An Excerpt of the Book Strange Acquaintances

Women in Captivity

Adjusted by Faezeh Sassanikhah
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


Regarding the role of women in Iraqi prisons, Hojjat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen Abu Torabi, a released prisoner cleric and representative of Vali-e Faghih (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist) in the headquarters for affairs of the liberated prisoners says:

“During the captivity, we found out that the four sisters were captives and they were living with the utmost courage and bravery, but we had not seen them. After a year and a half and maybe almost two years, these four sisters were brought to our camp. Our number was about two thousand four hundred people. As soon as they entered, the brothers raised their voices of Takbir in that terrible situation. The brothers thought that the sisters weren’t in good mood and believed let's raise their morale by saying Takbir even if they annoy us. One evening we were inside the cell. We saw that these four sisters were far ahead and we should take inspiration from them, and they raised the camp’s morale. The sisters were next to the officers' room, and there was a distance of 70-80 meters between them and the brothers. One day, during the distribution of food, I was under the corridor and stairs, and I saw two of the sisters were coming. I said to myself that surely they want to complain about the hardships of captivity and hunger. As soon as they greeted they said if one day this camp gets into a fight with the Iraqis, should we think about dressing the wounded or run away? I told them that thinking about dressing the wounded means staying under torture and accepting martyrdom, resisting means being beat into the ground by the Iraqis. I thanked a lot and said God bless you. Be patient. We are in contact with Iran by radio to see what will happen. Now I can't tell the sisters to run away. These sisters revived the memory of Hazrat Zainab (PBUH) the caravan leader of Karbala captives in captivity. It was the month of Ramadan and there was a speech in the camp. On the 19th day of Ramadan, we were arrested and we were in prison. After a few days, the prison officer called me. I thought it was my interrogation. The prison officer turned to me and said, “Abu Torabi, go and tell these Iranian captive sisters to come, what do they want from us, the Iraqis?” Exactly what Obaidullah had said. Really, when the Iraqi officer said this, it was as if a world of dignity and honor appeared in front of our eyes. For the first time, I went to the cells of these sisters. I greeted and said, “come and see what is going on. They are on their last legs against you. One of the sisters was praying, the other two moved and said that this sister will not come because her prayer is taking too long. Bravo! Such a faith and originality, man cannot think about his/her appearance at all, let alone serve the Lord of the worlds. We came with the two sisters to the guard room. The Baathist officer in charge of cultural affairs crouched in the room like an orphan child with a world of humiliation. The commander of the camp was sitting! The ladies also came. The Iraqi officer turned to me and said, tell these Iranian girls that they are captives and if we try to treat them like boys, they will not be able to endure. I will treat them like my daughter.

That sister said: Colonel, it doesn’t need you say that I am a prisoner, I accepted captivity in the way of serving the country and helping the wounded, and it doesn’t need you say that I am a prisoner. I myself accepted the captivity. Next time, it isn’t needed you treat me like when you treat your daughter. Treat us the same way you treat other brothers. If you provide us with more facilities, we will throw it in front of you, and if you provide less, we will stand in front of you. Then the commander of the camp thought and said, “Why did you tell our political officer that we will kill you with shoes?” One obscenity for Iraqis was “shoes.” The shoe itself means cursing, then tell someone we will kill you with shoes.! It is the worst insult, especially to a Baathist officer. Our sister said, “We did not say that we will kill you with shoes. He wanted to violate our rights and put us in prison earlier than the scheduled time. We told him if you come forward, we will hit you with shoes.” It is very valuable.

I am sure that the condition of these four sisters in captivity with us, fourteen hundred people, was like the night of Imam Hussain’s (AS) Ashura. The enemy threatened everyone and said if you move, I will skin you alive. When the enemy threatened that you shouldn't pray, you shouldn't say Adhan (the call to prayer), it said that you should pray the morning prayer at 8:00 a.m. when we opened the door of the cell at the time of enumeration. A brother said, shut up! And he said “Allahu Akbar” and when he said “Ashhadu Alla Ilaha Illallah”, a hundred people rushed towards him and beat him into the ground. He was saying, “Ashhadu Anna Muhammad Rasulullah” and it was the last moments of his life when he was beaten and he said, “Ashhadu Anna Ali Waliullah.” Finally, he died a martyr and joined those who are in the highest levels in paradise, but he broke the barrier. On the night of Ashura, the enemy threatened, “If you mourn, we will kill you. We do not leave a single person alive.” Of course, mourning was done quietly.

The guard would come and look at our eyes to see whose eyes were crying. In such a situation, at 11:30 p.m. in the night at the Anbar Camp, these four sisters started mourning loudly, started to chest-beating and shouted, a shout similar to Zainab's shout which was given against Ubayd Allah ibn Ziyad. The mourning of these four sisters caused the whole camp to mourn. Although most of the toenails of dear brothers were avulsed tomorrow, they were our sisters who showed courage and bravery. The position of man is high and the position of woman is also very high. May God have mercy on the one who knows his/her worth and dignity, and maintains his magnificent position in light of faith, sincerity, patience, and tolerance[1].”


[1] Source: Mafi, Farzaneh (1997), Strange Acquaintances [in Persian: Ashenayan-e Naashena]. Organization of Cultural Documents of the Islamic Revolution, Secretariat of the Congress of Women's Role in Sacred Defense, Fall 1997, p. 134.

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