Excerpts from the memoirs of Seyed Ahmad Zarhani

On the Day 31st Shahrivar 1359 (22nd September 1980)

Compiled by: Faezeh Sassanikhah
Translated by: Fazel Shizad


In the summer of 1980, a member of the Islamic Association of the Dezful Vahdati Base reported: "Iraqi plane MIG has been appearing in Dezful for several days. The defense could shoot them, but the base commander preferred not shoot them.  When the MIGs were gone, permission to fire was issued and our expensive ammunition is wasted." He added: "Meanwhile, the commander has planted poppies in the garden in front of his house and he does not fear to meet someone."

At that time, Ayatollah Khamenei and the martyr Dr. Mostafa Chamran were the Imam Khomeini's representatives in the Supreme Council of Defense. Ayatollah Khamenei was the representative of Tehran's people in the parliament and I had access to him. I wrote to him in a letter to take care of him. I received the letter two days later. He said, "I gave it to my consultants to check it." I have nothing to do with the work of your advisers," I said out warmly. The report is an important report to the extent that Imam Khomeini should be informed." The next day, he said, "I read the reported and submitted it to the Air Force Command. I have ordered to change the base commander." The Ayatollah Khamenei's kindness was effective and instructive.

Regarding the situation in those days, Iraq radio's propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran was negative and biased. The United States was also angry at the humiliation caused by the hostage-taking of its spies and sought to undermine Iran's interests. Iran's army was in disarray at that time and there was disputation between Bani Sadr and Imam Khomeini and the cleric's line. At that time, the efficient information system to protect national interests and identify foreign agents had not yet been established. In Dezful, IRGC (Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps) forces occasionally identified Iraqi intelligence influences in the region.

At the end of September 1980, the martyr Dr. Mostafa Chamran called me in the parliament and said: "I have heard from my comrades in Lebanon that Saddam intends to attack Iran. Go to Dezful and organize the youth! I will come and take command of them to confront the Ba'athist army!"

That same day, Martyr Mohammad Montazeri said to me, "My comrades have informed me from Libya that Iraq is invading Iran these days." It was hard to believe that "war" was going to take place.

Iran's general situation was not yet so suitable and stable to provide an opportunity for consultation with the responsible authorities, and the ground for action created through an official. We had learned to work on our own to solve crises. Without hesitation, I went to Dezful with the arrow that I had bought for 27,000 Toman (Iranian currency) during my tenure; I did not have a driver and a bodyguard yet. I met with the commander of the Dezful’s Corps, Abdul Hussein Moghadam, and several others, and informed them of the possibility of war. I also called Engineer Gharazi, the governor of Khuzestan, and shared with him information about the possibility of an invasion of Iraq. He was aware of this news and said, "Go and visit the Fakeh!" When we arrived at the gendarmerie station in Doyraj, there were no gendarmes. The checkpoint was on the Doyraj River, which ran through shallow valleys. Suddenly we heard the sound of a soldier by the river. He raised his head and waved his hand as we walked towards him. The gendarmes and soldiers took refuge in the valley wall with guns and equipment and were terrified. We asked about the situation. They said, "The enemy is firing with heavy weapons."

We continued on our way. Before reaching Fakeh checkpoint, dust rose from the ground to air several times. As if the herd of deer was moving! ‌We got off but there was no deer. We said to ourselves that maybe the road construction have started! We had not yet concluded that this time, with a terrible explosion, the dust rose at a shorter distance, we realized that the enemy had targeted us. This was the first military scene I saw. We later found out that the enemy had seen our blue jeep with the help of his observers.

In the afternoon, the Iraqis were able to see the lands west of the Karkheh River. We hurried to the checkpoint. The gendarmes gathered excitedly on the roof of the checkpoint. From the roof, the Iraqi checkpoint, which was called Saddam's Checkpoint, could be easily seen. A piece of the tower seemed to have fallen. I introduced myself to the checkpoint's commander, who was an anxious old man and asked him to report on the situation. He was very confused, and wondered; he could not hear my voice. I repeated my request but to no avail. "There has been a lot of firefighting today and he is out of balance," said the young duty officer. A few kilometers lower is the 37th Shiraz Brigade. "You can get the right report from there."

We moved towards the 37th Shiraz Brigade. The brigade commander was a man of about forty, of medium height and active named "Major Ramin". He welcomed us warmly. "Whenever you hear the sound of a bullet, lie down on the ground immediately," he said. He also said about the situation in the region: "Iraq will attack in the next two or three days; it has increased firepower since yesterday, but we will react." I said, "What should we? He replied, "If there is military equipment and forces, we can stop the Iraqis."

He then gave a detailed list of ground and air weapons and forces that could be transferred to the border, mentioning the names of the forces, and I wrote them down carefully. I told him: "I will make Imam aware of the matter as soon as possible. You also resist. The people and the government and the Imam will protect you. He was an honorable and patriotic officer and had high self-confidence; believed:" If the capabilities of our army are used, the Iraqi army will be grounded." He had extensive knowledge of his warfare and was skilled in engineering and troop formation. He had sent his watchmen forward and was consciously responding to enemy fire.

When we returned from Fakeh, near the hills of "Ali Gerhzad", I spoke to the soldiers of the Dezful Armored Brigade and informed them that Iraq was preparing to attack Iran. Nobody believed me. One of the officers criticized that they were not given Winston cigarettes!

That same evening, I called Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani's house, but he had gone to a meeting. I called the house of Mr. Seyed Mohammad Mousavi Khoeiniha, the deputy of the parliament, and gave him the report of Fakeh. I asked him to write down the form of the required tools and equipment as I read them and to inform the Imam today so that the military units and equipment could be sent to the region by the order of the Imam. Mr. Mousavi Khoeiniha wrote down the items and said: "I do not know whether it is possible to see the Imam today or not, but I will follow up." I was a little worried and told him: "The war is being started. If you did not give this information to the Imam, if I were alive and came to Tehran, I would announce the situation through the tribune of the parliament, and if I become a martyr, I will stop you on the Day of Judgment!" Mr. Mousavi Khoeiniha, realizing my deep concern, promised to do his best and bring the report to the attention of the Imam.

The next day, I called him and he said, "Last night, after evening and night prayers, I submitted the report to the Imam." I was a little relieved. As far as I remember, one of the items requested by Major Ramin was the transfer of Maragheh’s artillery to Dezful and its deployment in the region. This artillery was transferred after about forty days, but some of the components of the cannons were not brought! And this bitter fact showed the sabotage of the opponents of Imam's thought at that critical moment. Together with the martyr Mohammad Reza Roshnaei and some militant teachers, we made estimates on the unevenness of the region and the natural features around Dezful and examined the ways to prevent the fall of the city. Because my military friends and I had little military knowledge, these estimates did not correspond to the aftermath of the war. There was no one else to make better estimates.

On September 22nd, 1980, exhaustedly I decided to return to Tehran by plane, flying from Ahvaz airport at 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon. Together with Seyed Mohammad Kiavash, a member of parliament, we left the governor's office and go to Ahvaz airport. We were told at the airport: "A few moments ago, Iraqi planes MIG bombed there!" The imposed war began with the invasion of Iraq.

I returned to Dezful immediately. Meetings were held and Basij-e Mostaz'afin (public mobilization) was announced. We prepared ourselves to enter a difficult period. IRGC units in the cities had nothing but a few pistols and rifles. The Basij-e Mostaz'afin was just taken shape and had little place. The army believed in classical warfare. The first week of the war was very painful. All the news showed the progress of the Iraqis. The fifth pillar of Iraq was spreading rumors and putting a lot of pressure on public opinion through psychological warfare. The only refuge of the people was the hopeful words of Imam Khomeini under divine grace.

Most of the time, I was either in the region, or in the Karkheh garrison, or the war headquarters stationed at the Vahdati base, or in the Islamic Association of Teachers, organizing the mobilization and setting up training camps. I think it was the second morning of October when I was walking to Karkheh, near Jason Naderi ‌ and before reaching the emergency airport runway, I saw an overturned jeep on the side of the road. It was an Iraqi intelligence jeep. I was both scared and thanked God. I was scared because if the Iraqis occupied the Andimeshk-Tehran road, Khuzestan would be lost and I thanked God that the intelligence jeep was not able to return.


Source: Kaydkhordeh, R. (2010). Towards Enlightenment (Memoirs of Seyed Ahmad Zarhani), Tehran, Islamic Revolutionary Documentation Center, p.146

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