SABAH (68)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


SABAH (68)

Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami

Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

Published by Soore Mehr Publishing Co.

Persian Version 2019



When the hover craft engine started, there was a lot of noise and dust in the air. It got into the air and then landed on the water of Persian Gulf. After a few minutes, I told one of the military forces who was also the crew and was sitting near us: “brother, can we go out?” I want to see the Persian Gulf close by.”

The hover craft crew accepted. He opened the door for me. I leaned and went out. I sat on the body of the hover craft quietly. Two crews had come out too.

The water and quiet waves of Persian Gulf were perfect and they had been knotted in the horizon and it was hard to distinguish sky and water. The tranquility of Persian Gulf was amazing and beautiful; a beauty that I had never seen in the wavy and dusty waves of Arvand, Karun or Bahman Shir.

Before the revolution, the TV broadcasted a series with the subject of abusing African black people in America. I had seen harsh scenes in that TV series that affected me badly for a long time and kept my mind busy for a long time. In one of the series, a rich American landlord, got drunk one night and ordered his negre made to light a fire with woods in the big yard of his mansion and place a big bowl of water on it. When the water boiled, he went towards the slave trembling and ordered him to go into the boiling water! Poor slave pleaded and asked to spare him from this act. The more the slave pleaded the more persistent he became; he lifted him and told him that he either goes himself or he is going to throw him inside the bowl himself. The slave kept pleading and crying and suddenly took out his gun and shot the slave in the head. The slave jumped and fell into the boiling water with crashed head.

After watching this scene, I had not felt all right for a long time but now, during the past one and a half months, how much I had changed! I compiled the torn parts of bodies of my own people and handed them over to the morgue.

When a fighter got injured, I was the first one to reach out to him. I witnessed torn hands and feet, cracked skulls, perforated and torn chests, horrible hemorrhages resulting into martyrdom and hundreds of other irritant scenes.

I felt much better now that I was watching the God’s original nature and calm and patients waves of Persian Gulf which was eye-catching and blue like Turquoise.

Suddenly I came back to the moment and saw that two crew have been waiting for me for almost one quarter of an hour or more. I told them: “brothers! Why are you standing here?! Don’t wait for me. Go inside. I will be in in a few minutes.”

One of them said: “sister! We should stay here as long as you are here.”

Upon hearing these words, I thought to myself that they think I am from fifth column and intend to do something wrong here. For example they think I want to perforate the body of the hover craft or ten other models of other things! I said quickly: “So let’s go inside. Thank you for letting me come outside and see Persian Gulf.” They said: “No hurries. If you want to stay longer, stay. We are here.”

I said: “No, thank you. It is enough. I will not disturb you more.”

I felt that even in a few minutes all my fatigue had left my body. The atmosphere inside the hover craft was sad and tiring. We had a long way to go. The whining of the injured was heard constantly.

They brought us tuna cans for lunch. We said our prayers in sitting position. Due to the war and siege of Abadan, the hover craft had to go longer way to avoid the bullets of the enemy. The normal route would take two hours in normal conditions but now it took so long that we reached Imam Khomeini port at midnight.

We did not know what to do and where to go. No vehicle went towards Sar Bandar at midnight. We could not stay in the street until morning. I told Ashraf to look for a mosque and stay in the mosque until morning. Dr. Mostafavi accompanied us.

It was very chaotic in the mosque. It was so crowded. The crowd had been looking for a shelter and had gathered in the mosque. Families had gathered in groups in each corner of the mosque and waited for the morning. We hardly found a corner in bed chamber of the mosque and went there. Although there were so many people in the mosque but the weather was cold and we could not sleep with sheets. I hugged my knees and sat in a corner.

Ashraf was just like me. Since I was weak towards cold weather since my childhood, I had tough hours until morning and was freezing. I just prayed God not to catch cold in that condition. We woke up by the voice of morning prayers. We went out of bed chamber and did ablution in the bathhouse of the mosque. We waited for sunrise after saying prayers and walked out of the mosque.

We asked for directions towards Sar Bandar from passers. They showed us a street and said that Sar Bandar is in the route. We had to exit Imam Khomeini port. We started walking. It was end of second month of autumn and the morning weather was cold. I had been in cold weather since last night and I felt that my bones are frozen. When the cold breeze of the morning touched my body, I felt cold. I missed the hot sun of Khuzestan and the warm and humid days of Khuzestan. I had crumpled my scarf in front of my nose and mouth and was trying to get a bit warm though breathing. We had been walking for half an hour when we saw a pick-up approaching. The driver stopped. He was going to Sar Bandar.

I had heard from team members that Zahra’s family was based in camp B. There were overall two camps in Mahshar that were made by Japanese; A and B. The first camp was for employees, engineers and technicians and the second one was for workers. Both camps were in new Mahshahr. The old Mahshahr was the old and traditional part of Mahshahr. Zahra and her family lived in camp B which was located between Mahshahr and Sar Bandar.

The driver dropped us at camp B. The camp was surrounded by iron fences and had one entrance. At one instance, the camp composed of a number of similar and cream-coloured rooms which was standing beside each other. The rooms were containers and pre-fabricated houses in different sizes. The entrance door was closed. I knocked. The guard opened the door and asked whom we want. We explained that we want to visit Hosseini and Mohammadi families. He let us in. In the camp, the containers stood in north and south direction and had formed a small street in between. The population was bigger than the number of containers. Although it was early in the morning, but there were many small children playing in the camp; they were barefoot, and they were dirty and were playing with soil and mud and stones. Their shallow and big clothes showed that these were not theirs.

In the space between the rooms, there were some platforms on which there were some stoves. Hanging ropes were all over the place and there were many clothes hanging and gave the camp a bad view. I felt worse as we walked further. Each of these families had houses and living until a while ago but now they were living in bad condition. I felt crying and my steps were slow.

I saw a small girl whose hair had nice color but were cut in irregular cuts and was wearing old clothes. She was running after her friends. It was obvious that her mother had cut her hair without patience and professionalism. She was the only one with hair like that. Due to lack of water supply and bath facilities, the hairs of most of the girls were cut.

Poverty was seen all over the camp. I tried hard to hide my sorrow and prevent crying but it was not possible. I wiped my tears quickly from my cheeks. What had happened to Khuzestani people in one night.

The static water which was compiled in streams and cracks had filled the air with bad smell. It was not obvious how many pains and sicknesses would target the people living in the camp. Before entering the camp, I really did not expect such scenes. The only image I had in mind from war was the compilation of families in Jame mosque besides their equipment and living.

I was shocked. Ashraf was like me too. She was also shocked with the scenery and sadness was in her face. We had nothing to say. I cursed Saddam in my heart. The men went around the camp in plastic slippers and Deshdashah. Some of the women had kettles in their hands and were in process of preparing breakfast for their families.

We did not know which one was Zahra’s home. We started to ask. We were still looking that we saw Zahra herself approaching us trembling. We waved and ran towards each other. We had been away for a while and had missed each other a lot. We hugged each other and cried. I could not control myself and cried.

We were so happy to see Zahra healthy. Thanks God she had rested and felt better. Abd Mohammadi and Dr. Mostafavi also greeted Zahra and asked about her wellbeing. We asked her about Leila and others. She said that thanks God they are not bad. We asked Zahra whether she has been able to convey the news of martyrdom of Ali to her mother or not. Zahra said that after her father had left; Da had been so upset and was hopeful to see Ali that she had not had the courage to give her the news.

I remembered the funeral of Ali. I had pleaded Zahra to inform her mother to come and see Ali for last time. I insisted a lot but Zahra did not accept and did not let Da know about his martyrdom. She said that she knew her mother better than others and if she finds out the martyrdom of Ali, she will not tolerate; we are not in a situation to lose our mother too.

I prayed to God that Da doesn’t ask us about her son. I felt that she might think that since our Ali is also in front, then we might have news from her son too.

I told Zahra: “Zahra-jan you made a mistake. If you had told her since the first day, she had dealt with it up to now. Do you think this is fair that you make this mother wait for her son?”

Zahra repeated the same words again and said: “Sabbah I knew that Da will not be able to deal with it. How could I tell her that within four five days she has lost both her husband and her son?! You know how much my mother is attached to Ali. Ali is her life. If something happened to her, who wanted to raise a bunch of small children?” I said: “If Da asks me about Ali, any update, what should I tell her?!” Zahra said: “I am begging you, if she asks about Ali, tell her that Ali is fine!” I said: “How can I tell these words?! When are you going to tell her? Do you want to tell her about his death after his first death anniversary?!” She said: “no I want forty days to pass and then tell her. I want to gather family and relatives and arrange a ceremony for Ali. She will mourn his death among family and relatives and will not be alone and might be able to accept it easier.”


To be continued …


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