helped out in farm work.

The winter of 1979-1980 was a time of bad flooding in Khorramshahr and the surrounding areas. Many of the villages were under water, causing untold damage. Ali returned to Khorramshahr to help the flood victims. Sepah and Construction Corps members gave the victims food and shelter. They also pulled their belongings out from under the rubble, and, when the flooding stopped, helped to rebuild the villages. Ali returned after some time, bringing several large sacks of clothing with him. He explained that the boys from Aqajari were newcomers in town, but they were very helpful in the aid work. He brought the stuff home to be washed so we could help them out. I was aware of the groups of young people from Aqajari that had come to Khorramshahr for training. After completing their training, they wanted to create a Construction Corps of their own in their town. I always would count the hours for Ali to come, because the work he was doing was so inspiring I would put body and soul into anything he wanted me to do. He brought so many clothes in the first batch that there wasn’t enough room on the roof to spread them out. Any time we found that the clothing needed repair we would stitch them with a sewing machine we borrowed from the neighbors and then iron them. One time I said to Ali, “It’s embarrassing for me to go to the neighbors and borrow their machine. If you want us to do the job, we’ll have to have one of our own.” The next day around noon Ali came to the house with a machine he bought in Abadan.

Although he was working for the Construction Corps, Ali had long before applied to join the Pasdars. In the late fall of 1979 word came that he had been accepted. The day he appeared in his Pasdar uniform was a treat for us. The looks father gave him told me how proud he was of Ali. I also took pride in the fact that I had such a brother, especially since the Pasdar uniform for me was a kind of holy garb. Seeing him in it I felt it was something that not just anybody could wear. The thought became stronger as time passed. I realized the work the people in the Pasdars did was not for their own personal satisfaction, for the salary or the benefits; rather, it was to please God. Even when Jahan Ara, the commander of the Pasdar, approved giving them wages, they had other things in mind. Ali gave away his first paycheck to the poor. In subsequent months he gave money to Leila, mother, and me and pooled the rest with his friends to buy necessities for the people, delivering things at night to the doorsteps of those they had identified as needy. Later on he was delegated with several others to go to Shadgan to set up a Construction Corps.

This was a beautiful period in our lives. Everyone worked together without expecting anything in return. One of the gifts of the revolution was an atmosphere of peace and security. Father gave Leila and me permission to take part in the demonstrations and marches. I also took responsibility for the housework, trying my best not to leave any task undone.

It was almost the spring of 1980 and for the first time father let Leila, Mohsen, and me go to the Now Ruz celebrations with Uncle Hoseyni’s family. Very early one morning we boarded a truck and, with family friends of uncle’s, went to the shrine of Ali, one of the sons of Imam Hoseyn at Shalamcheh. Around the shrine there was a small grove of tall date palms as well as pomegranate and lotus trees. We hadn’t been there long when we saw Ali patrolling the area. He had just returned to Khorramshahr from four or five months in Shadgan, where he had been stationed with other Pasdars to control the border. Ali saw us and walked over. After the usual greetings, he said to uncle that we shouldn’t stay in the area too long in case the Iraqis started shooting in our direction. We found it hard to believe that they would attack just like that. I remembered that in 1970 there had been a minor skirmish between the two countries. Our home was in Dieselabad in those days, near the Ring Road, and I had seen military vehicles travelling toward the Iraqi border. Some of the trucks carrying soldiers would stop, take a break, and then go on to their posts on the border. For the Iraqis the excuse was the border dispute in the waterway between the two countries (they called it the Shatt al-Arab; we the Arvand River). This resulted in the expulsion of Iranians from Iraq. We had no inkling of what the Iraqis had in store for us now, but it didn’t take long for the first incident to take place.

On June 1, 1980, two Pasdars from Khorramshahr named Abbas Ferhan Asadi and Musa Bakhtur were killed by Iraqi forces in the border region. The incident confirmed what the Pasdars had been saying; namely, that all the Iraqi border activity and provocations had but one purpose—starting a war with Iran. But their reports had little effect.

On the day the two Pasdars were buried, Leila and I went to Jannatabad, where we saw father and Mohsen. A large crowd gathered, among them many Pasdars. From the looks on their faces it was easy to see how affected they were by the death of their two comrades. They beat their chests and cried. The situation in the town critical and threats of Arab separatist bombing, so several Pasdars were stationed on the roof of the mortuary.

After the two were buried—if memory serves—I recall that Hajj Aqa Nuri, the Congregational preacher of Khorramshahr, delivered a speech and the Pasdar comrades of the two fallen men sang a dirge, parts of which I still remember:

 

We are Pasdars of Khomeini, ready to sacrifice our souls.

Never shall we retreat till the last measure of our souls.

O Khomeini, O Brother,

Command us, so we can wash for martyrdom.

From our veins blood will flow,

And from our blood, tulips will grow.

The ground will be a garden thick with tulips and roses.

 

This scene was not something you saw every day. It was unnerving, heart wrenching; but at the same time the pact the Pasdars made with their martyr comrades was both stirring and majestic.

That night when Ali came home, he was very disturbed. Abbas and Musa were two of his closest friends. He spoke of them warmly to us many times. He told us that after the funeral, he and some of the Pasdars went to Abbas’s home, where everyone but Abbas’s mother was sobbing. She was calm and, when she saw how upset they were, she tried to console them, saying “Abbas traveled the path he chose for himself, a path that is not open to everyone. You should be happy for him. Why cry?”

 

To be continued …

 



 
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