As a rescue worker, a girl teenager narrates about the sacred defense

The People of the War Zones Were All Warrior

A report on the women activities behind the front line during the holy defense

Faezeh Sasanikhah
Translated by: Zahra Hosseinian

2021-03-09


The first years of Monire Sadeghi's adolescence coincided with the outbreak of the imposed war. She is one of the active girl teen in the eight years of the holy defense, who was a regular volunteer in Basij, served as a rescue worker in war zones, and was engaged in military training of women since the first years of the imposed war.

Sadeghi was born in 1968 in Ilam and has memories of her studying in a war-torn city. A reporter from the Iranian Oral History Website interviewed with her.

 

Where were you when the war started?

I was studying in the first-grade of guidance school in Ilam by the time of war outset. I studied at Zeinab guidance school, opposite of Imam Khomeini Hospital, where the wounded of the holy defense was transferred all the day and night. There was a bare land next to the hospital in where the helicopter landed. From those days, I determined to contribute to defend. Ms. Zahra Razi, in charge of Women’s Basij, often spoke at schools to encourage and recruit students. In the second year of guidance school, I joined the Pupil Basij, and in a short time we were divided by the Women’s Basij and by Ms. Razi to serve behind the front lines. My father's cousin was martyred in 1980. At the same time, my father was diagnosed with cancer due to the grief of his absence.

I was introduced by the Basij to go through a relief course. After passing the test, I was sent with other members to Imam Khomeini Hospital and Taleghani Hospital to help the injured. In addition to provide pre-hospital care, we were involved in food packaging and other support work. From the first days until the end of the war, encouraging the people to contribute and transferring the aids the front lines was one of the tasks of the Basij and the IRGC. We traveled around the city and villages with a car and a loudspeaker and collected voluntary contributions. Also, some tents were set up in the villages to be used for gathering the voluntary contributions, and villagers brought their donations and sometimes their foodstuffs. Old women came to help us in packing the foodstuffs. Although the people of Ilam suffered from displacement and unemployment, they all helped according to their ability to afford. If they had extra blankets and warm clothes, for example, they didn’t hesitate to donate them. Sometimes a kind grandmother donated only a can of compote. The sincerity and good will of the people during the eight years of the holy defense was like a myth. The people who were homeless and had the worst conditions, if they had twenty liters of oil or a few kilos of flour and rice, they divided them among their neighbors. It was as if the problem of a person was related to all, and such sincerity, friendship and affection among people made the suffering of homelessness easier even in the worst conditions. The bombarding had begun, although, and our families lived in tents a few kilometers far from the city without water, electricity and facilities, but these problems did not prevent them not to aid, contribute voluntary, and serve as rescue worker. During important operations, we washed, dried, and delivered the clothes of the warriors and the wounded in the yard of women’s Basij base. Fatigue, weakness, and inability were meaningless to us, and we all had to help and work. Additionally, we participated in the funeral of our dear martyrs. On Wednesdays, Al-Tawassul Supplication ceremony, and on Friday nights, the Supplication of Kumayl ceremony were held at the martyrs' house. The Salehabad region, where is the grave yard of the precious martyrs and also the deceased ones, was not far from Mehran. During the war years, we visited the graves of our beloved ones, as if we were used to do it, and we ran the risks. In general, during the war, the people of Ilam went to Salehabad, which was exactly next to Mehran and Meimak, to bury the martyrs and the dead.

 

Where did you spend the first aid and pre-hospital care courses; what was your duty at the hospital?

I became a certified first responder in 1982 or 1983. I spent the courses in the health care center of Nowruzabad clinic. During the operations, when the hospitals were full of wounded fighters, volunteered were introduced to the health care center, and after training and testing, they were sent to the hospitals. Our duty was to help the staffs of the hospital, where a large number of wounded was transferred. Occasionally, wounded Iraqi prisoners were sent to Imam Hospital too. Our job was to bandage, to inject, and to insert IV. The worst and the best memories always remain in the minds. Most of the wounded, who were brought behind the front lines to be treated, cried and asked us to release them as soon as possible, so that they could return to the front lines; because their warrior-comrades were alone there. A young man from Mashhad suffered from his injured leg. When his leg was amputated, he cried his eyes out and said: "I am fine. Don’t send me to my city, I can return to the front with one leg!"

 

How did rescue workers, doctors and nurses treat with the Iraqi prisoners?

That was perfect. There was a black Iraqi prisoner from an African country who said, "I don’t want Iranian blood to be injected into me!"

 

Given that you were a member of the Basij, was military training on your agenda?

Yes. Seven active members of the Basij were sent to the Haft-e-Tir Camp of Ramsar for the first period of training military trainers in 1985. At that time, it wasn’t traditional that young girls to leave their city for a month. We left our families in a war-torn city under heavy bombardment and went. Feeling worries and being far from the family, five of us succeeded to pass the exam. After training, we started working as a military instructor. With a precise planning, Ms. Razi carefully covered all schools, colleges, mosques and neighborhoods, university offices, student dormitories, etc. for military training. As a military instructor, our duties became heavier. While throughout the Ilam province, all its cities, were involved in heavy bombardment, we were sent to the towns for training and shooting range. There was no transportation service for commuting, and because we had to carry two Kalashnikov rifles under our chador, sometimes didn’t even take a taxi to the training site and walked all the way to the farthest regions and fringes of the city. It no longer mattered to us the time and place of the training, in the city or on its outskirts or towns. Most of the cities of Ilam were among the war zones; sometimes we went to the towns to hold the shooting range stages. Those days, in addition to the Iraqi army, the hypocrites fought on the borders as an infiltrator against our oppressed nation. Traveling to some cities was accompanied with fear and we were advised not to ignore the hypocrites.

 

How was the women's reception for military training?

The military training was received such great that we had to take turns going to all the mosques. Even old and illiterate women came eagerly for training. After training, the next stage was shooting range. Sometimes, from morning to evening, under the scorching sun, we all together worked unanimously without any facilities; and at the end of the shooting, we carried out an explosion with dynamite or TNT for the trainees.

 

Did you have any problems with your family in carrying out rescue activities and supporting?

Nevertheless the families were worried about the bombardments and it was difficult for the parents, lest something happened to their children, they never stopped our activities, and even encouraged us. My family was going through difficult times. My father passed away in July 1981 at the age of 35 due to cancer. I have a sister and three brothers. I’m the first born in the family and studied in the second grade of guidance school, when my father died, and my younger sister was twenty days old. My father died and we were left alone in a war-torn city with too many difficulties, therefore we experienced special and new conditions. My brothers and sister were younger than me, and it was not easy to be displaced in the mountains and valleys, to live in tents in the bitter cold and scorching heat.

My mother believed in Ms. Razi's compassion and also believed that when we worked with her, she would protect us motherly. From time to time, we were busy training from morning till night, and then gathered in the Women’s Basij and made masks until late at night. We even took required things to our houses in order to make more masks with our family members.

 

What were the conditions of Ilam during the war years?

Ilam was perhaps bombarded more than seventy times, and people took refuge in the surrounding forests for a while. During the eight years of the war, at times, when the bombardment subsided, people returned to the city. Returning to the city was more like a short breath, as the bombardment intensified again and we took refuge again and again in the woods. They spent hard times in the snow, freezing weather, and floods in the mud without any heating or sanitation facilities; and in the scorching heat of summer, people waited for the water tanker to arrive and to quench their thirsty. In short, we had still not discouraged from serving honestly amid of these difficulties. I think the people of the war zones were all fighters. In the absence of their sons and husbands, mothers and wives took care of the family under the most intense bombardment. The people of Ilam never left the city. The distance from the city to the tents we lived in was seven kilometers. We baked bread and food with firewood and bathed the babies with a pot of hot water under the tent, and there were no facilities other than primus stove. Most of the women and children lived in the tents, and most of the men of family served on the front lines.

 

What was the situation of studying?

Whenever the bombardment intensified, we lived in tents and mobile schools were set up and we all studied in tents. When we took refuge in the oak forests from the bombardment, we usually walked for miles to reach the village school, because there was no school everywhere.

On February 12, 1987, we studied under a tent opposite to the Chavar highway patrol, when the aircrafts suddenly appeared in the sky. Right next to Imam Khomeini Hospital, a few meters away of our tent, was bombarded. We saw the bombs coming down from the Iraqi fighter to the football field, and the terrible sound of the bomb exploding and the whistle of the aircraft was really so terrifying. From the moment the aircraft appeared until the bombs dropped on the football field, we just stared in amazement and lost all hope to remain alive. At that moment, young people and teenagers were playing on that football field, and most of these loved ones were killed, and no one could do anything for them. Chavar was not far from Ilam, but people didn’t think that it was also bombarded by Iraqi aircrafts. Everyone just stared at the sky, there was no place to take refuge. As soon as the aircrafts disappeared, the people of Chavar and the surrounding villages rushed to the scene to find their loved ones. The school was closed soon. An ambulance siren sounded. From behind the bars of emergency ward, I saw a mother lay down and her baby was put on her chest and both of them slept like angels. Most of the martyrs were from my family and tribe, and the memory of martyrs of our beloved country remained in our memory until the moment of death.

 

How did you manage your plans?

Plus serving in the Basij, I was an instructor in the literacy movement and received a monthly salary of one thousand Tomans, which also helped the family economy. Ms. Razi held a course in the Women’s Basij for the families of the warriors to learn writing and reading, and I was one of her instructor. I worked at school until noon and then served in the Basij till night. When I was an instructor, I had classes at nights. Sometimes we bought a sandwich on the way and went straight to the Basij. We used to sleep in the base at nights when there was a lot of works and it was supposed a fair to be held or there was a huge volume of voluntary contributions for the front lines. Of course, I dropped out at the first year of high school and got a diploma a few years later. In the summers, we worked from morning till night like a regular staff and did whatever we were told. For the forces who worked from morning till night, a brief lunch or dinner was brought; but, Ms. Razi believed that it was not right to use the Bayt al-mal in wartime, and most of the time we bought sandwiches with our pocket-money.

There was no fatigue then. Witnessing the young people who were martyred in defense of Islam and the homeland, made us ask ourselves what is my duty now that our loved ones have given their lives? It may not be digestible for today's generation, but money, material things, and salaries had no meaning and there was no rivalry. Fatigue, hunger, cold and heat did not prevent serving to the country. There was no discouragement, it was just love. We flourished with the advices of the late Imam. Position, status, and rank didn’t yet have a meaning, and there was no boss or subordinate. Although Ms. Razi was in charge, but she didn’t put on airs and treated us like a mother.

All our activities in the Basij were voluntary, there was no salary and allowance. We only wanted to have a share in the sacred defense. We served with double love, honesty and strength and with a strong spirit; even our families had no protest. I was recruited in the IRGC in 1988.

 

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