Review of Blood Pool

Andimeshk Women Account about Laundry during the Holy Defense

Fereydoun Heidari Molkmian
Translated by: Zahra Hosseinian

2021-11-30


"In the light of the lamp, I saw pools full of blood. In the darkness and silence of the night, it was a very strange and painful scene. The red blood glows in the light of the lamp. I did not want to believe it. I opened and closed my eyes several times. Instead of water, I saw sparkling blood. Deeply I felt pity. Naneh Gholam and Zahra, like me, had stunned by seeing the pool of blood..."

These short sentences, which are carefully selected from the content and was appeared on the back of the book cover, give us a generality that we will encounter in this relatively large book (504 pages). In addition, the cover of Blood Pool was designed tastefully, so that the reddish of the background and the wavy black lines and the floats, represent and express the concerns that are confirmed in this book.

As mentioned in the previous page of title page, the book is dedicated to all the martyrs and their mothers and wives who were the motivators of founding Shahid Javad Ziwadari Cultural and Artistic Institute, and their material and spiritual support has always been a factor in the survival of the institute.

Although the name Fatemeh Sadat Mir Aali has appeared on the cover, it is immediately noticed on the title page that at least seven other people have helped her in the research of this book. In the preface, of course, she (as the compiler of the book) has explained in detail that why and how to get the approval to compile the memories of laundresses. Then, she described the method of researching interviews and verifying the memoirs, and finalizing them. She also mentions many people, who have worked hard and helped to accomplish the project, either in finding the laundry narrators and recording their memoirs until the final stages of preparing the book, or in preparing and collecting photographs, and so on.

The Blood Pool begins with the publisher's prologue: "The historiography of the Islamic Revolution owes much to the narrative of the women and, of course, to the revolution itself ..." and goes on to point out the importance of the relevant issues. Then the compiler’s preface appeared. Following it, the memories of Sixty-Four laundry women is dealt with, all of whom took part in the war support activities; however, it certainly does not include all those women, because, as the compiler states in the preface. "There were still people whose names I had only heard from others, but who were either not alive or whose memory did not help. I did not find a number of others, no matter how hard I searched." So, inevitably, she had to be satisfied with the remaining ones and collected and compiled the narrations, lest to miss the opportunity.

Zahra Maleknejad (Ms. Hosseinpour) is the first narrator of the Blood Pool: "It was the last day of summer. I think it was noon. Suddenly, with a frightening noise, we all ran to the streets and looked at each other puzzled. The children had clung with us in fear. A cloud of black smoke had raised from the airbase. Terrified, people ran to the base. An hour or two later, the news spread in the city: Iraq has invaded ..."

Thus, Ms. Hosseinpour begins her story on the very day when the two armored and mechanized divisions of the Ba'athist regime in Iraq advanced 15 kilometers to Andimeshk to occupy it. Andimeshk was the gateway of Khuzestan and the passage of the country's transport arteries and fossil fuels and they had approximately advanced up to the near Karkheh Bridge at the west of Andimeshk.

The men ran toward Karkheh with guns, sticks, and whatever they could get to fight against the Ba'athists along with the army forces. The youths built trenches in the city and guarded it day and night. Iraq aimed the city with artillery cannon guns and missiles. At nights, even a cigarette couldn't be lit. Only the reddish light of the enemy’s artillery cannon shots illuminated the city sky. We heard bad news from Khorramshahr and Abadan. People were worried. The Basiji youths picked up the women and children with pickups and drove them to the surrounding deserts and took them away from the city.

But Ms. Hosseinpour, like many, stayed at her home. His sons guarded in the street. They brought her soaps to grate. Then, she filled the half of the beverage bottles with oil, petrol, and grated soap, and thrusted a piece of tied fabrics into them to the extent that a part of it to be slightly protruded. They trained her how to make Molotov cocktails. She arranged them in the corner of the yard so that his sons accessed and delivered them to the defenders of the city.

Most of the daytime, she and the neighbor women talked about the war and their children's courage in protecting the city and the Karkheh Bridge, but at night they were afraid the Ba'athists would trap them in their homes. So, Ms. Hosseinpour filled the bathwater tank, poured oil into the water heater, and turned it on. It was one of those old ones which made the water very hot. Using a water hose to flush open the hot water, she reached it to the roof, where there was a brick fence. At nights, she sat down behind the brick fence and watched the street through the holes. She waited for the Iraqis to arrive, and she poured hot water on their heads or hit them with bricks.

Within less than a week, the army and the people of Andimeshk repelled the Iraqis from the Karkheh River. Many of the women who had gone out of the city, returned. Iraqi fighters were constantly bombing the city. Although the women were afraid of being trapped by the enemy, they wanted to back up their brave youths, who resisted and were wounded and martyred. They wanted not to scare the enemy’s greatness and tumult. They wanted to stay and do whatever they could to help the fighters.

Early on, Mr. Kalani, her sister-in-law, took the fighters' clothes, blankets, mattresses, and sheets from the hospital, loaded them into a Nissan, and emptied them in the corner of his house yard to be washed. Ms. Hosseinpour also went to her sister’s house to help her. The rest of the women in the neighborhood knocked on the door, came in, and began to help in washing. In a jiffy, twenty to thirty women gathered, turned on the pool faucet, threw dirty clothes into the pool, added detergent powder, and began washing by trampling the clothes inside the pool.

In the end, around the pool was filled with skin, pieces of flesh, and dried blood clots. The women felt sick, having a lump in their throat, but they did not have enough time to cry. They recited Basmala, took plastic bags, bend down, collected the pieces of flesh from the ground, and put them into the bags. They then gave the bags to Mr. Kalani to bury.

Little by little, more clothes were brought to the houses. Neighbors usually gathered in the yard of her sister's house and washed them together, or sometimes everyone washed them in their own house. It did certainly not happen the same all the time; sometimes the laundry was so much that doing washing in the houses was not sufficient. As soon as Ms. Hosseinpour found out that some women also do washing in Shahid Kalantari Hospital, she got ready and went there. The wards of the hospital were separate buildings. The laundry was ten or twelve meters away from the emergency ward.

Outside and inside the laundry room was full of clothes, blankets, and sheets. As soon as she entered, smelled the pungent odor of bleach. Forty or fifty women recited Salawat, prayed, and busied washing. Nobody noticed her. She also sat next to a big wash-tub and opened sheets. The blood on it was dried and blackened. She decided to use bleach to wet it. She took the bleach bottle and poured it on the sheets. The intense gas of bleach went into her throat and nose, her eyes burned, and her tears flowed. She felt suffocated. She took the water hose over her face and then went out of the laundry room. When she felt better, returned, covered her mouth and nose with her scarf, and began washing. 

From then on, she went to the laundry every day. Several women from the neighborhood also accompanied her. They liked the atmosphere of the laundry; they were all full of passion and emotion, and they poured out their heart to each other. But as soon as they saw painful scenes such as holes made by bullets and shrapnel on clothes, their tears flowed and they sobbed. However, like a sister, they comforted each other in order for the fighter’s clothes to be washed and prepared in time.

 

This is just a part of a simple and intimate account about the resistance and activity of a laundry woman during the war in the Andimeshk.  A female narrative of shocking scenes of self-sacrifice and resistance in the face of an unequal war and a surprise attack that affects the human conscience deeply.

But in the Blood Pool, this narration is repeated many times and parallel narrations (64 narrations) emerge from a single event. Each narrator recounts from her/his point of view everything s/he has seen, experienced, and touched. This variety of accounts and narratives, although they may sometimes have something in common, creates an atmosphere through which one can approach one of the most neglected parts of the imposed war, and this is of course not a small achievement.

The last 66 pages of the Blood Pool are dedicated to photos. First, there are photos of the group of laundry women. After that, there are photos of the laundry women who are attributed to martyrdom; then the photos of the laundry place and Shahid Kalantari Hospital in the 90s, and finally, there are photos of the narrators of the book. Most of the photos are in color and of good quality. In addition, below or next to each photo is a sufficient description.

The research and compilation of Blood Pool were done by Fatemeh Sadat Mir Aali and its first edition was published and released in 2021 by Rahyar Publishing for the Oral History Unit of the Islamic Revolution Cultural Front, in 504 pages, and 1000 copies in paperback and octavo size at a price of 70,000 Tomans.



 
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