Book review

Still Roaring

Narration of the chequered life of disabled war veteran Seyyed Ali Akbar Mustafavi

Fereydoun Heydari Molkmian
Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan


"… the book "Still Roaring" is the valuable memoirs of the freed POW and disabled war veteran Seyed Ali Akbar Mustafavi, former officer of the Imperial Guard and private bodyguard of Imam Khomeini (God bless his soul) …"

Also in part of the book's cover, a few sentences have been quoted form martyr Ali Sayyad Shirazi:

"His performance was so effective that I appointed him at the head of the combat organization. He did everything in those few days. He is not only a skilled shooter at the national level, but also at the world level, he has been one of the best ones of CENTO competitions. Maybe he didn't even think that one day he would use this expertise to destroy his enemies... Their captivity strengthened his faith and loyalty to the system".

" We were all tested in the war, but the test that was taken from him was much more difficult. I am proud of his presence and have shown this in my performance in the battle scene".

Ironically, this book has also been dedicated to martyr Lieutenant General Ali Sayyad Shirazi:

"... who served Islam and the country at every moment of his life. A great man whose upcoming work is the result of his invitation from the hero of the book to recount his experiences and memories."

The front cover design of the book, on a white background, frames an image of the narrator of the memoirs in the military uniform, behind which a pale blue sky with patches of clouds can be seen. The selected text on the back cover under a photo of Imam Khomeini's discharge from Tehran's Martyr Rajaee Heart Hospital in 1358 (1979) also tells about the 45 days that the narrator was a security guard.

After the pages of title, FIPA and birth certificate, dedication letter and publisher's word, the introduction of "Still Roaring" comes, in which the author tells the narrator in six pages addresses the narrator and talks about the formation of the idea of producing and editing the book in an intimate tone and in a literary and metaphorical format. The text of the memoirs does not have specific chapters, but during the narration, the previous topic is sometimes separated from the next topic with three small green squares; the text is illustrated and the colored and some black and white photos and documents have been included with high quality in many pages of the book.

The narrator first mentions the year of his birth: 1323 (1944); and by reviewing his childhood memories, he still hears the echo of his father's voice in his ears; he gave his advice with that calm voice and pleasant face, along with a look that had been gazed more at the ground than at the front, and how effective his presence was in guiding him and the people of the village. His father studied jurisprudence in the Mirza Jafar School of Mashhad and obtained the degree of Ijtihad there. For the people of the village, he was the true meaning of piety, honesty, justice and morality.

Although his childhood days in the village were spent in deprivation, he learned religious lessons and Arabic rules from his father. But he could not continue his studies due to family problems. However, he was not disappointed and thought of using his abilities and skills in a different way. It seemed to him that the best place for talents to blossom was to enter the army. Finally, one day without his father's permission, he left the house early in the morning and ran twelve kilometers until he reached the railway station; in order to reach himself to Tehran by the train coming from Mashhad. In Tehran, he got the address of the Military Service Organization and went to Pol-e Choobi district with his local clothes. In Military Service building, when one of the officers asked him surprisingly:

"Hey guy, why have come by yourself voluntarily?"

He who seemingly had been waiting for this question for a long time, answered firmly and confidently:

"I have come to become a hero."

And this was the beginning of the path of a nineteen-year-old volunteer soldier who was supposed to become a heroic general years later.

In this way, his military service began with all its hardships. The grueling military trainings, the harsh behavior of the rank-and-file officers, being away from his family, and the cold weather, all created difficult moments for him; but it could not affect his determination. He had high aspirations and was just at the beginning of the path and knew that the beginning of any great work was always the hardest part.

At the first opportunity, he sent a letter to his family and informed them about his situation. He knew that they were very upset with him, but he had no doubt that they would soon forget.

In the winter of 1342 (1963), Tehran experienced severe cold. Once it was early morning and too cold to go out. After an hour and a half of guarding in front of the barracks door, the narrator was impatiently waiting for the next soldier to exchange his place with him. But there was no news of him. He could not leave his post. He felt like his bones were cracking. As he was waiting for him, he started to march in place to warm up his body a little, but of course it didn't help much. As time went by, his body became more and more numb; so that he did not even feel his body parts. His eyes could not see properly because of the cold. At one point, he wanted to shoot in the air so that someone would help him. But at the same time, a thought crossed his mind very fast and heated his body. He said to himself:

"Seyyed Ali Akbar, now it's the best time to test yourself, don’t you claim that you have trained yourself for the difficult situation? Now, it's time to prove it."

And this happened. The news that he had stayed at his post longer than the allotted time reached the ears of petty officers. Because of this story, they introduced him as a model soldier and even gave him a few days of incentive leave to visit his family. Later, he was introduced to serve in the Imperial Guard. Although the guard was a place that almost everyone aspired to, the proximity to the royal family, the narrator and his family did not like it. But the custom was that the model soldiers were sent there after qualification.

After one or two months of service in the Guard, he was informed that he was selected for the Javidan or Eternal Battalion. Of course, they gave him a paper to take and get his father's signature. He had to take a few days off and went to the village to get his father's consent. But as he predicted, as soon as his father saw the letter, he opposed from the beginning:

"What does this mean? You have escaped from the village and went to military service in Tehran. But I told you nothing. Now you want to go to guard that family?"

As soon as I came to explain the conditions, the father raise his hand and said:

"Be quiet. I don't want to hear anything."

All the words he had prepared to say to his father were erased from his mind. He felt a little sad. He said with a low voice:

"Ok. I don't want anything without your consent. Any privilege without your consent is humiliating for me".

He said this and left the room. He had entrusted everything to God and he knew that if he was destined to remain in the Eternal Guard, God would remove all the obstacles himself. He did not insist anymore. One or two days later, his father called him and said:

"Although I know that the Pahlavi regime's actions are against the values of Islam, if I know that you can pray and fast there, I have no objection."

When his father was sure about his prayers and doing the Shariah duties, he made another condition and said that he will do Istikhara (to seek the best of affairs through the holy Quran), if it turns out bad, he is not allowed to be employed there. The narrator never disagreed with his father. This time he said:

"Whatever you say."

Father's istikhara turned out very well. His father had also been surprised. He said:

"I don't know what destiny is for you to serve there, whatever it is, I trust and leave you to God."

Then he took the pen and signed the consent form and gave it to him. He left for Tehran again with his father and mother's prayers and a letter under which was the name and signature of his father.

But the hard part had still remained. Passing through a very difficult and exhausting training course that lasted for four months, along with exams such as cross-country running and climbing mountains in the form of running and crossing various obstacles, which he passed successfully by God's will and because of the physical fitness he had, and finally he was able to be employed there.

In any case, the fourteen years he was in the Imperial Guard were very difficult and breathless. His and his colleagues' knowledge of the regime, especially the Shah's person, was proof of the incompetence and inability of the Shah and the ruling system. Whatever the narrator thought about this, the result was the same:

"I knew that nothing would happen if I and my associates left the body of the Imperial Guard. We had to stay and do something with our presence, even though it was slight and imperceptible. I stayed and kept myself informed and healthy. I decided that whatever I learn in the Guard, I will one day use it against the regime itself, and this was exactly the issue that they did not even think about."

According to the narrator, the imperial government, like any other government - whether Islamic or non-Islamic - had factors to recruit people in its army, such as: health of mind, soul, body, morals and good records. For this reason, most of the people who were present in the Immortal Guard were honorable people. Most of them prayed and fasted, and their prayer made them unable to easily deal with the contradictions they saw in the government.

"Many of my colleagues did not obey the Shah and his family at all and this was the same weak point that the regime had not dealt with."

The narrator had connections with his father and some other religious students who were studying in Mashhad. Whenever he went to the village to see his family and visited Mashhad, he would see them and try to get new information about the people's revolutionary struggles. With the increase of people's protests, the efforts and activities of him and his associates in the guard body increased. Their commanders understood that their subordinates objected to many of their actions, but they could not do anything publicly for fear of making the situation worse.

Two or three days after the victory of the revolution, the narrator escaped from the barracks and reached himself to martyr Mohammad Montazeri. Earlier when he had gone to the Alevi School secretly to meet the Imam, he had met Mohammad Montazeri for the first time and introduced himself to him and even gotten his approval. From the very first meeting, he was fascinated by his behavior and humility. He had come now to say that he had officially escaped from the barracks and that he would never return there. Mohammad Montazeri also seemed to like his action very much.

A few days later, on 27th of Bahman 1357 (February 16, 1979), the first order of the narrator's mission in the newborn system of the Islamic Republic was signed by Martyr Mohammad Montazeri and he officially took over the protection of the Imam's residence. From that day on, alongside the founder and architect of the Islamic Revolution, he did everything he could to preserve the revolution day and night closely. However, he was sometimes sent to operational missions. For example, when the town of Marivan was in critical condition, the operation unit of the IRGC assigned him as the operation manager along with a battalion of troops to go to Marivan and fix the situation in the city. Or he went to Kermanshah with the beginning of the imposed war, and on the first day of Mehr 1359 (September 23, 1980) at noon, together with the troops, they moved from Kermanshah on cars to Qasr-e Shirin; but they were surrounded by Iraqi tanks in the border area at nine o'clock in the morning. All the guys were looking at him to see what he wanted to do. Although he did not raise his hands, he unwillingly surrendered to a new fate. At that moment, he never knew that circumstances would not allow him to be released and that he was going to remain a prisoner in Iraq for ten years. Even at that moment, he never thought that Iraq would not be able to advance on the soil of its beloved country and would have to remain in Iran's border areas for eight years, fight disgracefully, and finally return behind its own borders in vain, and...

The last two pages of the book are dedicated to Seyyed Ali Akbar Mostafavi's will. By the way, a selected part of it is included in the back cover of the book:

"O my children! Life is the house of passing toward the eternal house. Love this world as much as it is, neither too much nor too little. so as not to harm the honor of this world and the happiness of the hereafter. The factors that gave peace to my soul during captivity were prayer, familiarity with the Qur'an, reciting it, especially meditation on its verses, appeal to the infallible imams (peace be upon them), the satisfaction of my parents, etc. and finally, trusting in God, patience and persistence. You also should not forget to wake up early and give motion to your body."

"Still Roaring" authored by Zahra Abedi was published in summer 1400 (2021) by Janat Fakkeh Publications in 316 pages and in 1500 copies.

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