The Beaver Night & Beside the Oven

Amir Mohsen Azad

Translated by: Mohammad Baqar Khoshnevisan

What a lot of mediocre soldiers and militants whom have turned into national heroes by the dexterity of the poets, minstrels, artists, and historians. What a lot of wonderful heroes who are buried under the dust of history, because they have not found any way to the mysterious world of artists and writers. Religiously speaking, poets and historians do not write the esteem and reverence of the God's devotees. However, each nation needs the champions to revive the spirit of self-confidence, trust and honor to pave its road in history and increase their belief and motives in adventurous paths. The national heroes are the backing of any nation in its travel to the ideal point. The least damage of ignoring the national heroes is that the scene will become ready for the appearance of deceitful and commonplace heroes, and woe to the nation that its heroes are the showmen and tradesmen.

Mohsen Kazemi has gathered the memoirs of Ezzat Shahi (Ezzatollah Motahari Khansari) by endeavors, researches, and editing at the Bureau for Islamic Revolutionary Literature. For the first time it was presented to the readers in Tehran International Book Fair in 2006. Since then, eight editions of this book have been published and it is sold up to the seventeenth edition in advance. This book is in foolscap size and 865 pages and has many photos and documents attached. It is of those books that fascinates the readers and is one of the best works ever published under the title of Oral Memoirs. It is an interesting book to read and far from tradesman and spiteful dexterities.

The oral memoirs of Ezzat Shahi, is the result of four years of research and investigation. It is based on conversation and oral record, in which political contemporary history proceedings can be recognized, and has challenged many subversive groups and organizations of 60s and 70s. An extensive research and investigation has been done in written, oral and electronic (internet) sources, to document the memoirs of this fighter. Kazemi has deeply searched about one thousand documents, news articles, reports of events related to the fighters of these two decades, archival interviews, vast internet sources and biographies of the personalities mentioned in the memoirs and related books -that their full explanation has been brought at the end of the book.             

Being part of oral history is the discriminative feature of these memoirs, in comparison to the other monographs. The oral statements and talks of others mentioned in his memoirs have been reviewed so that Shahi's talks are endorsed. Kazemi has found these people from near and far places in a hard and difficult process and asked them to talk about the subjects that Shahi has talked about them. There is no subject or claim in Shahi's statements left without any document or witness. He has tried to give possible references about characters and role-players and also the events and happenings of fighting periods in Shahi's memoirs. In their biographies, he has not only mentioned their political and social life, but also talked about their individual and social characteristics, manners, and physical features as much as possible. So, the reader can judge about them with more information and knowledge by himself.

The other attractiveness of this book beside its attractive events is the chapter notes and the useful documents and photos of the end of the book. In contrast to most of memoirs or history books in which photos are explained or introduced, in this work in an innovative and new method, each photo has a description that is identical to the memoirs and notes of the book.

Some people believe that the dominant literature after the revolution and war is a memoirs oriented literature. Kinds of memoirs that are all based on a combination of dangers and how to escape them become more attractive and readable when mixed with story writing elements. From this stand, the memoirs of revolution and war are a big and valuable treasure that is in front of these people. The people whose names and memoirs are recalled in different places of the world because of their honesty and endurance.

Ezzat Shahi is the storyteller of manly 1001 nights. Why do we call it 1001 nights? We do not intend to have a comparative look at all. There are mysteries repeated in long nights of this history and civilization. Mysteries that have budded in people's chest, and now, it are the time for them to be blossomed and ripen, and put in their access to be whispered for their future children.

The memoirs of Ezzat Shahi can be read in two methods: the memoirs of a political prisoner who has narrated a part of himself with obstinacy, which is by itself a creditable and considerable document for all the researchers who like to know and hear more about that period. The second look is the description of continuance of a campaign that is running in Islamic history and civilization and only its method goes under change. Can we call Ezzat Shahi as a Ballal Habashi, based on this look? Or should we let them keep their power and authority? Ezzat Shahi with a considerable patience is describing the details of his arrestment and imprisonment and we travel along with him a long way to read some of our mentalities from his words. The dreadful nights of Evin and Ghasr prisons and Komite-ye Moshtarak detention center, his loneliness in the basement of the police lockup, frequent come and goes for investigation to betray the one who is possibly still alive or not, the prayers and fasts done in solitude, his wish to commit suicide which is so unpleasant and we considered it as unheard, his return to some spaces to rebuild which is unbearable at all, and we step by step go with him to the homes, alleys and streets in which his heart pace is still heard in them.                                 

The narrative of Ezzat Shahi about prison should be read patiently. As he has told: "the book is in 13 chapters that each one, in a correct manner, is independent from the others and explains related conditions, subjects, and spaces." This has not mixed up the chronological order of events and this is one of the beauties of the book, which divides the subjects in different chapters, and at the same time, its chronological order is not broken off.

The subject of "End of Childhood", in the beginning of the memoirs, is so attractive for the inquirer minds, who ask how at a beginning, there is a word of ending?! This question is answered when the following texts is read. The various chapters of the book, based on their subjects are as follow:

The first chapter called "Toward the Feast," contains the short time scope of childhood to first political experiences of Shahi. In this chapter, we come to the result that some people are grown up very fast; or in other word, they are grown up without spending the childhood period and they are encountered with events, accidents, and big disasters in their childhood. This chapter explains how the personality of Ezzat Shahi is developed, how he has entered into political activities, and his early experiences in formation of a political group called "Iranian National Liberation Front" and his participation in armed and explosive operations like setting in fire the Israel Airlines office (El Al) and disturbing the Asian Football Clubs competitions.

In the next chapter, "Armed Homework," Ezzat Shahi is about to find his real and correct place in armed violent movement. Therefore, beside the experience of activity in "Iranian National Liberation Front," he also participates in "Hezbullah Group" and is finally joined to militants of "The Mojahedin Khalq."

Ezzat Shahi in third chapter, "The Mojahedin Khalq", as a complete partisan, lives in a team home and takes part directly in many operations like explosion of Shah Abass Hotel in Isfahan and unsuccessful assassination of Shaban Jafari (Bi Mokh) and some more explosions and also provision and making explosive and …. Savak, after months of pursuit and escape, finally catches him in its net, because of someone's betray. He is not arrested easily, seven Savak bullets find their way into his body, and a ten years old girl is killed in this accident. The Savak agents are so frightened that do not dare to come near the Shahi's bloody body. Torture begins just in the hospital, with the outmost meanness and humility.

The forth chapter, "The Women Prison", reveals the mysteries of resistance against torture, how a human can play with skilful and cruel Savak agents and those of the common anti-sabotage committee, through relying on story-telling and mythopoeia and delivering outdated information and also with insistence on his believes and stability in his trust.

The fifth chapter, "Ghasr Memoirs" includes the interactions and oppositions of different political groups in front of the officials of the prison and the agents of the regime, in which historical and unforgettable events has happened.

 In the sixth chapter, "The Nights of Common Committee," the highest point of cruelty and ruthlessness of the agents of Savak and common anti-sabotage committee are displayed. A picture, which in a part of it, Ezzat reaches to a point that is obliged to commit suicide to save his friends' lives and his information and also to end his excessive sufferings and pains.

The seventh chapter, "In Evin Prison," is like a fun and recreation to reach to the point of "The Pure of the Pure" (the eighth chapter), in which Ezzat encounters with the betrayal of some of his fellow combatants and the loyalty of some like Hassan Abrari. Remembrance of this part is so hard for Ezzat that sometimes tears drop from his eyes.

The ninth chapter, "Ideological Demarcation," is a chapter of life in which Ezzat does not sell his ideological identity to the low price of blind companionship with the organization and support of it and resists against dreadful boycott of his yesterday friends.

 He is the guest of the Shah's regime for "The Last Supper" (the title of the tenth chapter) of the prison in the threshold of the Islamic Revolution victory, in Aban 1357(1978) , to be freed with a lot of experiences he has gotten through and sit by "The Oven" (the eleventh chapter). To read this chapter is the hardest and most damaging work for the mind a man who has devoted all his life to see the fruit of the revolution and after the victory, he has done any activity and self-sacrifice to stabilize it, now he is in a situation and sphere, which is obliged to seclude. He looks at the operation and activities of those on the power from a far distance …and in here; the claim of Kazemi in the preface is meant word by word, "The fortunate combatant, is the one killed in fighting…."

Another look at the chapters of the book reminds of this poem:

"It was heard that Gaznavid Mahmood one night                                     

  Drank vine and spent a long night

  A secluded beggar slept by an oven

By the oven passed for that naked poor too

In the morning, someone cried Oh Mahmood 

The long night passed and beside the oven passed"              

The twelfth chapter has "A Review and Analysis of The Mojahedin Khalq." Clearly, this part is not derived from memoirs and observations of Ezzat, but is based on his information and analysis, thus it is reflected apart from memoirs and is in an independent form so that the reader can reach to a history of The Mojahedin Khalq Organization.

 The last chapter, "The Attachments," is the endeavors of researcher to document the remembrances of Ezzat Shahi. The researcher and the author of the book has written his historical searches and findings related to other witnesses of the events about the subject and their oral speeches, which are occasionally confirming or against the words of Ezzat, in here because of being very long. This is a brief note, which one can tell and write from Ezzat Shahi's memoirs. One should accompany each line, and see what he has seen, hear what he has heard and what has passed on him, so that to acquire a unique and grace perception.

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