Da (Mother) 105

The Memoirs of Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni

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


Da (Mother) 105

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




Her joking cheered me up, and I had already begun to miss her. To keep me from getting emotional, she said, “If you’re ever martyred, don’t pretend you don’t know me. Put in a good word for me with God.”

I said, “Count on it. I’m not going to be a martyr. You’re the one going to Khorramshahr.”

“Martyrdom doesn’t happen just in Khorramshahr. Nowadays it can happen anywhere in Iran. God just has to help us reach it.”

Then she said kiddingly, “So, I’m off now, on the trail again of bread, cheese, and watermelon.”

She tried several times to get up, but I kept grabbing her arm. “Wait, for God’s sake. Stay a while,” I pleaded.

“Girl,” she protested, “I’ve got to go sooner or later.”

I felt ill at ease, as if my insides were on fire. I had a feeling we would never see each other again. She seemed free as a bird. To comfort me she said, “Try to stay calm. God willing I’ll stop by again.”

Forcing a smile through my tears I said, “This whole time you were like a mother to Leila and me. You were always there to help whenever I needed it. And what did I give you in return? So much trouble.”

She said graciously, “I did nothing for you. You had the guts of a lion the way you took care of yourself. More than that, you made it easier for me to get over missing my daughter.”

“Tell father I didn’t want to leave Khorramshahr; they forced me to leave.”

“There’s no need to say so. He knows,” she said. “He knows it all. To be a martyr is to be alive; he’s more alive than the likes of us. We don’t see the martyrs, but they have no trouble watching us.”

“If that’s the way it is, why don’t they do something?” I asked.

“How do you know they haven’t? Maybe they asked God to make it happen like this.”

“Well, if that’s the case, then those martyrs are real bastards,” I said.

“Don’t say that. God thought it best you be wounded. It’s definitely to your benefit somehow.”

This made me angry, but, given the way she acted toward me, I couldn’t say the harsh things I was thinking, namely: You’re the one who’s only thinking of herself, pretending to be my friend, acting like my mother. If you hadn’t been so selfish, you wouldn’t have let them bring me here.”

It felt like father and Ali also had no pity for me, and Zeynab was now acting the same way. They only were hurting me.

Zeynab bent over and, cradling my face in her hands, kissed me. I took her hands and covered them with kisses, saying, “Don’t leave me, I’m begging you. Stick around. Maybe, God willing, I’ll be able to come with you tomorrow. It’s night now and there’s nothing you can do anyway. What’s the rush? Stay the night and leave in the morning when there’s no problem getting a ride.”

“No,” she said. “It’s better for me to go now. You’re right there’s nothing for me to do at night, but I can at least get some rest and be ready for work in the morning.”

I tried to keep her from going. I loved her and hearing her speak of going shook me to the bottom of my heart. I felt I would never see her again. She wouldn’t be back. I had the same feeling when father said he was leaving for the last time. I begged her to stay and help with the tons of work at the hospital. I said, “At least wait till they evacuate me, then go.”

She said, “I know there’s a lot to do here, but there’s no one there. Not anybody can go there and work. I’m a local; I’ve got to stay. I can’t leave Khorramshahr. That’s where I’ve got to make a stand. We can’t let it fall to the enemy just like that. Either we drive them out or we die trying and leave this world as martyrs. In any case, I’m never abandoning my hometown.”

“So why are you telling me to leave?” I asked her.

“Because if you go back, not only won’t you be able to do anything, it’s possible you’ll be a burden to others. Stay in the hospital, get better, and then return. God willing, by that time the Baathists will have gotten the hell out of the city.” With that she got up, and I started crying harder. I grabbed her arm and pulled her back. As she said things to console me, she pried my fingers from her arm. She stepped away, and I cried even more. This made her stop. She turned around and said, “Don’t cry. I’m leaving you in God’s hands. If you go on like this, I’ll be very upset.”

I covered my face with my hands so I wouldn’t have to see her go. I bawled even more, though deep in my heart I said: You’re a rat, just like the others. Traitor, I hope you don’t find a ride. It’ll do my heart good to see you come back!

After she had gone, I felt completely abandoned. I didn’t have the same feeling when mother and uncle had left. But with Zeynab’s going it felt like I was an outcast, the loneliest creature on earth. I hated where I was and asked myself: How could Zeynab have left me like that, taking flight like a bird?

I cried myself to sleep and, again, was visited by the same nasty nightmares. Scenes of bedlam plagued my thoughts, and a horrible din in my ears. Terrified, when I tried to pry my eyes open, I imagined there was a bright light shining in them. I kept my eyelids shut. I wanted to scream but my voice got stuck in my throat. I saw myself flailing about, bucking to get free. Finally I jerked myself awake and stayed awake to avoid the torment of the nightmares. It was clammy in the room. Though the ceiling fans were working, I was sweating buckets. My wet hair clung to my neck. I felt there was a great weight on my chest, keeping me from moving. I could see nothing in the darkness. They had covered the windows with heavy black plastic; the only light came from the fluorescents in the hallway. The nurses used flashlights to look in on patients. Several times bombers flew overhead.

In the middle of the night, the nurse woke me to give me an injection of Cephalexin and change my dressing. In the morning the nurses came to say, “Evacuees should get ready; helicopters are on their way.” At around 9:00 I heard the whirr of a helicopter. It appeared to land in the area behind the hospital. The nurses went to get a glimpse and carry out the comatose patients. Several people declared themselves to be transfer patients.

I said nothing and remained quiet even when they asked, “Are there any more evacuees?” Suddenly one of the nurses passed by and, very surprised by my silence, said firmly, “You’re to be evacuated, aren’t you? Why didn’t you say something?”

I hesitated, not knowing what to answer. I said, “There’s no one to come with me. My family hasn’t arrived yet.”

“You don’t need an escort,” she said.

“But at least somebody in my family should know where I’m going,” I protested.

“Fine. We’ll let them know later,” she said.

“How will you do that?”

“Whatever. The helicopter isn’t going to wait. If you don’t get a move on, it’ll leave without you.”

“Exactly,” I said. “Let it.”

“What do you mean ‘let it’?” she asked. “Do you think this is a game? You’re one of the evacuees, you’ve got to go.”

“There are a lot worse off than me. Start by evacuating them, at least till my family comes. I’ll go on a later flight.” This made her angry, but she tried to stay calm on account of my condition. “There’s no telling when the next helicopter will come. In any case there’s nothing we can do for you here. If you stay you’ll get infected, and if the shrapnel severs your spine, the infection will paralyze you. It’s also possible you’ll die. Understand?”

She went away. I heard the sound of the helicopter. It seemed to be hovering. I prayed and prayed it would go, and I was thrilled when it took off. Around 10:00, uncle and Mr. Bahramzadeh came. The nurses told them, “Your patient refused to be evacuated.”

Uncle was furious with me. He said, “This place is filthy, chock-full of germs. You have no choice. What if the wound becomes infected? What do we do then?”

He was right. The floor of the ward and the hallways were full of dirt and grime. The ground was splattered with blood. It had rained and people were tracking mud and grime into the hospital. The more the staff tried to wash it, the more they spread the mud around. Being on a stretcher close to the ground I was in greater danger of infection than the others. Uncle and Mr. Bahramzadeh went to find the nurses again. They returned and said, “The nurses told us there is no knowing when the next helicopter will come, when the next evacuation will happen. It might take a week. We suggested to them that if they didn’t need you here for treatment, we might as well take you home. They had no objection but they said we had to wait for the doctor to come out of the operating room, because he’s got to give the okay.”

The specialists didn’t appear until afternoon. I was dying of hunger. They gave me serum. My kidneys weren’t functioning properly; despite all the serum they had pumped into me, there was no urine. My body had swelled up badly, and I could occasionally feel the weight of my lower parts, but I couldn’t make out the legs themselves. My arms hurt from not moving for so long. “Do you want us to hook up a urinary catheter?” the nurses asked.


They tried to give me an injection, but because of the swelling the needle couldn’t find the vein. It was very painful.

“I don’t want an injection,” I said.

“What a wonderful patient you are!” they declared. “Why are you so headstrong?”

I was in terrible shape until late afternoon. I imagined my head had gotten heavy and larger. When I closed my eyes, the nightmares and dizziness returned. I had become fed up with being on my stomach for days. On top of all that there were the groans from the patients they were constantly wheeling in and out of the ward. My heart went out to them, and, if I had been able to, I would have gotten up to help them.

The nurses were weary from overwork. There were too few of them to handle the volume of wounded. You could hear them grumbling at times. I kept my eyes on the door, waiting for a doctor to come and release me from the place. I felt extremely weak, and I craved a warm cup of tea. At home I would have had several cups by the late afternoon. Several times I begged the nurses to help me lie on my side, as my arms had fallen asleep.


To be continued …


Number of Visits: 98


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