Da (Mother) 80

The Memoirs of Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni

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

2024-1-14


Da (Mother) 80

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

 

***

 

Chapter Sixteen: The Desert Hospital

I think it was now around October 6 or 7. I was busy working in the clinic when Hoseyn and Leila suddenly appeared. I was startled or, actually, anxious. “What happened?” I asked. “What are you doing here?”

“Khalil told us that his brother Abdollah Mo’avi had been wounded,” they said.

I got very upset and asked, “How? Where?”

“We don’t know exactly, but he was at the front.”

“Where is he now?” I asked.

“We don’t know. Even his brother doesn’t know.”

I didn’t have the patience to wait to find out. “Let’s go,” I said.

The first place we went was the Mosaddeq Hospital. It was deserted. It had been hit once or twice during the heavy bombardment of the bridge and the municipality. When I entered, it seemed abandoned. I tried to find Abdollah, and they told me they were no longer admitting patients and were about to move the ones already there.

I went to the maternity ward. He wasn’t there. Then we went to the Taleqani Hospital, which, unlike Mosaddeq, was packed. People there said, “There was a patient by that name here, but they decided to transfer him to Mahshahr.”

“Is he in Mahshahr now?” I asked.

“No telling,” they said. “The ones who were scheduled to be evacuated they sent to the desert hospital.” I had never heard of such a place. I asked them about it, and they said, “It’s in Darkhovin, around Shadgan.”

It was already afternoon, so I said to Hoseyn and Leila, “We won’t make it today. Let’s go back and wait till tomorrow morning.”

Early the next morning Leila, Hoseyn Eidi, Zohreh Farhadi, Zeynab, and I left Khorramshahr. There wasn’t a car to be had. We walked and caught the occasional ride to get to Station Twelve of the Abadan Road. We got a ride on a military vehicle from the station toward Darkhovin. I was very concerned about Abdollah. I had gotten very close to him; he and Hoseyn were like Ali to me.

It was a long way. None of us had ever been to Darkhovin. Hoseyn said, “Desert hospital—the name sounds like it’s the result of some crash program.”

Eventually the driver dropped us off at the head of a dirt road leading to the desert hospital. A bit down the road there were some containers and a number of tents. There was also a large metal super structure with canvas roofing and a steel door. They had placed barriers fifty meters from the hospital to control traffic. When we reached one of the tents, a guard emerged from it. We told him why we had come, and he asked us to deposit any arms we had with him. We would get them back when we left.

Hoseyn took the M1 from his shoulder and gave it to the guard. I had given the grenades and the G3 to Farrokhi and only had a couple of bullets. These were the same bloodied bullets I took from Ali’s pocket. The guard gave us a receipt for the weapons.

We entered the hospital compound. Sandbags were piled high around the containers and the tents. We looked around blindly until someone said that Abdollah Mo’avi was in bed 3 in a large hall where there were about fifty or sixty beds, each with a wounded soldier. We examined their faces. Most of the soldiers were in bad shape. All had dark complexions, meaning they were from the south. There was also a scattering of military from the base among them, but no matter how hard we looked we didn’t find Abdollah. We left the hall, and I told the nurse, “We didn’t find him. Are you sure he’s here? You haven’t sent him elsewhere?”

The nurse said, “Go and look again, ma’am.”

“Believe me,” I said. “He wasn’t there. My friends looked also.”

“How is that possible?” the nurse asked. “I just visited him myself. How could you have missed him?”

“We missed him. That’s all,” I said.

The nurse entered the hall with us. When we got to bed 3, she stopped and said, “See—bed 3, Abdollah Mo’avi.”

It was unbelievable. Could this be him? So weak and thin? His face was so changed we didn’t recognize him. His head was wrapped in so many bandages it looked like he was wearing a turban. Tubes emerged from the bandages, draining blood from his wounds into a bottle beside the bed. Although his eyes were wide open, you could only see the whites. He was very pale. All sorts of monitors were attached to Abdollah’s bare chest, and he was breathing oxygen. They were also pumping serum and blood into his veins.

Zeyneb went over to him. Obviously choked up, she struggled to hold back her tears. She bent down and tenderly kissed his bandaged head. Seeing him like that upset me greatly. My eyes filled with tears. I wanted to sit down in a corner and weep. I remembered the way he would make us laugh by messing things up. He did this, I thought, as a way of calming his nerves after he saw something horrible or when something pained him. He was very protective of Leila and me. Whenever a stranger came to Jannatabad, he would stop them and ask what they wanted. “Tell me what you want,” he would say. “I’ll get it for you.”

He always had been all skin and bones, so thin it seemed his stomach was attached to his spine. It didn’t feel right to make him do any heavy lifting. But when he saw us doing it, he would get upset and say, “What are you doing? Let me to do it. What am I? Dead or something?” Then he would look down and with his hands motion us to go away. As we got to know him, he became a true brother to Leila and me. He was also especially close to Zeynab, treating her like his mother. When we went to the Darya Bod Rasayi School, the sight of the massacred boy was too much for him. “There’s nothing to do at Jannatabad,” he repeated. “I want to go.” Since his brothers, Hasan and Khalil, were at the front, he thought he should go. We told him, “That’s not necessary. We need you here now. Wait.” But he left that day, which was the last time I saw him.

“How is he?” I asked the nurse.

“He was hit in the head by shrapnel. He lost a lot of blood and went into a coma.”

“What does that mean?” I asked. “What’ll happen to him?”

She said, “There’s not much hope. The helicopters are ferrying patients who have better chances of survival to Mahshahr. The ones like him we’ll send on later.”

“When is the next flight?” I asked.

“There’s no telling,” she said. “Whenever there’s a helicopter, we evacuate patients.” Then she asked, “Are you family?”

“No. Abdollah was with us in Khorramshahr,” I said and briefly explained how I knew him.

She said, “Go now. This is no place for a disturbance. If you want to visit him again, go to Mahshahr. He’ll be evacuated there.”

We left the hospital but, after handing the guard the receipt, they wouldn’t give the weapon back. No matter how many times we asked why, we didn’t get a good answer. We got fed up with him and said, “We handed our weapon over to you. You’ve got to give it back now.”

I didn’t know whether it was because we looked young or something else. Finally he said, “We won’t give you the weapon unless you come with a letter from someone in authority.”

We left and had a very hard time getting back to Khorramshahr. As luck would have it Yunes Mohammadi, the representative in parliament, was at the mosque. We got a letter from him, and the next day Hoseyn and I went back to Darkhovin. This time we had no trouble finding Abdollah’s bed. It was empty. I asked a nurse where the patient was. “He passed away,” she said.

All of a sudden everything went blank. I felt sick, as if I was in shock. Dismayed, Hoseyn asked, “He’s dead, fine. What did you do with his body? Give it to us so we can take it to Khorramshahr.”

At that point one of the doctors in a crisp uniform passed by. When he saw the state we were in, he asked what had happened.

“Nothing,” I managed. “There was a wounded man here we knew, hit in the head by shrapnel. They just told us he’s gone.”

“What was his name?” the doctor asked.

“Abdollah Mo’avi.”

“Mo’avi? Mo’avi was sent off yesterday,” he said.

I couldn’t think of a better gift than these words. I asked, “Are you sure, Doctor?”

“Yeah. Was he your brother?”

“Yeah, just like a brother.”

“Let me check the evacuee list just to make sure.”

He went to get the list and said, “Yes, ma’am. Here it is. He was evacuated to Mahshahr.”

Our spirits restored, we thanked him and left the hospital. We gave the letter to the young guard. He went to get our M1. “What about my bullets?” I asked.

“Those we’re not giving back.”

“What do you mean?” I said. “We willingly gave you our weapons and ammunition. I didn’t have to tell you they were in my pocket, but I trusted you. It’s not right.”

This had no effect on him. I got choked up and felt I had to say, “Look, sir, those bullets had my brother’s blood on them. I want to keep them to remember him.”

He looked down and, after a moment’s hesitation, he went into the tent and emerged with the bullets. I took them from him and, miserable, we were on our way.

 

End of Chapter Sixteen

 

To be continued …

 



 
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