Attack on Halabcheh narrated

Selected by Fatemeh Beheshti
Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan


11:30 AM, the end of Halabcheh city

With wet saliva, we are having the lunch which that loving Isfahani man gave us from the back of his van when he said goodbye in the city entrance. Adaspolo [lentils with rice] with yoghurt! We were just started having it when the plane dives, we go down and shelter behind the runnel, and a few moments later, when the plane raises up, we also raise our heads, and while eating, we see the high sides of the city dotted with black smoke.

God damn them! They didn't let a single bite go down our throat!
We start moving. A little later, a young boy approaches us. His name is “Kamel Ebrahim”. He says he is seventeen years old and came out of the house after seeing us. Kamel has stayed in the city with all his family members and it is clear from the clarity of his eyes that he has stayed away from the effects of chemical bombing.

we said goodbye to Kamel, and left the city. We make our way to the middle of the city by the small river whose frogs sing the song of loneliness.
On our right hand is a field. Young chives and unripe tobacco leaves show Halabcheh as a fertile region. Again, the sound of the airplane leads us involuntarily into the dry runnel.

A black cable is stretched inside the runnel, and it was not clear where its beginning and end were.

The center of the city shook and white smoke rose into the air, which soon diminished.

We are unaware of the incident that will happen in the next few minutes. With the plane disappearing, we find ourselves at the middle entrance of the city and...


12:00 PM, Dokhaniat Alley, Halabcheh –

The street ends at a crossroads. The floor is carpeted with a thin layer of white powder, as if lime had been sprinkled on the floor. The neighborhood has a special smell, a smell that the archives of the mind can't find a match for.
Our look leans to the right to find the location of that place. Suddenly, all the senses are imprisoned behind the heartbreaking scene, the scene of the girl's body lying face down on the ground.

Stunned eyes look at the young girl's body. I scream involuntarily:

- Saeed, Saeed...

In front of his mouth and nose, some foam is gathered and her left leg is unnaturally bent. The same bending gave a noticeable shaking to the girl's feet in parallel with the heartbeat. A vague guess draws the line of sight on her chest. Although we are still concentrating on the scene, I scream for the second time incredulously:

- She breathes, she is alive...

The guys have arrived. The eyes are released from behind the bars of this scene when they arrive. At a distance of 10 meters, a small figure of a boy calls the steps towards him. Again, a scream out of anxiety:

- He is also alive...

The boy's appearance is no different from his possible sister. The sclera of the eyes has become the color of blood and the pupil of both eyes is facing the same direction. He helplessly watches an imaginary point. He is short of breath. Most of his face is covered with water from his nose and mouth. He has a strange purring chest. Ahmad tries to bring the girl to her senses. When we hug the boy, it is as if all his bones are broken.

We all pull them aside with an aura of panic wrapped around them. All eyes turn to the left side of that damned crossroads as one of the companions started shouting:

- Here, here...

O God, where is here? With our mouth open, we see ourselves in front of a cemetery. Although the location of the place is completely known, but we are all lost. Suddenly, it seemed that we were no different from them, as if we too were standing dead, we were completely surprised.

The bodies of the children, women and men continued in parallel and diagonal lines until the end of the alley. Watching so many dead is an unacceptable scene for us who have visited the corpses from the tombstone. We were completely surprised.

One of the guys had gone to the alley to find help and now he's standing next to the two possible siblings in a looted military vehicle backing up to fetch ammunition. While they are in a complete coma, they are transferred to the back of a military vehicle on two mattresses. But it was too late, the black flag of mourning has been raised over our hearts. As we were crying, we pass by the bodies.

A young man with a big white baggage, a woman next to an open suitcase, two men, an infant child in the arms of a middle-aged man next to the door threshold, a five-six-year-old girl with a baby in each other's arms, a child whose back is bent by the corner of the entrance door, a mother with five children in front of the exit door...

We will stop for a moment. Now the image of the corpses passes by us.

An old woman like her old cane, a van full of corpses, the sound of snoring from among the corpses, the driver behind the wheel is like mummies. A vague sound from inside the houses, the sound of moaning, the sound of wailing, a small slipper next to a small body, a half-open mouth with closed eyes...

Hundreds of bodies with a thousand and one other images.

The astonishment at the most heinous crime exhibition had deprived us of the opportunity to think about the cause of this mass murder. The number of disabled people kept us away from getting the only reason for this great accident.

Here, the tree of life has been uprooted by the killing of so many people, that too in the spring of Halabcheh. Here, the slogan "death to life" has been realized - without coming a drop of blood from anyone's nose. Here, the emptiness of life is filled with the manifestations of death. Here, the mercy shot along with the chemical bombardment, is sitting on the bodies of hundreds of people of Halabcheh.[1]

An hour ago, when the plane dived over the city, no one thought that the white cloud that diminished so soon was the chemical agents to kill the people of this alley. Imagining the state of these children and babies when the bombing happened is a lament that cannot be mentioned from the pulpit of this pen.

The sounds drag the guys into the houses. Before that, the half-dead people, pulled out of the corpses by the guys, try their luck to survive. As soon as the ambulance arrived, the half-dead people were transferred to the back of the ambulance.

After so many deaths, Saeed discovers a healthy family in the basement of a house.

When the ambulance leaves, four women, a girl and a disabled man in a wheelchair are carried by the children from the basement to the back of a white Datsun van.

Some are still alive. Again, you can find people who are half alive, but the dizziness has started, our eyes become dark to some extent, shortness of breath is the next state.


A few houses disappear as the plane drops bombs several times, and we're out of town simultaneously. We are now returning the way we came four hours ago, but anxiety, concern, apprehension... and everything that God does not have is with us.


The verses of the Quran and the mention of God are not cut off from the mouths of women and that girl. The girl is constantly reciting the Quran, and we, hanging from the trunk of the van, are surprised to find out why this family survived, amidst the thick chemical fog, which had cleared by the time we arrived.


We are approaching the field hospital, one of the companions is sobbing.

Involuntarily, he puts his head on my shoulder and says:


- What did they do to our Khorramshahr and what are we doing to their people?

Uncontrollably, the answer remains silent among drop of tears, tears that I missed from the moment we entered the Dokhaniat Alley.


Source: Behboudi, Hedayatollah, Sarhangi, Morteza, Hashtroudi, Seyed Yasser, Travelling to Peaks (five war reports), Published by the Art Center, 1369 (1990), pp. 24-29.



[1] Two days later, when Dr. Abbas Foroutan came to this alley to sample these agents, he told us the result of his investigations in one sentence: "The people of this place were killed with nerve agents and cyanide."

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