A Review of the Book “Oral History of Holly Defense Narrated by Ahmad Fotouhi”

Basij in the 17th Ali ibn Abi Taleb Division

Fereydoon Molk-Mian
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi

2022-09-13


“Today, we keep saying to make the work public and leave it to them; people who believe in the principle of doing their duty, not for their own interest. Of course, there was greed in the holy defense too, but it was greed for the hereafter! In that period, things were done heartily and based on faith, and everyone was looking for anonymity. Many people today say that we are result-oriented, not task-oriented. When it was a matter of duties and responsibilities, the one who performed their duties they would get the best results and God would bless them. Young and old, literate and illiterate, urban and rural, rich and poor, and all stratums sought to do their duty. This is our missing link today.”

Simplicity, frankness and sincerity that can be seen in the tone of the text chosen for the book back cover emphasizes a view that is also well reflected in the photo on the cover (the narrator's innocent face and posture). And this is indeed the story of all those who, during the holy defense period, thought fame was in their anonymity and considered themselves only obligated to fulfill their duty.

After pages of the title, Catalaging in Publication (CIP), and copyright (which are on the same page), and the content, there is the foreword of the document and research center, and the introduction by the interviewer and the book editor. In the following, eighteen sessions of interview with Ahmad Fotouhi constitute the eighteen chapters of the text of this narrative, in which the narrator recounts his memories of the war. After that is the section of images, mainly in color and sometimes in black and white with good quality (at the same time, in some places of the text, as the content required, there are remarkable and impressive photos), and the last pages, as usual, are dedicated to the index.

 

The First Session

“The first actions after the revolution” is the topic of the first interview with Ahmad Fotouhi (the narrator). At the beginning, he talks about the military training of popular forces in Qom mosques after victory of the revolution. Then, these issues are discussed: formation of the Islamic Revolution Committees, formation of the Qom Corps and joining a part of the committee's forces into IRGC, membership in the Qom's IRGC and protection of Imam Khomeini (RA) after his temporary stay in Qom, protection of political-religious figures in Qom, and ending the Muslim People's Republic Party riots in Qom, etc.

 

The Second Session

In this session, the narrator talks of “Liberation of Sanandaj; A Lasting Experience”; the events that happened in the early days of the revolution in Qom and the special charges of the Qom's IRGC began in that period. While explaining the story of presence of the cabals in Qom and their recruiting, other measures by IRGC are mentioned; finally, the Kurdistan tumult and the liberation of Sanandaj are discussed.

 

The Third Session

In the third session, the narrator refers to “the beginning of the imposed war and dispatch of Qom forces to the southern fronts”; a period that he was sent to Shiraz to complete skydiving training. Then he talks about the events that happened after start of the imposed war and his return to Qom. In continuation of the session, he explained the mission of the group under his command in the Darkhoin front and Kut-e Sheykh line of Khorramshahr, mentions his meeting with Jahanara in Khorramshahr and Sayyed Rahim Safavi in ​​Darkhoin, as well as attending the operations of Commander-in-Chief, Thamen al-Aema, Tariq al-Quds, Fath ol-Mobin, and Beit al-Moqaddas.

 

The Fourth Session

This interview is related to “Basij; The Main Axis of the Expansion of IRGC Combat Organization.” The narrator talks about how the 17th Ali ibn Abi Taleb Brigade was assigned to the 1st region of IRGC, including Markazi, Zanjan, and Semnan provinces. He attributes the increase of the IRGC's combat power to the presence of Basij forces in difficult fields. In continuance of the session, after describing the new organization of the 17th Brigade, he mentions his presence in the defense line of the Zaid Checkpoint as commander of Imam Muhammad Taqi (AS) Battalion. Then he explains about Operation Muharram and taking over commanding of the 17th Brigade. At the end, he provides explanations about role of the clergy in strengthening structure of the 17th Division and Zainuddin attention to train officers.

 

The Fifth Session

“The Era of Holy Defense; The Manifestation of Meritocracy” is a topic which is discussed in the fifth session. At the beginning, it is said about expansion of the IRGC Combat Organization with the presence of people as well as real meritocracy during the holy defense; that IRGC as a whole and especially its commands recognized their own needs according to the situation. One could even really see meritocracy at its best in appointments during the holy defense. In the continuation of this discussion, topics such as commander-oriented commands in IRGC, field presence of commanders in preparation stages of the command, and practical and experimental progress of the division commanders during the war are mentioned.

 

The Sixth Session

It is dedicated to the issue of “Organizational Flexibility in IRGC.” First, issues such as promotion of IRGC Combat Organization, promotion of the 17th Brigade of Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) to the Division, and the development stages of this command are discussed. Then, describing the situation in the fronts after formation of the brigade and the division structures, the narrator points out flexibility of the IRGC Combat Organization. Also, creativity in structuring, the role of popular forces in IRGC Combat Organization, measures by the 17th division in the Operation Valfajr Moghadamati, and memories of martyrs Hasan Bagheri, Amir Hossein Nadiri, and Hossein Saedi are among the other topics which are discussed in this session.

 

The Seventh Session

In this session, the topic is “Changing the War Zone”, which starts with the discussion about providing the necessary preparations for the implementation of operations Valfajr 3 and 4. The narrator then mentions cooperation of clergies of Qom, guilds and officials of the provinces with the 17th Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) Division, and compare presence of popular forces in the Baath army and that of Iranians in the fronts. In the continuation of this session, the narrator speaks about properties of implementing operations in the south, west, and northwest regions, as well as the differences among the operations in these regions.

 

The Eighth Session

“Operation Valfajr-4; Another Experience” is subject of the eighth session. First, the narrator describes Operation of Valfajr-4 and continues to explain the basic differences of the battle in the south and northwest region, stating that the problems caused by changing the war zone were solved by flexibility of IRGC forces. Then, issues such as hardships of war in the operational area of ​​ Valfajr-4 and the need for training appropriate to the operational area are discussed.

 

The Ninth Session

In this session, “Operation Khyber; The Epitome of Innovation in the War” is the subject of narrative. The narrator begins the session with explaining flexibility of structure and organization of the 17th of Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) Division, and then goes on to describe the reconnaissance before Operation Khyber and preparation for this operation. He also explains about deployment of the Basij forces before Operation Khyber in the form of “Labaik Ya Imam Plan” and challenges of using these forces, and also mentions martyrdom of Mahdi Zainuddin's companions and his loneliness in Operation Khyber. Then, he talks about founding bases of the marine command in the 17th division in Operation Khyber, and innovation and creativity of IRGC in this operation; he also narrates story of his injury in this operation. The departure for spiritual journey of Hajj, the campaign to the North-West Front, martyrdom of Zainuddin, and describing Gholamreza Jafari as commander of the 17th Division are other topics of this session.

 

The Tenth Session

In the tenth session, the narrator talks about “Young Commanders in the Battle Scene.” Therefore, methods of command during the Holy Defense, characteristics of young commanders in the battle scene, and organizational progress of personnel in the combat organization of IRGC constitute topics of this session. Among other things, the narrator provides explanations about Mehdi Zainuddin's commanding style and his interactions with the officials of the supporting provinces.

 

The Eleventh Session

In this session, the narrator focuses on “Interaction of the Fighters with The New Commander of the 17th Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) Division.” Considering that IRGC's commands were commander-oriented and popularity and acceptability of Mehdi Zainuddin among the fighters of the 17th Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) Division, explaining situation of this division after his martyrdom is one of the main topics of this interview. Then, he talks of how to introduce the new commander of the division and that he initially refuses to accept the position of deputy of the commander; after a meeting which is held with the presence of officials of the division and Qom's IRGC, he accepts this responsibility.

 

The Twelfth Session

The issue of “The Role of the 17th Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) Division in Operation Badr” is discussed in the twelfth session. The narrator talks about the relentless fight of the 17th Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) Division at the end of Operation Badr, and calls the first operational experience of the 17th division by the new commander a successful experience, describes this command as a line-breaking and victorious command in Operation Badr. According to him, despite not complete success of Operation Badr, the 17th division was able to achieve its goals. In continuance of the session, he mentions the hand-to-tank combat in Majnoon Island and states that the 17th division did not retreat in Operation Badr, but it was depleted, because the heaviest armored battle took place in the line of this division; the soldiers of the division made a unique epic. restoration the structure of the division after Operation Badr, its revolutionary management, and formation of Command of “Sh. M. H. (ش.م.ه.)” are of the next topics is the twelfth session. Description of preparation actions of the 17th Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) Division for operation in Al-Faw, observing security measures at the beginning of preparing the command, successive changes in mission of the 17th division, and deceiving the enemy in Operation Valfajr-8 are among the other topics raised in this interview.

 

The Thirteenth Session

The narrator talks about “Peak of the Enemy's Raid in Operation Valfajr-8” in this session; he also discusses preparation of the 17th Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) Division and its special training to participate in Operation Valfajr-8 as well as the maneuver of the aforementioned command in this operation. He also explains how the 17th Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) Division participated in the planning of Operation Valfajr-8 and gives some points about the commanders who were present alongside the warriors in the battle scene, depicts the atmosphere of the 17th division at the threshold of Operation Valfajr-8. Logistics in the different situation of operational area of Valfajr-8, the enemy’ raid in the 17th division's operational area, the heavy battle with Iraqi presidential guard division in Al-Faw area, and victory of the fighters over the enemy are among the other topics of this interview. The narrator also talks about his injury in two stages, and narrates an interesting story about his signaler, martyr Ali Khoshlahjeh, and points out that he was Mustajab al-Da'wah (whose prayers are granted). In the end, he introduces martyr Abbas Mirhadi, the commander of Ruhollah Battalion, and talks about mission of Imam Hasan (AS) Battalion in Operation Valfajr-8.

 

The Fourteenth Session

This interview is about “Failure of the Mobile Defense Strategy of the Baath Army in Mehran.” At the beginning, it is mentioned about transferring the 17th Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) Division from its main headquarters, “Atomic Energy”, 35 kilometers away from Abadan, to martyr Zainuddin Garrison in the general area of ​​Andimeshk. The narrator provides explanations about how to build this garrison with the participation of people of Qom and Markazi province, the round-the-clock efforts of engineers, and constant and encouraging presence of martyr Zainuddin’s father and also his efforts in the stages of building the garrison. The mobile defense of the Baath army, Operation Karbala-1 and prominent role of the 17th Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) Division in liberation of Mehran are other topics that the narrator deals with. At the end of the session and while describing Operation Karbala-1, he mentions hot sun on the operation day and thirst of the fighters.

 

The Fifteenth Session

In this session, the topic of “Year of Destiny” is discussed. First, he takes a conclusion of Operation of liberation of Mehran, and then it talks about situation of the 17th Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) Division after Operation Karbala-1 and how Qaem's (Aj) defense battalions were formed; that, in 1986/1365 (SH), in order to carry out defense operations and help the IRGC combat forces, Qaem (Aj) battalions were established in the resistance regions and bases of IRGC in the cities and provinces, and for a period, they were active in the defense areas of the fronts. Then, the narrator points out interesting points about the decisive operation, the year of destiny, and financial jihad in 1986/1365, etc. He ends the interview with explanation of how the 17th Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) Division took advantage of the troops of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

 

The Sixteenth Session

"Mobilization; The Miracle of Imam Khomeini (RA)" is a topic that is discussed in the 16th session. First, the narrator explains situation of the command and war fronts in the year that became known as the year of destiny, and states that in that year, no significant change took place which would be appropriate to the year of destiny in the combat command. From his point of view, raising this issue had more of a political aspect rather than wanting to provide the necessary facilities to carry out a decisive operation. In continuance of the session, importance of general area of ​​Shalamcheh and tactical measures by the 17th division in Operation Karbala-4 are discussed. Referring to the difficulty of terrain in Karbala- 4 operational area for fighting, the narrator points out resistance of Basij forces to carry out operations in this area, describes performance of Basij fighters in line-breaking battalions of the division and introduces Basij as creator of epics in difficult scenes.

 

The Seventeenth Session

This session is dedicated to "Breaking the Strong Fortress of the Enemy in Shalamcheh." First, the narrator describes Operation Karbala-5 and explains the difference between line-breaking in Shalamcheh and Al-Faw. With explanations about the difficult situation of the commands in this operation, he talks about the tactical views of the 17th Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) Division and how to transfer these views to the command of IRGC. The heavy causalities of the enemy in Shalamcheh and additional pressures that were put on our own commands in this area was another part of the narrator's talk about Operation Karbala-5. He also mentions the political issues mixed with issues of the war in this period, and explains effect of certain behaviors on morale of the warriors.

 

The Eighteenth Session

The topic of the last session of these conversations is "The Campaign to the Northwest", and the narrator, with a brief reference to Operation Karbala-8, describes situation of the 17th Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) Division after Operation Karbala-5. In continuation of the session, he gives explanations about re-appearance of the division in Al-Faw to carry out the operation in 1987/1366 and cancellation of this operation; he also speaks about reasons for the campaign to the northwest and presence of the 17th division in this area. Operation Valfajr-10, separation of the 17th Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) Division, and re-expansion of IRGC Combat Organization at the end of the war, resignation of Ahmed Fotouhi (the narrator) from the post of deputy commander of the division in the three months until end of the war, and position of Basij during Holy Defense are other issues which are discussed in this interview.

"The Oral History of the Sacred Defense Narrated by Ahmad Fotouhi" which was compiled by Yahya Niazi, the first edition of which was published by the Center for Documents and Research of the Holy Defense in 2021/1400. The book with 432 pages and 1000 hardcover copies in an octavo medium size, at a price of 136,000 Tomans is accessible for audiences.



 
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