SABAH (60)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


SABAH (60)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami

Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

Published by Soore Mehr Publishing Co.

Persian Version 2019



The army commander accepted. Four five people went back to bring water, food and ammunition. It was about one hour that they had left. The clashes still continued. Some of the forces announced that since we are running out of ammunition, do not shoot automatically. We were supposed to shoot separately and with some time distances from each other.

After around two hours of resistance, we noticed that the Iraqi bullets are coming from the right side and not from opposite. The bullets hit the palm trees behind which we had taken trench. We were shocked. We did not know what part to cover, our opposite front or the right-side front. Little by little we heard the humming of Iraqis that could be heard in short distance from the right and left side.

It was around sunset. We did not know why it took the team so long to return with logistics vehicle and team members. The sun was still in the sky but dark would arrive soon. If we stayed there without any movement, we would not be able to find the way to return as the palm groves would be covered in total darkness very soon. We were standing there clueless of what to do. One of the team members who were from the public forces and had private clothes on, said in a loud and worrying voice: “We are falling into a circle of blockade. We have to return quickly. We have to withdraw.”

We did not know where we are. We did not have VHFs and our connection with others was totally cut. We did not know what had happened to the other members of the other groups. Either we had progressed a lot or the others had the similar situation.

We felt terrified and anxious. We were in an awkward situation. The army commander had stressed that nobody has the right to withdraw even for one step but on the other hand the voices of Iraqis and their bullets were getting nearer.

A few team members were getting ready to withdraw and even went back for a while. When I saw that they were determined to recess and were in process of encouraging others to do so, I raised my voice and said: “No! Nobody has the right to recess!”

The same soldier told in a protesting tone: “To stay for what?! Maybe those who have gone to bring help have fallen into conflict and forgotten us.” I said: “Even if they have forgotten us, nobody has the right to recess. We will stay here and resist until our last bullet.”

He said in an aggressive tone: “Should we stand and be held captive?! Standing for what?!” I said: “Didn’t the commander order us to stay here?! So, we should stay. Either we will kill, or we will be killed … there is nobody else than us. The Iraqis are in our soil. If we don’t resist, then who should?! If we leave this place, the Iraqis will siege it?!”

When I said these words, he just moved his hand as if he wanted to say “drop it” and walked towards the back. Four five others also followed him quickly. When I saw that he is very keen on going back, I armed my weapon and targeted him and said: “If you take one more step, I will shoot you myself.” He stood without motion as soon as he heard my words. He looked back at me. I told him again: “I swear to the God of Mohammad, that I will shoot you if you move one step.”

He looked at me with anger and hatred. He said no more, came back and took a trench behind one of the palms. Nobody said anything. Nobody approved or disapproved me or him. They all stood and watched. For one instance, I saw Ghasem Farrokhi. He was smiling and nodded as a sign of approval. I felt motivated of what I had done when I saw his smile.

We took trench behind the palms. We kept resisting with the amount of ammunition that we had left. If we did not stand up, they would progress and deal with us. We shot towards them with accuracy and with caution. With the kindness of God, they started moving away from us. We still had hope in our hearts that the aid would arrive. It took about two and a half hours for them to arrive. These two hours took like one life time for me. I felt a strange responsibility towards the team. Although I had followed the order of the commander and had obliged the others to stay, but I still worried that I might have done wrong and cause their death. Thanks God, the Iraqis moved back with the resistance that we showed. The shooting also decreased.

When I saw the logistics car, I felt relieved. They had come with car and a few numbers of soldiers. Dr. Sa’adat was not with them. I asked about him from the army commander and he said that his work in Red Crescent has taken long. With the arrival of helping soldiers and ammunition and food, we became sure that nobody had forgotten us, and we did the right thing to stay. There was bread bites filled with rice covered in plastics. They distributed them among us. Despite being very thirsty, I drank with lots of caution. I was afraid that I might need to go to lavatory. I did not want to look for a lavatory among all those men and in that condition.

After eating the food and regaining our energy, we filled our weapons with bullets and moved forward; this time we were more cautious. A few minutes after our walk, we reached a big building which was some kind of a storage or silo. It appeared to be the storage of farmers or palm owners of the region. As we did not know whether anybody was inside the building or not, we camouflaged a few meters away behind the palms.

After a while, a number of soldiers went and looked inside. The building was empty. We all went around. It was a good shelter in that situation. The weather was going dark. I went to Ghasem Farrokhi and said: “Send me back in every possible way. It is getting dark and I do not want to stay here.” He said: “Let me see if this car intends to go back or not. If it goes back, get in.”

Ghasem Farrokhi had not yet moved that the boy who wanted to withdraw said in an angry tone: “You do not have the right to go! As you have kept all of us here, you have to stay yourself too. What is the difference between you and me? We should stay but you go back?! I will not let …”

He had heard my talk with Ghasem Farrokhi. I looked at him for one instance. He had a special appearance. It was not obvious to which group he belonged. He had a cream color shirt and a Lee trousers and his long hair reached his shoulders. He had shaved completely and had no beard and mustache. Although I had talked to Ghasem in a very low tone, but he rose his voice to enable all to hear what he was saying. I did not want to stay overnight but I felt that if I disregard his words and go, I will diminish the spirits of others. I told myself that I am truly sorry for such a person who calls himself a fighter! When he doesn’t have the understanding to comprehend that why I do not want to stay there in the middle of all these men, what can I tell him?!

I turned to Ghasem Farrokhi and said: “No problem. I will stay too.” Ghasem looked at the boy angrily but as soon as he wanted to say something, I said: “Please, drop it!”

I knew that is he started talking, an argument will rise. The way the young man was talking, showed that he is looking for an opportunity to argue.

We did Tayammum and said our evening and night prayers with shoes on; just like we did for noon and afternoon prayer. As it got dark, the Iraqis stopped shooting. One two hours later, most of the team members went inside the building to rest. Me, Ghasem Farrokhi, Dr. Mostafaavi and a few others from Khorramshahr gathered around and started talking.

We were all tired. We had walked a lot and needed to rest. We went inside. I sat at the entrance, leaned on a wall to rest. The team members went to sleep. I wanted to stay there until morning. Dr. Mostafavi came to check on me half an hour later. He saw me sitting there hugging my knees. He said: “Sister Sabbah! Lie down; you are tired like the rest of us.” I said: “No I am more comfortable like this. I cannot lie down.”

He had found a blanket. He gave it to me and said: “Cover yourself with this. At least stretch your legs and have a rest.”

I took the blanket and thanked him. I covered myself with it and placed my head on my knees. A few minutes later, I saw Dr. Mostafavi coming towards me. He was pushing a 220 liters barrel towards me. When he got near, he said: “Sister Sabbah, put this in front and lie behind it. Nobody can see you like that.”

I thanked him. He went to the rest of the members. I put the barrel in front of me but I did not lie down. I was not even ready to stretch my feet let along lie down. I only slept for a few minutes until morning. I was very tired and sleepy but due to the anxiety and stress that I had from my surrounding, I could not sleep. I just hoped that morning will come soon.


To be continued …


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