Memory night 272 in Holy Defense week

Operation Mersad, exterritorial battalion and the war in the western axis

Sarah Reshadi Zadeh
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian


According to oral history website in Iran, two hundred and seventy-second in a series of memory night programs was held along with Sacred Defense Week, on Thursday 22 September 2016, at the Art Center. During the ceremony, Col. Ali Yousefi, commander of Al-Hadid Brigade of Ruhollah Division 28, Commander-in-chief Bahram Norouzi and Commander-in-chief Seyyed Mojtaba Abdullahi division commander of 28 Ruhollah brigade iterated their memories of war in the South and West fronts, and especially Mersad's operation.


Enemy Artillery

At the beginning of the two hundred and seventy-second series of memory night, Colonel Ali Yousefi recounted his memories of the early days of the Iraqi imposed war against Iran, by saying: “It was 7 days from the beginning of the war that I enrolled voluntarily through Islamic Fedayeen in Karaj and dispatched to Jondi Shapour barracks in Ahwaz which is now called martyr Chamran. At the time, war headquarters was not established and the weapons we were training with were brand new and the grease and lubricants had not yet been cleaned. I remember that in the training course we did not have cloth to wipe the grease on weapons and inevitably we were using our blankets to wipe our guns.”

In order to define the rather difficult conditions of war, he compared the artillery and equipment of Iran and Iraq and stated: “During the eight-year Iraqi imposed war against Iran, we had 300 helicopters and Iraq had 325 helicopters. In addition, we had 200 aircrafts, 1050 tanks and armored personnel, and 600 ordnance and 655 thousand infantry forces. Meanwhile, Iraq had 700 aircrafts, 6230 tanks and armored personnel carriers, 3,900 ordnance and more than 800 thousand infantry headcount and troops were forced to participate in the war. I remember in a trip I had to Iraq, the father of one of the Iraqi soldiers was the owner of the hotel where we were staying. In recounting his memories of the war he said: “If we and our children did not participate in war we would face severe consequences, including death and displacement of family members.” While the history of war indicates that there is no single evidence of conviction of runaway soldiers.”


Special Trenches

Youssefi, referring to the name of supporters of Iraq during the eight years of war added: "The biggest supporters of Iraq were America, China, the former Soviet Union, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, France, Kuwait, Poland, Singapore, South Africa and Yugoslavia. For example, Egypt provided 28 thousand troops to Saddam and Yugoslavia designed Iraq’s minefields. Jordan was the first country to explicitly announce its support from Iraq. Besides all, I, personally, saw Egyptian hand grenades, cartridges of United Arabic Emirates, Milan and Dragon missiles of France and equipment from other countries. We didn’t even have barbed wires and when we placed an order for diving suits with Japan and said that we need bulrush resistant diving suits, Iraq was immediately informed that we are planning an attack through Houralazim.”



Alhadid brigade Commander of 28 Ruhollah Division quickly referred to his memories of Valfajr 8 Operation in Faw by saying: Our troops had been preparing for Faw operation for a whole year measuring Faw water level every hour and every minute to figure water movement pattern. Through these measurements were figured that at the time of low tide, the water speed is 70 kilometers per hour. Moreover, after crossing the water as the worst natural barrier and we had to pass through the Iraqi obstacles; the issue of solar bars. Then again, we were faced with studs of 18 to 20 mm set up like daggers in the beach to tear up any approaching boat. Passing through all these obstacles, we were confronted with palm tree trunks placed behind Iraqi cement trenches. In addition, all Iraqi trenches were built next to each other with a capacity of only two, each. The trenches were built in L form and a mortar could blast half meters from them and those taking cover in the trenches would remain unharmed. Another interesting point was that each of these trenches was planned to carry out specialized operation. For instance one trench was for those who fire RPGs; one for machine guns and each trench had a pre-planned fire target.”  

Yousefi at the end of his speech stated another memory and said: "We were once a part of logistics and support and some almonds were sent in as public aid. The interesting point was the tips of all almonds were dug. After much inquiry we realized that an old woman had sent the almonds and since she was worried that there might be a bitter almond she had dug the tips to make sure.”


Establishment of War Chamber in Chaharzebar Strait

Gollowing two hundred and seventy second program of the series of memory nights, Commander-in-chief, Haji Bahram Norouzi reviewed his memories of Mersad Operation and said: “Almost three or four days before the Operation Mersad, I, as Commander of Kurdistan province formed the Special Brigade of Martyrs of three battalions in the cities of Marivan, Baneh and Halabja and then went for a meeting to Kermanshah. In that meeting, Commander Nasser Shabani, commander of Kermanshah announced that he needs help. So, I sent two brigades to Kermanshah. Two days later, news came in indicating that cities of Gilangharb and Sar-e Pol-e Zahab are in a difficult situation. We went to Gilangharb city to investigate.

There were others including Haj Davoud Karimi and Airborne brigade commander of Shiraz to investigate the war line furthermore and we were studying the area that a Katyusha was fired towards us and I was wounded. The same day I was sent to Islam Abad first and then to Kermanshah, but I refused hospitalization and went to wireless command post in Kermanshah stay informed.”



In his statements, he added: we were in wireless communication room that the wireless operator from Karandgharb came in and announced that hypocrites have invaded the city and they are so close that they had no choice but to cut communication. The next communication was with Islam Abad approximately 30 km from Karandgharb. We communicated with the commander of Islam Abad Mr. Jalilian and he said: “hypocrite troops are in front of Allah Akbar garrison and in the process of occupying the city. We are moving towards sugar factory.” As the population was crossing Sar-e Pol-e Zahab and Karandgharb towards Kermanshah, hypocrite forces were moving along till Iranian troops gathered in an area in the vicinity of Chaharzebar Strait (Mersad Strait) and a line of various army units including Ansar Alhussein division from Hamedan under the command of Amiran and Sardarani and martyr Sayyad Shirazi, and major general Shoushtari and commander Ahmadi Mogaddam. On the other side of the line, in Kuzaran area, the 28 Ruhollah Division was settled and by the darkness rolling in, war chamber was set up in the area. Considering the martyr Sayyad Shirazi was the pioneer known to be point of fire, it was decided that he would brief Iranian troops of the fire plan and our attacks were designed to start by helicopter strikes and then through land towards hypocrite forces to prevent their invasion and stop them from crossing Chaharzebar Strait.” 

General Norouzi, referring to measures taken in Operation Mersad said: “During which time we began cleanup operations and air forces had moved forward to Karandgharb and infantry troops have started precession from three axes of Kermanshah, Ahwaz and Ilam to Asadabad defile and then Islamabad. It was in one of those days that the Kobra helicopter in which martyr Sayyad Shirazi, along with General Ahmadi Moqaddam were travelling to conduct a survey near the Karandgharb, crashed and the incident was immediately reported to Air Force Base in Kermanshah. I had to fly out with Agha Mokhtar Kalantari, the deputy of Revolution Committee to assess the situation in the area but air force commander of Kermanshah informed us that due to bad weather and the incident of the day before, permission is not granted. However, we took full responsibility and flew out towards Karandgharb. In that flight, Khanlari and captain Mohammadi accompanied us and we had just passed third heights that we saw three people waving hand. Once we made sure that they are not armed, we landed. Then we figured that one of them is a local and two others are the pilots of the crashed chopper. We boarded them and on the way back they explained that the chopper crashed near Karandgharb and we jumped out to save ourselves but hypocrite forces pursued us. We got to the heights and took cover and started reciting Quran; then we realized that they have passed us. Then local forces found us and we were saved. Once we made it to the air base in Kermanshah and martyr Sayyad Shirazi was informed. He appointed the first captain of the chopper, Col. Milan, who lives in Tabriz now, as the commander of an air base.”

Then he stated the arrest of one of the hypocrite forces and said: “Once the operation was over, we set out to assess Karandgharb and Islamabad to find hypocrite forces. We had set barricades and we caught a guy named Behzad Golbarg. In 1981, he had made an attempt to kill the clergy in charge of religious school in Kermanshah using two grenades when he was arrested and transferred to Kermanshah prison; however he had escaped the next year. At the time, a kind judge, Haj Agha Lavasani, was in charge in Kermanshah and he had order prison guards to treat prisoners with compassion hoping that they will be reformed. In such attempt, prisoners were taken to Sar Ab Niloufar Lake every once in a while to swim. In one of those trips Behzad escaped and in the report it was stated that he might have drowned or escaped. Years later, Behzad Golbarg was arrested and he confessed that he used a bulrush to hide under water and then escaped to Iraq.”


Most Difficult War Front in West

General Seyyed Mojtaba Abdollahi was the third speaker of the program who recounted his memories of Mersad Operation and said: “Hypocrites were organized and had placed signs on two sides of the road through which they were communicating. For instance they had white and red flags; one was a sign of invasion and the other was the sign to fall back. In this operation a group of them went to Karandgharb and Bionij air base and another group moved towards Rijab and Dalaho; we pursued all of them to Ozgoleh and Bemo heights. At the same time we cleaned the areas of Gilangharb and Sar-e Pol-e Zahab.”



General Abdollahi referred to the war fronts in the west and said: “One of the most difficult war fronts was Aghdagh where Iraqi forces were in the heights and we were down below. Martyr Shiroudi was actually martyred in this front and I was commander in charge of the same front. 402 height was another strategic area that we were monitoring closely. One day, operation information operators including Saied Rabiyi said that soldiers in Fatemieh front want to invade into Iraqi fronts since they have noticed movements and they want to know what is going on. We moved towards third line of Iraqi forces which was a commando center. We moved into a trench and arrested three Iraqis in their sleep. Once we set out to move back to our fronts, it was dawn and the Iraqis opened fire since the three hostages were making a lot of noise. We interrogated the three hostages and figured that one is the commander of the other two. The interrogation took place in Najaf under the supervision of General Aziz Jafari and Abbas Mahtaj and Commander-in-chief Shoushtari and we found out that Iraq is planning an attack with backup forces and had moved its forces from south to west in 8 hours.”

He continued his speech by referring to the exterritorial battalion and said: “we had a battalion in Paveh city and we used to carry out exterritorial operations with their support. The battalion was under the command of the brigade and then the division. Our battalion was within 80 km from Marivan inside Iraq and with their support we managed to launch major operations like Fath One, Fath 4, Nasr One, Karkuk and Erbil and we crossed many bridges and rivers and did extraordinary things. Those days and in that cold, we used to cross the river by rope. For instance, martyr Haj Ali Islami, whose picture is in 17 Shahrivar Avenue, was a member of our battalion and in one operation he fell into the river and water took his body to Darbandi Khan dam. In addition, I remember when they occupied Soumar and 402 heights, all forces were ready to liberate those areas. At the time there were two 15 year old boys, Ali Moghassemi and Mohssen Shakouri, whom I had instructed not to travel to the fronts. We went to Soumar with Moslem Ebn Aghil brigade under the command of Haj Abdalloh Beheshti; we intended to occupy the city. Once we made it there, ambulance driver told us that there are two soldiers sitting on the top of the ambulance and once I went there I saw the two young children who had made their way to the fronts. These two young soldiers were the two first martyrs in that operation.”

This program was organized in collaboration with the Study and Research Center of Resistance Culture and Literature and the Office of Resistance Literature and Art on Thursday 22 September 2016 in the Art Center.

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