SABAH (46)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


SABAH (46)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami

Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

Published by Soore Mehr Publishing Co.

Persian Version 2019

Chapter Ten

At the night of the eighteenth day of autumn, Iraqis targeted and shot Khorramshahr throughout the whole night. We really felt that the city fall count down has started. In the morning of eighteenth, Zahra, Dr. Mostafavi, Hassan Sorkhou, Dr. Sa’adat and I went to the frontline with the Abouzar team members. Since we were many in numbers, we could take more aid equipment. We filled two ammunition boxes with gauze, bandage, Betadine, Savlon, adhesive tape … and loaded it in the back of the pick-up. Dr. Sa’adat sat on the boxes. Zahra Hossein and I sat inside the pick-up. The pick-up went down Fakhr Razi Street and reached the Darvazeh square. From Darvazeh square we reached the end of Jomhouri Avenue and entered Mowlavi Street. We went towards Imam Mousa Kazem mosque in Sheytan bazar.

Abouzar team members said that we had to go to Imam Mousa Kazem mosque for coordination and getting more forces and facilities. We entered the mosque. Some public forces and some members of Abouzar team members such as Masoud Paki, Hamid and Ghasem Khoshnud were there. One of them went to the authorities of the mosque for coordination. They said: “the Iraqis are at the entrance of Santap and we could not go there directly and there is the high risk of being shot.” We had the same experience yesterday. One of the army members of Khorramshahr was there too. He said: “We want to go there to force back the Iraqi forces from customs but we do not know how to reach there to avoid casualties and losses.”

In that group I was the only one from Santap region and knew all the corners very well. I passed the same route every day with my mom through the houses of the area and the date garden. We went to Sheytan bazar for daily shopping. We had two paths to reach to the school; one was through the pond which passed through date garden and the other one passed from Santap Street. I had passed the same route many times and knew the path like the back of my hand. For those who did not know the backstreets of Santap area, it was hard to find the right path to escape. When I saw the situation, I stepped forward and said: “I am from that area. My primary high school has been Abbas Masoudi behind Sheytan bazar. I have commuted this path for many years and I know that area pretty well. I can take you there in a path that the Iraqis will not notice our presence.”

During frequent commutes to the mosque and the hospital, we all knew each other. Maybe for this reason they trusted me and accepted to follow me and let me guide the soldiers. It was decided to wait in the mosque for a while for others to arrive and then move. Our stay lasted two three hours. In the middle of the yard of the mosque there was a small pool which contained water. Although the water was not clean but it was better than nothing. Zahra and I washed our hands and faces and took some water for ablution. We went to the corner of the yard where nobody could see us, found a piece of bed sheet and kept it as a curtain for each other and did our ablution.

None of us had chador. I had lost my chador in the mosque. Zahra had covered a corpse with her chador during the first week of the war when she was involved in the transfer of martyrs to Jannat Abad and in the road-police region had come across a decomposing and torn corpse covered in worms and maggots that nobody was willing to touch. She had no choice but to cover the body with her chador and take it to Jannat Abad for burial with the help of others. After prayer we had lunch which was canned tuna and also some watermelon. Each one of us took a bite.

Finally the forces that we were waiting for arrived. We moved towards the customs. We were less than twenty people. I was leading the group. G3 was on my shoulder. It had not moved forward much that the same army force who had told that they wanted to go to the customs but do not know the safe way, approached me. He was a tall, white skinned and handsome man. He said: “sister you are our leader now. It is not right if I carry a UZI and you carry a G3. This is heavy for you and bothers you. UZI is lighter. Take my weapon and give me your G3. You will be more comfortable.”

His straight hair had fallen on his forehead. He was a shy and noble young man. When he was talking, he did not raise his head. Then he quickly started explaining the UZI functioning mechanism. He gave me a one-minute training and waited for me to take the weapon. I moved my G3 from my shoulder and handed it over to him and got the UZI and thanked him. UZI was a handy and light weapon. I knew that it was made in Israel and had heard that it did not chick back in constant fire.

I wanted to guide the soldiers towards the customs using the side road. We had to pass streets and avenues where mostly Arab public lived. If anybody had stayed in his/her house and could see us, would have reported us to the fifth column and Iraqis. Anyway, this route was better than taking them on the path which was in the target of Iraqis.

The rural houses of Arabs were called Sarifeh. They were located in palm groves. Sarifehs were summer houses which had one room and was made of bamboos and thatches. The owners of these houses moved to other houses which they owned in cities or other places such as Shadgan and … during winter times. The war had also reached their houses and there were many half-destructed Sarifehs left in the palm groves, abandoned. Most of the roofs were destroyed and there was no door left. All home appliances of the owners were left on the ground inside and in the yard. Most of the sleeping blankets were burnt. Everything was turned upside down.

Since I had promised to guide the soldiers from a safe road, I was worried. I was afraid that somebody might hide in the houses and report us to the Iraqis. Wherever the appearance of a house was suspicious, I asked them to wait. I kicked the door with my foot and checked inside to make sure nobody is inside. For example, if the door of a house was closed and the window was open, I doubted that fifth column might be inside. Therefore, I checked the house first and then we progressed. Hassan Sorkhou followed me to every house I went. He worried that something might happen and I could not handle it.

Our movement was slow. Blast and shooting sounds were heard constantly from far and near. Little by little we approached our area. Our house was in Seyhan Zadeh Street. I was still anxious as before. All our neighbors were followers of Arab public and only Haj Habibi and one two other families and my family supported the Islamic Republic.

Despite my anxiety, I longed to see our house. I wished I could have a look inside and see its condition, but we did not have time. Besides I was not willing to announce to strangers that our house was there. I don’t know the reason but I did not like to tell anyone where our house is. Only God knows how much I wanted to go home. I wanted to go into the hall and sit beside the samovar besides my father’s bedroom and stretch my legs and drink a cup of tea and relax. Drink tea and stare at the beautiful picture of Imam where he was leaning to an apple tree. My mom had placed the photo of Imam besides samovar so that we could start our day by looking at the face of our Leader. I wish I could go and fetch the suitcase in which the books and statements were hidden and we had buried it with Ali in the bathroom floor at night. At least I could go and fetch our photo albums and take it with me. Nobody knew what was going to happen.

We passed our house and I did not say a word. The house was in good condition. We entered a small palm grove which had a number of palm trees. After the palm grove, there was a big river which was very wide and we jumped over it with a lot of effort and entered a part where half-constructed houses were there. In front of the half-constructed building there was a stream called Mamouri stream.

During Shah’s time, in a part of the stream, big sewage pipes called Ego were placed inside the ground. These Egos were two meters in diameters. The sewage water entered the stream and poured into the river. On the other side of the stream, Hosseyniyeh of Sheikh Dezful was located and a little bit farther was the customs. We could not move forward anymore. We stood there in absolute silence and camouflage. Our distance with the Iraqis was so little that we could hear the voices of the Iraqis clearly when they were talking in the customs.

Among the buildings, we selected a two-story half-constructed building which had good overlook to the location of Hosseyniyeh and Mamouri Street. Dr. Sa’adat, Zahra and Dr. Mostafavi stayed on the first floor and the rest of the forces and I went to the second floor to assess the situation. We could not see much from inside the building, therefore we went to the roof very quietly. We moved in bending position not to be seen. We took shelter on the edge of the roof. The commander of the army selected two RPG operators and stationed them on the roof. We could see the Hosseyniyeh of Sheikh Dezful clearly from the holes which were among the bricks of the roof. The Iraqis were in Hosseyniyeh. There were a lot of Iraqi forces there. We could hear them talk clearly. They had exited customs and entered Santap area and its houses.

The commander was arranging his forces on the roof. All of a sudden one of the RPG operator assistants stationed in the arc, got excited when he saw the Iraqis. He put his weapon on automatic shooting without coordination and started shooting towards the Iraqis yelling God is great.

We were all shocked. Nobody was supposed to act independently. We had to act all together to surprise Iraqis to strip them from the chance of defense. He ruined our plans.

The RPG Operator Assistant dropped himself down the arc after finishing shooting. He did this to save himself from their shots. We were all in vertical position on the roof. The Iraqis kept attacking the building non-stop. They were raiding the roof. It was a bad situation. They had targeted the edge of the room. The wall was cracking quickly and disappearing. They knew that we are hiding behind that wall. Iraqis hit the arc with an RPG and blocked our entrance to the staircase. We could not go down therefore we moved in vertical position towards the other edge of the room which had a way to the next building.

The next building was one-story. We had to get to the roof and find a way to escape. One by one we hung on the edge of the roof and jumped down. It was not difficult and we jumped safely. We had reached to a location where we were safe from the enemy fire and could relax for a few seconds. One of the soldiers looked at the neighbor’s roof and said: “there is a backyard between the two buildings, this means that if we want to jump from this roof to the other we have to jump a distance of almost one and a half to two meters. If we fall, it will be difficult to climb again and we might be trapped.”

My heart dropped. What about me?! What should I do?! Although I was thin and tall and could take long steps or jump well, but what if I couldn’t?! God knows what would happen to me. Who could take the time and pull me up. How such a thing was possible in this situation? They decided to jump one by one.

Each one of them said in the name of God and ran for two meters on the roof and jumped over the backyard. Thanks God they all could jump safe and sound with all those heavy G3 and RPG weapons and ammunition backpacks. The commander and I were the last ones. The Commander was reluctant to say something but was shy. I asked: “you don’t want go brother?” he said: “you go first …” I said: “Does it make any difference?! You go first and I’ll jump next.”


To be continued …

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