Saddam had recorded our plate number!

Interview with Mohsen Soroush

Ehsan Mansouri
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


Note: Looking at Mohsen Soroush it is hard to believe that he is so experienced and is aware of cultural activities of early 80s. His main concern is cultural activities and while discussing his interest he is focused on historical events. He works in a bank in Arak city and still participates in cultural events when invited. Talking to him, you lose track of time. We interviewed him for his cultural and art activities in 80s in Arak.


* We want to talk about art in Islamic Revolution. In fact all the works done by youth during Revolution; like theaters or songs, writings, graffiti (images of martyrs and Imam (P)) and even published materials.

Shall I cover general concepts or give details? I was active during 80s, almost from 85 when I finished primary school and moved to secondary school. In 87 I started high school. I remember activities at schools and bases and local mosques.


*Explain in details with examples. It would be better to mainstream.

Due to war and the situation which dominated the society and the city, Young people were very enthusiastic in such activities; everyone was eager to show his talent. For instance, singing among those who could sing in chorus or solo. We lived in Maskan which was also called Kuye Alavi or Martyr Maryam Razi. She was the first martyr killed in 86 after air bomb attacks on her way home from school. Mr. Sobhani was our neighbor at the time. May God protect him wherever he is; he is not in Arak I know that. He was creative and gathered a group of young people to set up a chorus to sing during Ramadan and Moharram for special ceremonies. We didn’t have drums and eco or other audio equipment at the time. Young children would sing in Moharram ceremonies accompanying mourning groups. The ceremony would take place during the first ten days of Moharram and it would end in the premises a resident’s house. There was a ceremony and I had the honor to sing during my primary and secondary school with my friends. I still have the books where we used to note the lyrics which I have written myself.


*Have you scanned them?

No! I don’t know where they are. I know I still have them because they were important to me. I still remember one of the songs that we would sing to end the ceremony. I was also active in group prayers.


* Heyat[1] was in the mosques or houses?

It was set up in the area. After Maghreb prayer, everyone would get out of the mosque for mourning and every night the population would grow. One individual was singing and there were no electronic equipment. Sometimes there was a hand microphone and then we had horns during high school that we wouldn’t trade it with eco.


*Who was the leader? Mr. Sobhani?

Mr. Sobhani was office worker. I think he’s retired now. I heard that he’s left the country. His child got a scholarship and he left.


*Are you in touch?

No! I’m not.


*Who else was active?

At the time, Mr. Karim was there. His son, Mehdi Karim, still lives in Maskan area. Mr. Karim is still alive. I don’t have his contact number but I roughly know where Mehdi lives; I mean I can find them. There was Mr. Sousan Abadi who is still here and I think he was retired from Railway Company. There were others as well. I should say that those active in 80s are not in Maskan, Kouyeh Alavi or Razi Street anymore and new people have moved in who don’t know the history. There was martyr Hamid Mahmoudi who was collaborating with us; his father passed away recently and the ceremony was in Alnabi mosque.


*Where you in Alnabi Mosque?

Yes! Indeed it was while after that Alnabi Mosque took its formal position. At the time it was not even constructed. They would set up awnings which would look like Husseyniah. Later, with the support of the residents the foundation was prepared to build the mosque and Mr. Mehdi Chaghayi was appointed in charge of the base and cultural activities.


*When did this happen?

It was during 82 to 84 when I finished primary school and started secondary school. When in winter of 86 the bombardment started I was third grade of secondary school. These activities were in the neighborhood; at school I was trying to support cultural activities and I would write things. I was as well interested in sports and fixed member of internal school matches. There was an award for winning class.


*Did you write poetry?

Not really! However, I was trying to read more. I would read books written by panegyrists; especially, Haj Sadegh Agangaran, because his books were very popular among students. I think I still have one of his books with a blue cover and his picture on it. He was in military costume and the book was titled “Golbarg Sorkh Laleha”[2]. There was another book that I had bought from Jamkaran[3] with a yellow cover. I would memorize writings but considering the occasion I would try to add something to it in a way that children and adolescents would as well understand it. In events, the four of us active in this field would presents relevant poems for five – ten minutes. These were my activities during primary school.


*Who was in charge of the Heyat in neighborhood?

Mr. Sobhani and Mr. Karim and late Haj Ferdosi. His son has a stationary shop in bazar. His other son was working in Railway Company. There was also father of Mr. Rezai.

In high school my activities changed. I stepped out of the neighborhood and started my activities in the city. We didn’t have secondary school in our neighborhood and I attended Shahid Hashemi Sanjani secondary school. Later it was demolished and rebuilt and now is a school for girls. When I was studying there a secondary school called “Razmandegan Islam”[4] was built in our district and it is still there. There was a school for girls called “Irshad”[5] next to it with its entrance from the opposite side. My sister was coming home with her friend that quiver injured her leg and she is veteran but her friend was martyred because the quiver hit her head.


*How and why did this happen?

We were in different shifts of schools. They were returning home and we were on our way to school. One of my classmates, Kambiz Moradi, was martyred that day. He was going to be expelled from school but his destiny was to be expelled in this way. He had ethical issues and there was no room to ignore it so he had come to school to be expelled that day. I saw his corps. He was very thin and a good kid from Tehran. His father was transferred to Arak; he was very cool. We told him: they’re going to expel you tomorrow? And he responded: yea! I’ve learned to read and write and it’s enough. I was very sorry and I think he deserved to school to be named after him. His family moved back to Tehran after he was killed. He wasn’t really presented well and many students never found out who he was. I moved to Razmandegan Islam school the next year. Two years after, since Hashemi Sanjani secondary school didn’t have third grade its students moved to our school; they were really naughty. There were good people amongst them who were martyred in third grade of secondary school. Then in 86 during air strikes Moradi was martyred and then Hamid Mahmoudi who joined the army voluntarily and was martyred in 87.

In secondary school our chorus was well established. A number of talented students joined us from Hashemi Sanjani school and were well known and won prized at provincial and national levels. At the time, Mr. Jafari was our principal. There was Mr. Esfandyari who moved out of Arak. Late Mr. Hamta was schoolmaster. Our school chorus participated in a festival but I don’t remember why I couldn’t join them that day and I was reprimanded.


*Do you remember the lyrics? Are there any tapes?

Then we only had audio cassettes. It was impossible to have cameras. The images they show on TV from soldiers joining forces from Arak are taken by one center in Arak who had categorized them and they try to show those in a better quality. There is a well preserved archive of these movies in Provincial Jihad Audio-visual Center and I shall say that Haj Nasser and Reza Amiri had done a brilliant job. Haj Nasser Amiri is a prominent figure in Holy Defense movie department at provincial level now. He is a very nice person and does everything in his power to support activities in this field. He has a rather strange archive at home and has set up a center recently.

I don’t have audio cassettes but it might be possible to find some. It all depends to the people and if they have cared enough to record and archive such activities so that we can refer to them and ask for pictures or cassettes. Then we had 110 photo cameras and to have a nice picture the light and everything had to be arranged. Sometimes half of the picture was black or burnt. Children hardly had access to these cameras; especially students who were from low-middle class families.

We had one 110 camera at home. We used to live in Khuzestan and moved here after war. In Khuzestan we had a Polaroid camera. The best thing about Polaroid cameras was that once you had taken the picture it would print it out. We left it with all other stuff in Khoramshahr when war started. Two years later, after Khoramshahr was taken back, when my later father went back, there were no pictures in our house anymore. All pictures were taken from albums.

Those cameras were very good. The quality of pictures was good as well. The picture itself was very small because of the white frame around it but the quality was good. The image was never blurring. I think I took some pictures during secondary school and gave the negatives to my friends to print it but they never returned them.


*Did you have theatre shows in secondary school?

Those activities started in high school with Haj Tayebi. After the air strike that I told you about we were settled in Kheibar Hotel in the Industrial City since there were no shelters left. After the air strikes in Khuzestan we lost our home and move here and then there were air strikes here and we lost our home again. That’s why we used to joke about it and say: Saddam has recorded our plate number and is pursuing us. We have to sell this Peykan as soon as possible. It was realized and our Peykan was destroyed and they gave us a mustard color Peykan and those who had a Citroën Dyane got a Renault. I wanted to say that before high school since we couldn’t stay in one place inevitably I joined Industrial City Sepah and started my activities there.


*Was the headquarters set up?

No! It was Industrial City Sepah in Banafsheh Square next to Imam Sadegh Center.


*Was it next to Resistance Center?

Yes! That’s right. Then it was Industrial City Sepah.


*It is now a school?

Yes! But there is still Sepah’s logo. We started there. We experienced military camps and night strikes and shooting there. Mr. Farhad Shafi’ie and Mr. Majid Goudarzi were there. Mr. Qazvini was there as well. Mr. Abolfazl Amini who is the governor now, was there. When I started high school I moved to Islamic Association. Cultural activities continued there in 80s.


[1] Designated setting for Moharram ceremonies.

[2] Tulips’ red petals

[3] Jamkaran is located on the outskirts of Qom, and is the site of the Jamkaran Mosque, a popular pilgrimage site for Shi'iteMuslims.

[4] Soldiers of Islam

[5] Guidance

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