Da (Mother) 86

The Memoirs of Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni

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


Da (Mother) 86

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 Twenty: Abadan

It was, if I’m not mistaken, the sixteenth or seventeenth day of the war, around 1:00 p.m. I was at the clinic busy repairing and loading rifles when somebody said that they’d brought in wounded. I hastily grabbed a stretcher and went out. A wounded man lay on the floor of a fire truck. Shrapnel had hit him in the knee, and he was in agony. We called out to Mr. Najjar, who came and examined him. “The knee’s probably shattered,” he said. “Bring him down.”

I brought Mr. Najjar’s medical bag. As always, we first closed the wound and set up a serum drip. The wounded man, a member of the fire brigade in a blue uniform, was groaning in pain. Terribly weakened from the loss of blood, he was perspiring and shaking. Mr. Najjar gave him a sedative. Then we bandaged the wound and put a splint on his leg. We told the men with him to keep his leg stable in the van so he would not feel more pain. I held the serum bag.

On the way to the hospital, I said hello to Hatem, the fire truck driver, who told me how sorry he was to hear of father’s death. Long ago I had gotten to know Hatem and his Arabic-speaking family. They were neighbors of grandfather and Aunt Salimeh. Hatem’s wife was very close to Salimeh. Any time they had a Persian-speaking guest she asked Salimeh to join them to help greet the guests and cook Persian food. On the holidays important to the Arabs, Eid-e Fitr and Eid-e Qorban, Hatem’s family would visit us, and father and mother would go to their house for the traditional rounds of visitation.

Hatem was driving fast, which made the low moans of the wounded man turn to sharp cries whenever the truck hit a bump in the road. Since the start of the war, I had traveled this road so often I knew every dip, rise, and pothole by heart. The surface was cratered by mortar shell hits, and dug up even more by bulldozers collecting earth for sandbags. There were ornamental date trees in the median, which, because they were sterile, were dubbed “Abu Lahab.” Although they weren’t very tall, the tops of the trees were charred. I also knew where all the unexploded mortar shells were and the two or three burned-out hulks that littered the sides of the road. All of these things were so fixed in my mind I thought I could navigate the road with my eyes closed. The most difficult part of the route, after going over the bridge, came when we turned left from the gas station and headed for Abadan. At that point the geography put us in range of the Iraqis stationed on the other side of the Shatt. What frightened us even more was the possibility that they would hit the gas station, causing everything around it to go up in smoke.

They brought a stretcher to the door of the emergency room, and the nurses placed the wounded man on it gently. I handed the serum bag to one of them and entered the hospital with Hatem. I saw a couple of the boys from the mosque there. We greeted one another and they asked, “Did you bring in a wounded man?”

“Yeah,” I said. “The man on the stretcher.”

“You have a way of getting back?” they asked.

“Yeah. That red truck outside the door,” I said.

“Then we’ll come with you. The car that brought us didn’t wait.”

Hatem came by and the boys said hello. A fireman colleague of Hatem’s sat with the boys in the back of the truck, while I sat with my back against the cab.

On the way back to the mosque, the firing was much worse than it was in the morning. Several mortar shells landed. Poor Hatem was at a loss; he would floor the gas and race ahead, then he would slam on the brakes, sending us careening into the sides of the truck. At the dangerous turn in the road, Hatem screamed, “Get out, get out! The truck’s about to fly into the air!”

“Stop! Stop!” the men shouted.

“I can’t. They’ll hit us. Jump out and take cover!”

Mortar shells were flying everywhere. When we first heard the awful whining sound they made, we were terrified they would find the truck. Hatem slowed a bit, and the boys from the mosque jumped out and rolled down the embankment next to the road. The other men also immediately dove from the sides of the truck, leaving me wondering what to do. I first thought I would jump down, but it seemed too far to fall and I changed my mind. I managed to reach the door and held on tight to my chador. I looked down at the asphalt and then at the dirt embankment beside the road, trying to figure out how I would jump out and not get too hurt. Hatem kept shouting, “Jump, girl! Quickly!” I had to jump and roll down the hill, I told myself. I’d probably break both legs if I jumped feet first. These calculations took but a few seconds. I closed my eyes and, with a cry of “Ali!” flew into the air.

As I was suspended for a moment between heaven and earth, a mortar shell went off about four meters away, burning my leg. Although I’d done my best to land on the dirt beside the road, my left arm hit the asphalt, making it feel it was on fire. I rolled immediately and came to a stop on the slope of the embankment. My arm ached terribly, and my right leg was scorched above the knee. I rubbed it gingerly. I realized from the wetness on my hand that I’d been hit by shrapnel. I gently felt the wound but found no sign of the shrapnel. I tried to turn over on my stomach and look down the road, but I was unable to roll on my left side.

In the midst of all the explosions and tremors beneath our feet, one of Hatem’s fellow firemen shouted, “Isn’t there anybody out there to help us? Damned heathens, that’s enough! O Abol Fazl, HELP!”

The boys laughed and said, “Don’t worry, uncle, this is nothing. It’s about to stop.” Then when they saw me lying on the ground that way, asked in loud voices, “Are you hurt?”

“No,” I said.

I raised my head a bit. Hatem had abandoned the truck in the middle of the road and run to the desert. We waited for a direct strike on the truck or for a piece of shrapnel to hit the gas tank and send it flying. I asked myself: If the shrapnel that had hit me in the leg had hit the back of the truck, would I be nothing more than ashes now? If God didn’t will it, not even a leaf would fall from a tree. I looked at my leg; there were two holes in my jeans. The denim prevented the wound from being larger than it was. We stayed flat on the ground for about twenty minutes, after which the firing moved away and concentrated on Taleqani Hospital. We got up and walked to the truck. Shrapnel had turned it into a sieve, and one of the front tires was punctured. It would never work again, I thought. To that point the only good car I had been in was the ambulance that brought Ali to the hospital. This truck had been the most well-kept, soundest vehicle I had ridden in.

We got in and left. The flat tire made going on the road hard and going over the bridge even harder. The boys and the firemen had become friends by now and were talking. The one that made such a fuss during the shelling was now joking about panicking. “Strange how much we’re attached to our own souls!” The others were describing the bruises they had gotten from flying off the truck at that speed.

When I got back to the clinic, the first thing I did was go into one of the rooms and closed the door. I rolled up my sleeve and looked at my arm. My skin was all red and raw, the veins on the surface having run dry. The pain in my arm was getting worse, and each time I tried the arm, I groaned. It was much worse the next day. The redness gave way to black and blue bruises and as I worked, it bothered me so much I almost fainted. I took some painkillers, but they didn’t help. I told Mr. Najjar about it and he gave me Novalgin, which Belqis Malekian injected in my arm. I didn’t have a change of pants, so I went to the Shatt and washed the soiled ones. From being submerged in the Shatt and dragged through the dirt, my chador was a filthy mess, dotted with white blotches. Every time I went to Jannatabad, I would take it off and bang it against a tree, hoping to at least remove some of the dirt. Under these conditions, however, I didn’t dare part with it. But, despite that, something would happen that made me take it off.

Once, when I was in Jannatabad, a truck pulled up. The first time the driver brought in the dead, we wouldn’t leave him in peace. Every time we saw him, we begged him to help us. “Your presence is essential,” we said. “We cannot work without a vehicle.” He would say, “God knows, I have no objection, but I can’t find fuel. If there’s fuel, then I’m at your service.”

This time he brought in a body. As we were taking it out of the truck, he said to me, “They told me there was a body that had been with the police for three days, and, given the state it’s in, it can’t be moved.

What should we do?”

“Do you know where it is?” I asked.

“Yeah. They showed me.”

“Then let’s go. Maybe we can pick it up.”

As we were about to get into the truck, an old woman who had come to Jannatabad a few days before put on a white chador and plastic sandals. She asked if she could come along. Although I knew the police were in a bad spot, I couldn’t say no. She was staying at Jannatabad hoping to find her son among the bodies coming in. I gave her a hand, and, with some difficulty, she climbed into the truck and sat in a corner. From her craggy face I assumed she was quite old, but, despite the wrinkles, she looked lovable and charming.

The truck took off. Knowing that the police were under fire, the driver stopped on the Ring Road.


To be continued …


Number of Visits: 386


Full Name:

Loss of Memory in Pahlavi Prisons

In total, [I was in prison] about 6 years in two arrests. For the first time after several years, a soldier arranged my escape. I do not know why! Maybe he was one of the influential elements of Islamic groups. They took me to the hospital for the treatment of my hand, which was broken due to the callousness of an officer.

Hajj Pilgrimage

I went on a Hajj pilgrimage in the early 1340s (1960s). At that time, few people from the army, gendarmerie and police went on a pilgrimage to the holy Mashhad and holy shrines in Iraq. It happened very rarely. After all, there were faithful people in the Iranian army who were committed to obeying the Islamic halal and haram rules in any situation, and they used to pray.

A section of the memories of a freed Iranian prisoner; Mohsen Bakhshi

Programs of New Year Holidays
Without blooming, without flowers, without greenery and without a table for Haft-sin , another spring has been arrived. Spring came to the camp without bringing freshness and the first days of New Year began in this camp. We were unaware of the plans that old friends had in this camp when Eid (New Year) came.

Attack on Halabcheh narrated

With wet saliva, we are having the lunch which that loving Isfahani man gave us from the back of his van when he said goodbye in the city entrance. Adaspolo [lentils with rice] with yoghurt! We were just started having it when the plane dives, we go down and shelter behind the runnel, and a few moments later, when the plane raises up, we also raise our heads, and while eating, we see the high sides ...