In Commemoration of our Christian Compatriot Veterans

Nastaran Poursalehi

We start today, Saturday January 1st 2011, as our Christian compatriots celebrate the Christian New Year. By “Christian compatriots” I mean those who fought alongside Muslim veterans as well as Zoroastrians and Jews. They defended our homeland, Iran, during the 8-year imposed war. It inspired me to analyze the books published about Christian martyrs.
As a first step, I called “The Armenian Diocese of Tehran” and the only clue that I found there was a book that was published by “Armenian Diocesan Publishing Foundation” in 2006 under the title of 8 years of imposed war and Iranian Armenians. But unfortunately Norhayer Shah’nazarian the writer of this book had emigrated and I couldn’t interview him. As a second step, I called Alik Daily and had a very short conversation with its reporter, Ms. Carineh Davidchian. She mentioned a few facts about the publication of the book. The third step was calling “The Armenian Diocese of Tehran” for a second time to seek Arman Bodaghians’s phone no.
Bodaghianse is the author of Gol-e-Maryam (The Tuberose) (published by Sarir and Nasim-e Hayat-e Qum Publishing Companies in 2006), a unique book dedicated to Christian martyrs. But unfortunately he had also emigrated to another country. I chanced upon the head of the “Armenian Language and Literature Department” at “Islamic Azad University, Central Tehran Branch”, Andranik Simonian. As a last attempt I tried to contact the “Union of Iranian-Armenian Writers” and talk with some members but it was in vain. Here is a look at the outcome of my efforts:
“About 150 of our Christian compatriots lost their lives in the run-up to the victory of the Islamic Revolution and then during the war either at battlefields or as a result of enemy bombardment of cities throughout the country”, says Carineh Davidchian. “These people who are called “Nahadagnir (martyrs)” in Armenian language have gained a lofty position among people like Muslims, therefore on national occasions like February 11th, some state officials accompany Archbishop “Sebouh Sarkissian”, priests and church choirs who converge on the Christian cemetery (on Khavaran road in south-east of Tehran) to commemorate them.” She added. “The archbishop also meets the martyrs’ families on holidays and feasts.”
It seems such activities are more important among Armenian compatriots than writing books about Christian martyrs. As I mentioned before over the past 20 years since the war ended, just two books under the titles of Gol-e-Maryam and 8 years of imposed war and Iranian Armenians have been written by them. These books mostly introduce the Christian martyrs and just present some short memoirs of them. Sixteen churches in Tehran do not have any library; however, they sell these two titles in their non-Persian bookstores.
Dr. Simonian who developed an interest in the subject of this report thanks to some of his students’ engagement in collecting data for Gol-e-Maryam believes there have been poor efforts in this regard and these two books are not comprehensive either. “The story of each and every single Christian soldier falling martyr or being wounded or even the story of patience exercised by their families is very interesting. These stories can be useful in writing a wide range of books; especially while it is possible to promote these stories through interviews with family members and veterans. These devoted people played different roles in war; such as professionals, craftsmen, workers and etc. They had a key role in establishing some centers for repairing motor vehicles and machinery or emergency aid and relief supplies. They were ready in the thick of the war and helped war-stricken people during the Sacred Defense but these sacrifices are being ignored due to some restrictions on religious minorities. So Christian researchers and authors are annoyed and have no motive to do anything in this regard.” Dr. Simonian explained.
Dr. Simonian believes a comprehensive book about Christian martyrs or those who were disabled in action has yet to be written and says: “In published books, we can’t see even one tenth of whatever that had to be done. I believe the Armenians need the government support to write about these subjects more comprehensively.”
But writing about Christian martyrs and veterans is not limited to the circle of these people. Although we couldn’t find any academic research or paper in “Foundation of the Martyrs and Veterans Affairs”, but some Sacred Defense authors had released books from 1984 to 2006 by different publishers. For example The Christian Martyrs, Revolution’s Red Tulips and In Commemoration of Christians, Zoroastrians and Jewish Veterans which was published as special issue during the Conference for appreciating the Christian, Zoroastrian and Jewish Veterans.
We should also refer to the latest book in this field written by “Hujjat Shahmohammadi”. He collected and edited the memoirs of Souren Hacoupian about his 4 years captivity in POW camp of Sadam’s intruder army by 10 hours interview. In addition, he edited memoirs of 3 Christian martyrs, Verej Baghoumian, Reymon Baghramian and Vartan Abrahamian in a book under the temporary title of 3 Green-like Reds. It will publish after final confirmation of The Bureau for Resistance Literature at General Provincial Administration of Arts Center (Hozeh-ye Honari).
“One battle night when all the fighters were praying (Du’a-ye Kumayl)  I was alone and did not know what to do. I entered the trench keeping a book in my hand and sat behind them. I did not know what they were saying. So, while keeping a cross in hand I started to repeat with them.” the writer quoted from one of Hacoupian’s memoirs. Shahmohammady believes most of our Christian compatriots entered the war fronts through the Army of Islamic Republic of Iran and they have a soft spot for telling their memoirs to show their role in Islamic Revolution and Sacred Defense.
Although what you read above is the result of my step by step searches for any publication about Christian veterans, but in the absence of many subjects, lack of a comparative study between the wills of Muslim and Christian martyrs is deeply felt.

Translated by: Safa Sehri

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