Memoirs of Irān: Memoirs of a Sumayyah during the War

“The Resistance Literature and Art Bureau” has published many works on the role of women and first aiders during the Imposed War. Among these works are Dā: Memoirs of Seyyedeh Zahrā Hosseini, The Last Sunday: Memoirs of Ma`sūmeh Rāmhormozi, The Autumn of 1359 (1980): Memoirs of Zahrā Sotūdeh, Maryam`s Boots: Memoirs of Maryam Amjadi, From Chandeh-lā to the War: Memoirs of Shamsi Sobhāni, The Wayward Shoes: Memoirs of Soheilā Farjāmfar, This is my Home: Memoirs of Afsāneh Qāzizadeh, and Girls of O.P.D.: Memoirs of Minā Komāyi.
I got my hands on the 610th book during the last days of Khordād (June). The book entitled Memoirs of Irān is written by Akram Sādāt Hosseini under the penname Shivā Sajjādi in 22 chapters and 415 pages.
The first chapter is an account of Irān Torābi`s childhood and adolescence. She was born in Esfand 1334 (March 1956), in Tūyserkān County, in Hamedān Province. She reminisces the difficulties she suffered in relation to her going to school, passing the fifth and sixth grade both in the same year, going to high school, her father`s disapproval, and her cousin`s being beaten because of her going to school: “I brought up the subject and explained that my father would not let me go to high school to finish my studies. Looking upset, my cousin followed me downstairs. I stood outside the room. My cousin approached my father and asked him to let me continue my studies. But the more my cousin asked and insisted, the less my father agreed. When my cousin saw that my father would not consent at any cost, he rose to his feet and said: ‘I am taking Irān home to let her continue with her studies’. My father jumped angrily to his feet, slapped him several times, and said: ‘Who are you to argue with me?’ Subdued, my cousin left the room and admonished: ‘See; I got slapped because you want to go to school.’” (Page 14)
In the second chapter, Irān Torābi recounts how she left for Tūyserkān, enrolled in a midwifery training institute and chose this job, attended the classes, wore the uniform and took the practical courses at the hospital, attended the governmental ceremony, and graduated from the practical courses and midwifery courses.
The third chapter retells her experience as a midwife in Kārkhāneh Village, in Tūyserkān County. She relates labor complications among villagers and the village`s lack of labor facilities, neonatal and maternal deaths, SAVAK`s suspiciousness of her, etc. The fourth chapter recounts how she moved to Tehran in mid-Farvardin (early April) 1357 (1978) and began to work as a nurse`s aide at Alborz Hospital. After a few months, she was hired as an anesthesia technician by Farahnāz Hospital.
The fifth chapter recounts how Irān Torābi`s life changed, portraying the revolutionary days of her life. She recounts how she met the political and revolutionary groups and joined them: “Fliers publishing Ayatollah Khomeini`s words were sent to Iran. Dr. would hand me a number of fliers every time; and walking in the street, whenever the time was ripe, I would either let the fliers slip down to the floor from under my veil or else distribute them among those I felt I could trust. Many people took the fliers. Some might refuse: ‘We don`t want any trouble.’ Fliers were type-written on one page with the sentence ‘In the Name of God’ on top of the page. I myself read them; but I could not keep them at home; for we often entertained many guests. I wasn`t home often and had no place to keep them. Besides, my brother, who was a trainee at Eshrat-Ābād Garrison, did not approve of these activities much. That is why I passed the fliers into others once I read them.” (Page 88) Her memoirs retell her account of the Seventeenth of Shahrivar Massacre (September 8th 1978) by Shah`s regime, her father`s death from gastric cancer, her taking a leave from her work at the hospital under the pretext of taking care of her injured brother while she was in fact attending to those wounded in the Revolution at Sevom Sha`bān Hospital, the Shah`s defection and Shāpūr Bakhtiār`s ascent to the position of prime minister, Emām`s return to Iran, the victory of the Revolution, and the ensuing events and struggles until the end of Farvardin (mid-April) 1358 (1979).
The sixth chapter recounts how she joined the Islamic Association upon its formation. It is mentioned in the same chapter that when Jihad of Construction movement was initiated at the behest of Hazrat Emām Khomeini, she joined the medical team, travelling to a distant village in Tehrān Province every Friday: “In every village we travelled to, we would take lodgings at the biggest house or a school. We would thereafter announce that anyone could visit us in relation to his/her problems. People would receive us well. For as long as I had not seen with my own eyes, I would not have believed that the suburban villages of Tehrān Province were so poor and lacked so many facilities, and its residents had never been considered by the government. I had so expected to see the suburban villages of the Capital in far better conditions in comparison to the other villages I had so far travelled to. But Kārkhāneh Village and some other villages of Tūyserkān enjoyed better living conditions. When I saw that villagers lived in those poor conditions, I was suddenly reminded of the 2500 year celebration of the Persian Empire which was held in Takht-e Jamshid in 1350 (1971) for foreigners to see the uniforms of the Persian Army in different periods from the Achaemenids to the Qājārs. Much was spent on this celebration when many of the villages I travelled to lacked proper roads, electricity, sanitary water, schools, health centers, and even bathrooms.” (Pages 120–121)
The seventh chapter retells Irān Torābi`s account of her time in Pāveh where she fought Kūmala(1) alongside Dr. Mostafā Chamrān. In page 128, she talks of her first meeting with Dr. Chamrān: “I saw Dr. Chamrān first at the precinct. I had only seen him on TV before. Dressed in his usual military attire, he was accompanied by his deputy, Abū Sharif, and the commander of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution in Pāveh, Asghar Vesāli. Delighted to see us there, Dr. Chamrān welcomed us: ‘The city hospital is besieged by the counter-revolutionary. It was previously guarded by a number of soldiers to whom we have no access now. There had been shootings from inside the hospital until last night, but we do not know why they stopped. Sadly, it so appears that our soldiers have either been martyred or captured.’ ” The seventh chapter then recounts how Mr. Khalkhāli visited Pāveh, the army entered the city and the city became secure again, the wounded and the injured civilians attacked by Kūmala forces were treated, and she returned to Tehran once there was peace and security in the city of Pāveh again when the army entered the city.
The eighth chapter recounts the turning point in her memoirs, portraying the outbreak of the Imposed War. The eighth chapter recounts that she returns to the southern regions, meets Dr. Chamrān again, leaves Ahvāz for Sūsangerd at Dr. Chamrān`s request. The same chapter explains that houses and non-residential areas are bombed by Iraqi MiGs, the civilians are martyred, the Iraqi radio broadcasts threats, Sūsangerd`s hospital is bombed, the then-Minister of Oil, Dr. Mohammad Javād Tondgūyān, is captured. Page 170 reads: “It was decided that some of us who knew the by-ways well go to save the Minister and the others captive alongside him if possible; but they returned to inform us that they were taken by Iraqis into behind their lines, and nothing could be done anymore. Before he left, Dr. Chamrān paid me a visit in the operating room and asked me whether I needed anything. ‘No thanks’, I said.
Dr. Chamrān then: ‘We have so proved in this War that we are blessed with Sumayyahs and we shall hold our head high on the Day of Judgment. God willing when the War is over, and if I am alive when it is, I shall write an article about you and what you did in these trenches.’
Irān Torābi then reminisces how she gave birth to her child at Sūsangerd`s hospital under the heavy enemy fire, how she was urged to leave Sūsangerd by Dr. Chamrān because the city was besieged by Iraqis, and how she moved back to Tehrān.
The chapters nine to eleven recounts her memories of a second visit to Ahvāz following which she leaves Ahvāz for Sūsangerd to resume her work at the hospital, sees that defenseless civilians are being bombarded, hears that the team of Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line and Hossein Alam ol-Hodā have been martyred, returns to Tehrān and begins to work at Najmieh Hospital to treat the wounded, is weakened under the pressure of work, and hears of Dr. Chamrān`s martyrdom. These chapters also retell her account of Hafte Tir Accident (the Seventh of Tir Bombing- June 28, 1981), Dr. Beheshti`s martyrdom, Bani-Sadr`s defection alongside Mas`ūd Rajavi, etc.
Chapter twelve describes that in the summer of 1360 (1981), Irān Torābi was appointed by the then-president of the Iranian Academic Center for Education, Culture, and Research of Shahid Beheshti University, Dr. Ne`mat to recruit and send nursing forces and aiders to war zones. The remaining pages of this chapter entail details of the mechanical failures of the airplane she boarded and her fears of crashing, the news of the crash of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules and the martyrdom of a number of top commanders, her work at the hospital in Shūsh and the hospital staff`s objection to the presence of volunteer forces at the said hospital, the military forces` lack of cooperation in sending ambulances, the front-line commander`s refusal to be taken to Ahvāz`s Hospital to be treated there and his persistence to remain in the war zone, the radiologic technologist`s confronting Torābi and threatening to kill her, her taking part in Fat’h ol-Mobin Operation in 1361 (1982) and treating the Iraqi prisoners, etc.
The chapters thirteen to nineteen hold details of Irān Torābi`s work at different hospitals such as Pāsārgād, Vanak, Hashtom-e Shahrivar, Emām Hossein, Loqmān ol-Dowleh, Najmieh; her treatment of the wounded; the news of the Liberation of Khorramshahr and the public celebration following it. The same chapter describes how she returned to the battle zone and took part in Operation Valfajr-4, visited the war zone in 1362 (1983), attended the Funeral of Mahmūd Berahmeh, witnessed that Iraqis launched a chemical attack and Emām Hossein Hospital filled up with chemical casualties, was fired from the hospital by the university president for she accepted far too many chemical casualties, heard that she was to return to the hospital at the behest of Emām Khomeini, attended to those wounded in the operations carried out in the winter of 1365 (1986).
The nineteenth chapter recounts that Torābi puts forth a proposal for an emergency response team which is based in Tehran for emergencies and bombings. Her proposal is accepted by Dr. Dehqān: “We went to Vahidieh, a district near the hospital, once the team was ready to be dispatched. It was a while after the sunset. A number of us stood in the operating room, prepared to do any emergency surgery. It was then that we heard a horrible noise, and the building shook. When we reached to the place where the missile had hit, we saw that a few buildings had been destroyed, leaving a large hole. I had never seen such a thing. There would gather a large crowd anywhere a missile hit; so we were forced to sound the siren louder or else get out of the car and ask individuals to disperse so that we could save those who might be alive. Mourning and chanting ‘Down with Saddam’ and ‘Down with the US”, the public searched for a way to help. Overwhelmed with emotions, we too were crying. There were many people stuck under the debris. It was dark, so Jihadi forces used projectors to see the field, with loaders working to scoop up the debris. We could only save two individuals: One was a child who was shocked, and the other was a woman severely wounded. We took these two people into the hospital in our ambulance, rushing back immediately to the bombarded district.” The rest of the chapter describes how bombings got more severe in Tehrān, and how she attended to wounded combatants and civilians.
Chapter twenty retells her account of chemical bombings in Halabja ordered by Saddam late in 1366 (early in 1987): “Among those injured who were sent to the hospital, there was a woman who hugged the shrunken corpse of her one-month infant. She refused to be parted from her baby in spite of our insistence, putting the baby to her breast even though she knew her child was dead. It took us 24 hours to take away the dead child under the pretext of necessary medical attention for the baby. Her other children were not with her, and she looked for them. Her husband was beside her, but he was severely wounded and could do little to retrieve their children.” (Pages 365–366) This chapter then depicts other events: Resolution 598 is accepted; Monāfeqins (The People's Mujahedin of Iran Organization) attack Iran from beyond the western regions; she revisits the western regions to attend to those wounded in Operation Mersād; she returns to her family in Tūyserkān, then goes back to Tehrān, and resumes her work at Emām Hossein Hospital where she attends to those injured, etc.
In chapter twenty one, Ms. Torābi underlines the Liberation of Khorramshahr and Iranian war prisoners` returning home as her best memories. She then recognizes that Hazrat Emām Khomeini`s death was her worst memory: “It was so strange. We had to do no emergency operations that night. It was silent everywhere. Ms. Tājik and I said our prayers, praying for Emām`s health afterwards. Crying, we recited the Quran for a while. It was around four o` clock in the morning that we lay down. While speaking, I dozed off. I dreamt that I was in Jamārān Hosseiniyeh. I could see that the chair where Emām usually sat on was replaced by a bed upon which lay a person covered by a sheet. I approached the bed and pulled the sheet back and saw that there lay dead our Emām. Sobbing, I awoke. Ms. Tājik asked: ‘What`s wrong, Torābi?’ I sat up and said: ‘God willing it will have a good interpretation.’ I then put away some money for donation. I told her about my dream which brought her to tears. We cried for a while before we said our morning prayers when there was the morning call for prayer. We could not sleep then. At seven o` clock in the morning, I probed anyone who came to the hospital for news; there was no news. Before seven o` clock, the radio began to broadcast Surat ar-Rahman. I burst into tears then. My morning shift colleagues who had just arrived soothed me: ‘Don`t cry; nothing has happened.’ I said: ‘No, the fact that the radio is broadcasting a recitation of the Quran is an indicative that something has happened.’ The ticking clock counted down the remaining seconds to the news. Then the news presenter announced: ‘The spirit of the leader of Shi'as and the lord those fighting for freedom soared up to the Heavens’ His voice then cracked and he could not finish his sentence. I heard no more. When I was conscious again, I saw that some people had gathered around me.” (Page 388)
The twenty second chapter of Irān Torābi`s memoirs entails her post-war memories. While attending to the casualties of Operation Valfajr-8, she becomes a chemical casualty herself. Having inhaled chemical gases, she finds her body covered with blisters, but doctors diagnose seasonal allergy. When she is afflicted with the effects of these injuries which also deprive her of having more children, she goes to Iran`s Veterinary Foundation to treat her injuries. However, she finds herself maltreated by officials of the said foundation, who believe that she is after a certificate to ensure her future wages from the foundation. As a response, she then decides to tear up her medical records. She has now joined the Basij (volunteer forces) and does cultural works at a centre called Beit ol-Asgari. Due to her chemical injuries, she suffers from cancer for a while, yet praise to God she is recovered from the disease when she undergoes a number of operations and chemotherapy.
The book ends with Irān Torābi`s photos and documents of her presence in the war zone.
Shivā Sajjādi`s Memoirs of Irān portrays the role a TÅ«yserkāni girl played in the Revolution and the War. Irān Torābi was born in 1334 (1956) in TÅ«yserkān, in Hamedān. She underwent a training course for midwifery, but she was forced to quit from her job and move to Tehrān when she found out that SAVAK suspected her. In Tehrān, she took training courses in anesthesia technology to be able to attend to those wounded in protests. After the victory of the Revolution, she joined Jihad of Construction and began to work as a member of the medical team alongside the first medical personnel of the war; she served in the trenches like Sumayyah did for Islam(2).
Memoirs of Irān is the newest addition to the collection of works which shed a new light on the presence of the brave women of this country.

Asgar Abbāsnejād
Translated by: Katayoun Davallou

1. KÅ«mala is a Kurdish political party in Iran. KÅ«mala in Kurdish means association (
2.  Sumayyah was the first person in history to be murdered for having adopted the faith of Islam (

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