A child from Salman generation

A Review of the Book "Footprints of Fog"

Fereydoun Heydari Molkmian
Translated by: Fazel Shirzad

2021-05-11


"I was very persistent in going to Syria and acting in any way ... I had missed the era of sacred defense for years ... many people used to say that the wartime generation would not be repeated, but this was not the truth; there are always persons of Salman Farsi generation to be active in history and win the deal in this business and I was trying in the hope that I would be in this line and I asked the martyrs to take my hand and end this separation ... "(pp. 12 & 13)

This is the frank and honest statement of one who tries to give an overview of the urgent intention at the beginning of his memoirs, which gives a sacred meaning to the reason and motivation for his joining the group of shrine defenders[i]; and he still struggles with himself again:

"I was sitting and reciting the Ashura prayer, wondering whether I was suffering from daily life, I can give up my family and worldly belongings after the war when I got married. In the war that had started inside me to go to Syria, I said to me: is it a victory with worldly affiliations or pushing back all of them and reach the meeting of the great God? If the Karbala incident[ii] occur again, where are we in this incident? Will we cooperate in this war and make worldly excuses? Will we become soldiers of Imam Hussein (PBUH) in the incident of Karbala?" (Pp. 31 & 32)

The book "Footprints of Fog" is the memoirs of Ali Purshokouhi, compiled by Mir Emad al-Din Fayazi for the Office of Resistance Studies and Culture in Gilan Province, and Surah Mehr Publications published 360 pages and 1250 copies.

The book begins with a relatively short note from the Gilan’s Arts Center and first briefly mentions Syria and its importance in one of the most sensitive and tempestuous geographical areas of the world. Throughout history, Syria has always been a point of struggle for regional and global powers to dominate. Iran is also said to have played an important role as an ally of Syria in the fight against ISIS and regional coalition forces, and that "the direct presence of Iranian forces in Syria as council forces (shrine defenders) opened a new window in the strategies of the Islamic Republic and many young people from this country (Iran) were sent to Syria to defend an Islamic country, whose events, like the events of the sacred defense era, have special features that can be continued in the oral history and memoir-writing in the process of oral history for the sacred defense." (P. 9)

Thus, the note to Ali Purshokouhi, a fighter during the years of the sacred defense, ends as follows: "At the age of retirement, he joined the shrine defenders and went to Syria in three stages to stand against ruthless and extremist enemies who had no choice but to win." (P. 9)

After the note of Gilan Art Center, we refer to the section that has been written in more than eight pages by Mir Emad al-Din Fayazi and it deals with how to compile the memoirs of Ali Purshokouhi and how the author succeeds to do it in the format of this narrative.

Then, the narrator is introduced, in which he first insists on the constant struggle against the system of domination according to the words of Imam Khomeini, and, in the more, saying yes to go to war in Syria. A group of the best members of this unit were prepared in a pre-determined place for training and fighting against guerrillas and living in difficult and special conditions." (P. 22)

The text of Ali Purshokouhi's memoirs begins on page 25 and continues for 54 chapters, including three attachments, to page 342. Then there are pages related to the photos, and at the end, attachments. Of course, images are not limited to these few pages; some photos related to the subject of the Syrian war are included at the end of some chapters.

Ali Purshokouhi was sent to Syria three times during the years 2015 to 2017 to participate in the war against the Takfiri enemy. He wrote a part of his memoirs from his two attendances in 2015 and 2016 in the form of a diary and completed others later. This is the initial text that is finally handed over to Mir Emad al-Din Fayazi in the field of art in Gilan to compile it in the form of a book. Fayazi writes about this: "In the text I read, I came across generalizations and summaries in the expression of some memories, which sometimes go beyond the diary. In some passages, the generalizations required a deeper elaboration and explanation. In some cases, I saw the narrator give a brief explanation in a statement, and then, by using the word "summary", he avoided further explanation and went on to another subject." (P. 12)

Thus, the author talks to the narrator in person and asks him to recount more memories of the events of his deportation to Syria. Fayazi also asks the narrator to recount the memories of the Islamic Revolution and the years of the Iraqi imposed war against Iran to get to know him better to make the right choice in compiling the text of his memoirs. Therefore, the narrator mentioned the memories of the Islamic Revolution and the years of the imposed war in several sessions. Even, after that, the narrator started writing again and added other things, which he remembered, to the primary text. Following that, the various stages of correcting and re-reading were done within a month, and a narration which was taken from the corrected and completed written memoirs of the narrator and his oral memoirs was obtained in mid-October 2018. In addition, the text was provided to the narrator three times in different stages." (P. 16)

In the final compilation of this text in the context of Gilan Art Center, the author necessarily conveys some additional explanations in the main text to the footnotes and, in some places, asks the narrator to add to the text in the continuation or below the memoir if he remembers more explanation or details. Fayazi writes in this regard: "This can be considered from two aspects, one is that another structure has been added based on the mentality of one who compiles the narrative, which includes understanding the narrator's moment when writing diaries of events around the trip to Syria. And another is the narrator's present moment in recalling the past events in Syria, which is written in the same text. Therefore, considering the far and near effects of events in the narrator's mind, the form of this work helps both narrative time and the necessity of changes made in the text. At this stage, if the verbs of the narrator's narrative of the written memoirs and the memoirs were added and told later, these intervals and the passage of time and subsequent effects would not be seen in them. The attempt to regulate the work was to pay attention to the narrator's originality." (Pp. 17 and 18)

Thus, the text of the memoirs that we have is a momentary and shocking report of the deployment of a part of the Gilan’ IRGC forces to Syria, which is explicitly narrated by the narrator (Ali Purshokouhi).

In Chapter One, the narrator says: "I have been ready to go to Syria since November 2015 ..." (p. 26). And in Chapter Two: "It was November 2015. I waited for two or three weeks for them to announce. I used to think about going to Syria. The sound of Meysam Motiei's eulogy also helped my mind to believe that God willing, we will be in Damascus soon and we will become whatever Imam Zaman (PBUH) wants." (P. 33) until two weeks later they call and it is decided to go to the 16th Quds Division of Gilan for a meeting in which eleven or twelve people participate.  There, General Mohammad Ali Haqbeen, the operational commander of the Gilan Quds Force, gives initial talks about ISIS and that  "what is ISIS and you do not see ISIL as it is shown in the pictures, and no one can do anything, but ISIS is like the force we faced in Kurdistan in 1981-1982, we are with Komala and the Democrats who were much stronger than ISIS." (P. 34) Then "General Haqbeenn introduced the officials of the units and said that the comrades should know each other. Then he said: We will select the forces, who are here, in different aspect and this number and this list are not definite, and it will be determined who will be sent until the last day that you are going to be sent. "Another meeting was scheduled." (P. 34)

In Chapter Three, when the narrator is convinced that he is on a mission to Syria, he decides to discuss the matter with his small family, his wife, and his only child. His wife refers to his injured status and asks him not to go to Syria. But he responds: "I accept what you say, but in the war against ISIS, we still do not have a balance. They are talking about missiles. I am going to teach there." (Pp. 37 and 38) He also talks to his daughter to prepare the situation for leaving:" I am going to Syria, it is a trip and maybe I never come back…" (p. 38) However, the first nine chapters of Ali Purshokouhi’s memoirs are devoted to preparation for going to the Syrian war front. Finally, one day near sunset, the forces of the specialized equipment battalion boarded a bus and go to Imam Khomeini Airport. He got on the plane 4:30 – 5.  "We were confused about where we were going. Our idea we thought that we should fight as soon as we got off." (P. 70)

In Chapter Ten, they have been in Syria. They arrive in Damascus after a two-hour flight. After settling in a school, the first thing they do is go by bus to visit the shrines of Hazrat Zainab (PBUH) and Hazrat Roghayeh (PBUH) at night. The next day, they were to board a C-130 plane and go to Aleppo.

From chapters Ten to Thirty-Two, the first deployment to Syria described; departure from Damascus to Aleppo and then the outskirts of Aleppo, the city of Behous.

They were waiting in the first and second days in the barracks for their mission to be assigned. On the third day and after having breakfast at 10:00 AM, they leave by bus from Behous Barracks to the main headquarters in Al-Hazir. Along the way, they see the depth of the tragedy in Syria; Cities and villages that were destroyed, people who lived along the roads and did not have facilities such as water, electricity, fuel, and food, etc.

In Al-Hazir, General Haqbeen clarified the situation in the region and explained how to deal with the enemy. The situation is difficult. On the other hand, the weather in Al-Hazir village was very cold. They seemed to have to change their routine altogether and adapted to the process of sleeping and waking up and eating seriously. Maybe the situation should be such that they sleep less at night or did not sleep at all and had one meal a day. All this was part of the essence of war. Everyone was ready.

A few comrades are supposed to move to the city of Zeiten. At the end of the city, there were large silos where the enemy was stationed and mortars the city. Of course, the enemy moves were more at night. Two comrades who came to the front line were injured by a wave as a result of mortar fire. At that time, they were practically engaged in a serious war with the Takfiris[iii]. The war continues until the "Bashkoy" line is broken and reaches "Tal al-Jabin", which means the beginning of the liberation of the cities of "Nuble" and "Al-Zahra", and when the line is broken, the commanders congratulate General Haqbeen from the radio.

The people of Nuble and Al-Zahra were Shiites and had been under siege by the Takfiris for nearly four years. Whenever an operation was carried out to break the enemy’s line and besiege this area, it failed, but this time the comrades of the 16th Quds Division of Gilan were able to break this line, and this is the beginning of the next victories. However, struggles and wars with the Takfiris continue elsewhere. Anyway, the 45-day mission ends, and after a while, they all leave for Damascus, and after visiting the two holy shrines, which bring the same atmosphere of arrival time to them, after the evening prayer, they arrived at the airport and fly to Iran.

In Chapters Thirty Three to Thirty-five, some of the days are described when the narrator still spends time with his family. However, in his narration, he speaks of a rebirth: " When I came, I felt that I was born again, that is, ever sin and mistake that I have committed up to now, God had put it aside, and a new opportunity has begun for me, and now all my life must change. My thoughts, perspective, and everything I had in the past must change, because I could have been martyred like those comrades,  but God did not want it, God has given me another opportunity to live. Do I get caught up in daily life and do the same things happen in my daily life again? On the other hand, I almost knew when the next deployment to Syria was; We had a deployment period, that is, the end of our mission was the beginning of the mission of others. I had to prepare myself mentally until the next deployment." (P. 201)

Chapters Thirty-Six to Forty-Six describes the second phase of the deployment. When they return to Syria, they go to Aleppo again from Damascus and from Aleppo to the largest garrison in the Middle East. General Haqbeen told them:" This time we have come to Syria as ready forces. Ready force, like firefighters, must always be ready. General had more fighting morality and used to work thoughtfully. The narrator also had a Syrian SIM card and saw that the terrorists are constantly sending the message that, "we are carrying out a large operation and we ask the Syrian people and forces to leave the war." There was a lot of propaganda. That was why the defenseless people around Aleppo panic and run away from their homes. The messages said that they had 50,000 troops and that their operation would begin soon and that we would attack the Iranians heavily so that they would be remembered forever. On the other hand, the comrades put pressure on the enemy, but they resist. They fired the comrades all around. The sound of gunfire comes from all directions. The struggles continue and some comrades were martyred nevertheless, the infantry shows great self-sacrifice. In a message, General Soleimani thanked the forces of the Quds Force of Gilan and said: "Without the resistance of the Gilan forces, the situation would have been complicated in Aleppo."

The war continues in Aleppo, and in the meantime, the Purshokouhi’s wife suddenly announced the death of his father. When he heard the news, General Haqbeen offered his condolences and asks him to return to Iran, but Purshokouhi wanted to stay along with the fighting forces. During this time, he had become accustomed to them and it was uncomfortable for him to separate from them. However, he had to return to Iran. When he returned, he said goodbye to General Haqbeen and asked him to be satisfied with him as a commander. He says goodbye to all his comrades but promises to call him at the earliest opportunity.

it is described in Chapters Forty-Five to Forty-Nine that Ali Purshokouhi returns from Syria to Iran and the embrace of his family to prepare again for the appropriate time to be sent to the Syrian war front.

In Chapters Fifty to Fifty Four, it is again spoken about the presence of Purshokouhi on the Syrian battlefield; Once again, the barracks are busy, but not yet operational, until the commander-general Haqbeen gathers his forces and justifies the area to the comrades, and describes the situation of the insiders and the enemy on a map. Since the forces of Gilan are very ready, they were responsible for most of the difficult and hasty tasks.

After that, they used to practice and prepare the tools and attend training classes. It took a while but the enemy did not move much and the situation seems almost normal. Thus, the last days of the mission come to an end and the comrades were gradually getting ready to return to Iran.

The book "Footprints of Fog" also has three attachments: In the first attachment, the narrator recounts his memories of the 101st Brigade. In the second attachment, his memories are recounted from Sari’s Goharbaran garrison to Chalous’s Al-Mahdi garrison, and the third attachment deals with the memories of Operation Karbala 5.

 


[i] It is a phrase that the Iranian government uses for their advisers and military personals fighting in Iraq and Syria in defense of Shia holy shrines that are often targeted for destruction by Sunni rebels.) Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Shrine_Defender.)

[ii] It refers to The Battle of Karbala was fought on 10 October 680. 

[iii] A takfiri is a Muslim who commits takfir, i.e. accuses another Muslim of apostasy, i.e. of not being a true Muslim, potentially a cause of strife and violence in the Muslim community. (Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takfiri.) 



 
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A child from Salman generation

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