The 337th Session of ‘Night of Memorials’ - 6

“Closed Door Period”

By Sepideh Kholousian
Translated by: Zahra Hosseinian


The 337th session of ‘Night of Memorials’ was held on Thursday, July 28, 2022, entitled ‘Closed Door Period’, in the Soureh Hall of the Hozeh Honari, performed by Davoud Salehi.  "Haj Seyed Ali Akbar Abutorabi" and witnesses of the Operation Mersud attended this event.


The third narrator, Saeed Ohadi, continued and said: “During the 8 years of captivity, the Iraqis brought the commanders and clerics to the camp en masse (and they made mistakes). There were about 95 of us in Tikrit Camp No. Five. After Al-Rashid prison in Baghdad, they sent us to this camp. After Imam Khomeini passed away, there was a conflict in the camp, and they decided to take the late Abutorabi from this camp to another one. Each of these hundred captives, who were in our camp, had a claim. One of them was in charge of commanding Anbar camp; the other one was in charge of organizing prisoners in Khyber camp; a dear cleric claimed that: ‘I managed various groups, we had IRGC commanders in this camp and... the late Abutorabi was worried that if he one day they have taken him from the cam, what will happen among these hundred people’?

One day, when they were all gathered in a room, the late Abutorabi held a Quran, and said: ‘My dears, we don’t know how long we’ll be captives; but if you dare - I know you won't - step on this Quran; lest you dare to violate each other's honor and dignity.’ it was very strange. If we recount memories here tonight about Abutorabi, we want to learn the morality. We, prisoners, understood a deep meaning in these words. We looked at him and said to ourselves: ‘What are you saying? Quran?’ When he noticed that we haven’t got his point truly, he said: ‘Yes. Because God sent the Qur'an to the beloved Prophet of Islam for the sake of the perfection and dignity of humans. And if there was no human beings, the Quran would not have been revealed.’

The narrator added: “The year after the Khyber operation, i.e. 1983, I was in the "Bein al-Qafsin Camp" with Mr. Abutorabi. It was one of the worst camps I was in. Although 600 prisoners had been brought to the camp, there were only six toilets. It was very complicated. Due to the security facilities and the fact that the Iraqis had captured the prisoners of the Khyber operation, they had also brought prisoners from several different camps there, to prepare the Mosul camp No. 1 for the prisoners of the Khyber operation. Maybe our freedom period was short because of a lack of security.

I knew that they would take me from the camp. So, I visited the late Abutorabi for almost an hour a day. He also respectfully accepted me, and we walked together, and I asked my questions. Because I didn't know how long we would be captive. I once asked him: ‘Sir, please let me know that If I entered the camp, how should I treat the prisoners?’ The late Abutorabi answered in one sentence: ‘Try to be like a mother to your fellow captives.’ Seyed Azadegan had such feelings for his fellows. You won’t find any freed prisoner who complains about the late Abutorabi for some reason; and if he reached this level of perfection, it was because of his morals.”


Then the host asked the narrator: “So far, two characteristics have been defined for Mr. Abutorabi: One is the thing you say; I mean a mystic who was calm and sincere in dealing with others, and the other is the one we see and hear in documentaries; A happy, brave and energetic person. Which one is his character?”

Ohadi replied: “A person who reaches the level of spirituality and perfection that sees human beings as God's successor on earth, uses all his capacity to bring about a fundamental transformation in them. The late Abutorabi would become an old man when he accompanied an old man; he would become a young man as he dealt with the youth; and he would become an athlete with an athlete. As Mr. Qarabaghi pointed out, God had given him strong physical strength. I remember that when we were liberated, an agricultural complex near Arak was rented and then bought. Reaching there, the late Abutorabi started discussing the details of cultivation and industry with the workers or the very POWs. Then he wrestled, exercised, and laughed with them.

In the Tikrit camp and other camps, the Iraqis, Baathists, and hypocrites had brought the most facilities to disrupt the faith of the prisoners. In some camps, when television was brought, the prisoners poured water on it, set it on fire, and made some trouble. But in the Tikrit camp, where I and Mr. Abutorabi were, when they brought a tv set, he went, and sat in front of it, but set it on the channel of sports programs. He reflected on everything. This Quranic verse, ‘It is out of Allah’s mercy that you ˹O Prophet˺ have been lenient with them. Had you been cruel or hard-hearted, they would have certainly abandoned you.”[1] is a correct example for Mr. Abutorabi.

The late Abutorabi was rightly at the service of the captives, so they all liked him very much. If one steps on the path of God and His values, the law and system of creation made people love them. I had the opportunity to be with him in two camps. I saw him in a camp at the last moment of captivity. Maybe it was destined to see him at the last moment. Due to my familiarity with the English language, I was also a translator for prisoners and a representative of the World Red Cross. The representative of the International Red Cross, who came from a free world, had passed through the security layers of the Baath, and whose mind was full of negative thoughts towards the prisoners, sat on his knees in front of the late Abutorabi. What a special characteristic did he have? Morality. If we have morals, we will have cohesion in the society. If there will be morals, the spirit of resistance will rise.

At the last moment of captivity, I had been away from the late Abutorabi for one and a half years. Because he was taken from our camp to the camp No.19, where I told him there was a conflict. At midnight when the prisoners were released, it was late August. The prisoners of this camp of 100 people were taken to camp 19, but they were unaware that in these two or three sanatoriums where they accommodated us, there is another dear and honorable person whom we do not know about his presence.

The Act of the 1942 Geneva Convention says that when the prisoners are released, the Red Cross representatives ask them: ‘Do you want to go to your country or do you want to become a refugee? That is, they give the authority to the captive to choose. I had sat next to the representative of the Red Cross, and the prisoners of 20 camps were coming and going. As the prisoners got into the three buses, I once saw a shadow moving in a faraway sanatorium. I became curious about who was. As soon as all the prisoners got into the buses, I ran to the sanatorium spontaneously and without the permission of the representative of the Red Cross. At the moment of freedom, after eight years that we prisoners had lived with the late Abutorabi, I noticed that they kept him, and we are returning.”

The narrator added: “I cried involuntarily out: ‘Come, comrades, God knows that Mr. Abutorabi is here.’ No one could stop them. The prisoners of Tikrit camp No. 5 know; Everyone got out of the bus and gathered in front of the window bars. We kissed the forehead of the late Abutorabi with tears and said: ‘Not possible, sir? Do we go without you? We have lived together here. We go, and you will still be in captivity?’ God knows, on this Friday night, which is the night of martyrs and we mentioned the Martyrs of Mersud Operation, the martyred prisoners, and the late Abutorabi, he did not say a word that now you are freed, tell the authorities that Abutorabi is here. Rather, he just prayed: ‘My dears; If I performed night prayers for ten years, (the dear ones know that his morning prayer prostrations after night prayer were long), I wish for such a moment. Go and serve your people.’

One day I was in a meeting. The late Abutorabi said: ‘What the scholars, mystics, and wayfarer asked about the secret of the world and sought from this treasure of the world, is nothing but serving the people.’ A captive asked: ‘Serving the people? The secret of creation? until when?" Seyed Azadegan replied: ‘Until annihilation by Allah so that the others pass you to reach their (human and Islamic) desires.’


In the final part, reminding the martyrs of the holy defense, the host mentioned Gholam Ali Rajabi and said: ‘He was from the Azerbaijan neighborhood, and lived in a religious neighborhood with a religious family. He had outstanding moral mentors, but his dearest, closest, and most influential moral mentor was his father. He learned politeness, sincerity, and love for Ahl al-Bayt from his father. He was a school principal in his youth. It was said that during the period when he became the principal of the school, the number of school martyrs also increased.

He was known among the people as a passionate poet and a melodious maddah, but he didn't like to be seen in front of cameras anywhere. Once, he was preparing to recite Du'a Nudba in Dokouheh, when he was informed that it was going to be broadcast live on the TV. A few moments later, he put the microphone in front of Mr. Sadegh Ahangaran and quietly disappeared. They asked him: ‘Where did you go?’. He replied laughing: ‘Don't ask me where you went and why? Ask the TV staff why they came to me.’ He was a strange, lovable, and sincere person. He was martyred in the Mersud operation. We have heard his name many times, and we are familiar with his poems and maddahi. When we hear the lament "Remembrance of Imam and Martyrs" on Thursdays or Friday nights, we hear his name.

He loved Imam Reza, and his famous poem for Imam Reza has been remembered for years. He loved Hazrat Zahra, and at the moment of his martyrdom, when the shrapnel hit his body, the last word that was heard out of his mouth was "O’ Zahra". In his will, he says: ‘Tell all my brothers and sisters that I support them in the afterlife world. If you attend, in this world, a gathering where the name of Hazrat Imam Hussein was mentioned, remember me. If you shed a tear for Imam Hussain in a ceremony, register one of your tears in my name, which is more precious to me than heaven.’

[1] Surah Al-Imran, Verse 159

Number of Visits: 1130