The 291st Show of Night of Memory

Memoirs from two operations, aviation and martyrs

Maryam Rajabi
Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan


Enemy’s speculation and our goal

Ahamd Saqafi was the first narrator of the show. He said, “In Operation Beit al-Moqaddas, we were deployed in Darkhowein, an area between Ahvaz and Khorramshahr. There are two roads there; one form Ahvaz to Khorramshahr and the other from Ahvaz to Abadan. Since Ahvaz to Khorramshahr road was in the hands of enemy, our forces were preparing for the operation in Ahvaz to Abadan road in Darkhowein area. We started moving after 9 PM from there. On the evening of before this time, a bridge which the army builds for its forces had been built for the coming and going of the trucks and combatants. After Operation Fat’h al-Mobin, in every bastion that we reached and said Allah-o Akbar (God is greatest), they (enemy) surrendered. We saw them surrendering since our move until we arrived in Ahvaz-Khorramshahr road. There were numerous bastions in the path. Their tanks and armored vehicles had also been deployed in some places; for example, if there were five tanks there and the guys targeted one of them, they would run away. We saw no resistance in the path. Then we arrived in Hossainieh checkpoint. We were deployed in Hossainieh until our guys and one of the divisions of Isfahan joined together.

It was around 11 Am. I had been sitting in a bulwark. The rest of the combatants had also built embankments and had been sitting dispersedly. We were not ready for the enemy’s counterattack at all. We were just ready for the order to start attacking. There, I saw some of the high commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) including Mr. Baqeri and Mr. Jafari from Najaf Headquarters and Mr. Rashid, the commander of Khatam Headquarters, Mr. Gholampour from Karbala Headquarters, Mr. Kazemi and Mr. Hemmat. There was also a Jeep 106 there which had been destroyed. There were some 20 meters distance between these men and the embankment. I had been sitting on the ground with ten meters distance from the embankment and ten meters from them. There was a pit under the Jeep. The men had been sitting inside the pit. They had been sitting under the Jeep hardly and were checking the operation. At the same time, we saw a man got up from the embankment and was shot in the forehead. The second, third, fourth and fifth men also got up and were shot in the forehead. We did not know at all what was going on and why these commanders had come here. Suddenly I saw that 50 RPG shooters came above the embankment. I just found out that the Iraqis had planned this counterattack last night and had done something that we were deployed in Hossainieh checkpoint since last night in order to destroy us in the day. We usually built our embankments on the edge of the roads and since we wanted to grab the Ahvaz to Khorramshahr road, we had built embankments in a way that the road would be available to us. Suddenly we saw that more than one hundred tanks in two columns were coming quickly toward the destroyed Jeep under which the commanders had been deployed. The commanders knew that they wanted to attack and for this reason they had come there. They (the enemy) had dug several pits with 150 meters distance to the embankment, had disgorged their men inside them and thrown something on them. They had prepared a hole from under the covers so that if the RPG shooters and sentinels come up, shoot them in the forehead. When their tanks started moving, those men could not do anything. They were afraid that the tanks overran them, so they escaped. First, the guys targeted two tanks from the two columns with RPG. Then, they hit some eight tanks filled with shells. A strange explosion occurred. Instead of losing our morale as a result of the number of tanks that were coming toward us, they (the enemy) lost their morale, and at the very beginning, the tanks turned round and ran away. When the RPG shell hits a tank, the people inside will be burnt! Thus, they came out of the tanks and ran away. When the guys saw that they were escaping on foot and on board, they set aside the RPGs and ran toward the tanks with empty hands. We saw each of the guys got into a tank and were accelerating and coming toward us. Those commanders were also watching the scene.  



The type of the enemy’s counterattack was that before they shot in the foreheads of our guys, attacked with five jetfighters and targeted and left our area. In this operation, I was also hit by shrapnel. My face was bloody but I was standing upright. This was while many forces became unconscious and were not able to be ready for advancement. They had crushed our forces one time in that area in this way. But this time, the presence of the commanders was effective to a large extent. It means in any place the commanders were present, we were successful. Although the guys had been crushed in this area, after that, our RPG shooters acted very well and forced some 30 enemy's tanks to retreat. When the counterattack came to an end, the ambulances came to transfer the wounded. I was also among the wounded who was taken to Ahvaz and thus, I couldn't take part in the second phase of the operation to see what happened. Martyr (Hasan) Baqeri had designed the operation in a way that the enemy thought the liberation of Khorramshahr was not our goal but we wanted to seize Basra. There, Martyr Baqeri had targeted Basra and although Khorramshahr was important for the enemy, it was not more important than Basra. When Basra was targeted, naturally, the enemy left Khorramshahr and If Khorramshahr was liberated so easily, as Imam Khomeini (God bless his soul) said, it was the hand of God which the plan came to the mind of the commanders otherwise no one would have any will of himself. The men pretended that their goal was Basra and Khorramshahr was liberated easily."

Ahmad Saqafi also said, "We were behind Karkheh River. Karkheh River and Naderi Bridge were in the hands of enemy. Two days before the Operation Fat'h al-Mobin, the guys had carried out a counterattack to take back one part of the bridge in order to see the enemy easier and to besiege it. The guys started moving there and took 170 captives. As they were fastening the captives' hands and feet, and organizing themselves, the enemy carried out a counterattack and the captives helped the enemy and killed our forces till the last one. There were lots of forces and we had no weapons, because Mr. Banisadr did not allow giving the army equipment. How is the morale of a combatant who has no weapon? How can he carry out an operation? I went among the guys from Dezful. They had gathered their forces to take them to Tappeh Cheshmeh in order to siege and seize the enemy's artillery which was deployed there. We were one battalion. The area was known as Tappeh Sheni (sand hill) because under the Shah, for Dasht-e Abbas and the surrounding roads, they had spattered sands to be used for road construction. The enemy had used the sands for road construction and had deployed its tank battalions there. We started our way from Tappeh Cheshmeh to reach the enemy's line. We reached the enemy's line at night. We targeted the bastions, threw grenades and advanced. One hour left to morning Azan (call to prayer), we reached to Tappeh Sheni. It took seven hours for us to go from Tappeh Cheshmeh to Tappeh Sheni. When we arrived, saw that the enemy's tanks were turning around us. We numbered less than twenty and had only one RPG shell. We were very close to one of the tanks and could not hot it with RPG. We did not know what to do. We threw grenades but the tanks moved again and were not destroyed. Finally, God created a horror in their heart and everybody escaped.

In the morning, the sands had turned into two embankments and we had been deployed in the idle of the two embankments. The enemy could watch us from both right and left sides. Suddenly, I saw that two tanks form the left, two tanks for the right and six PMPs from the opposite were coming. This was while we had no radio connection. While moving, since I was older than others, they had given one tank shell and one RPG shell to me and had given the base of the shells to the company commander so that when we reached the tanks and the RPG did not work, we use them. The company commander who knew how to shoot these shells was martyred and we could not use it. We did not target any enemy's tank either. When they approached, I lifted the RPG and shouted, "God is greatest". All of the forces escaped! The 60 forces who were inside the PMPs were killed. Then, whatever we waited to see our troops, nothing happened. We saw that a man came up the embankment. His neck had been hit by shrapnel and had tied it. He had worn the IRGC uniform. He told us that the guys were around Karkheh bridge. He was turning around his Keffiyeh (a traditional headdress). After a few minutes, we saw that the area was bombarded, and found out they were friendly forces. The Islamic Republic with its power had been able to seize Tappeh Sheni. When the Imam said that it was the hand of God which liberated Khorramshahr, it was really correct. The friendly forces approached. When they reached us with just two hundred meters away from us, we turned the Keffiyehs, calling them brothers till they identified us. Later, we found out that the enemy's tank battalions had been destroyed without our involvement. 



Travelling to a forest area

The second narrator was Hossain Nazouri, an army aviation commander. He said, "The whole nation of Iran knows army aviation. This unit has a high mobility, rapid reaction and up-to-date equipment. After the revolution, if a bullet was fired somewhere, the aviation unit was present. The aviation unit in the operations cannot make a decision on their own but it is under the supervision of the headquarters. The headquarters identify where a helicopter goes or not go. Some complained us why we were late, but we said that it was not our fault and this is your commanders who decide. 

The Operation Valfajr 4 started in October 1982. I was serving in the group of Isfahan's Logistics Base. I was ordered to go to Sanandaj with a flight crew. We knew that the Operation Valfajr 4 was going to be carried out in northwest of the country. The performance of helicopters in the mountains is very high but they have also weaknesses. Before the beginning of the operation, a person came and said that the Ground Forces Commander wanted to see you. I went and martyr Sayyad Shirazi said, "We have a flight today that nobody should understand." I said, "For flying, we have to write a flight plan and inform watchtower." He ordered me to cancel all of these things. I asked him to allow taking a copilot. He said just you and I had to go. I paused for a few moments. He said, "I am your commander and order you!" I obeyed. We boarded one of the helicopters. I started the helicopter and asked, "To which side should we go?" Sayyad Said, "Take off, I'll tell you where to go on the air!" This is against flight regulations and as long as the pilot does not know where he wants to go, he can say that I don't rise from the ground, but both we were in war conditions and martyr Sayyad Shirazi was the master of mapping and I was not worried about losing the route. I rose off from the ground and informed the operational officer with radio that I have risen off, I have something to do, and I'll come back soon. I and martyr Sayyad went and went and entered the Iraqi soil and reached a forest area. He asked me to turn around the forest and land in an area with no trees. One of the most difficult maneuvers of a helicopter is to take off and land vertically. We were a few and could land easily. While we were getting off, he told me to leave the area if he did not come back till ten minutes later. I did not accept but he said this is an order and If I don't come, leave!

I was on the enemy's soil and there was a possibility of attack at any moment. I had been scared as a man. Seven to eight minutes passed and he did not come. I was getting ready to get up till one or two more minutes later, but suddenly saw about twenty tall people carrying large arms who were running toward me. I was afraid and wanted to take off but I saw Brigadier General Sayyad Shirazi in front of these people. First, I thought that the general had taken them as captives. When they reached the helicopter, martyr Sayyad laughed and said I had brought guests for you; we must ride them and take to Sanandaj. I said I ride as many as the capacity. He said, no, they had to be evacuated in one stage! I said this helicopter has the capacity of 14 people, and even if I take their arms, I can launch with difficulty, how can I ride this number? He said, "Mr. pilot! You can launch now and go alone, I cannot tell you anything, because you are right but each of these people are in the size of a division and is worth a lot for the Iranian army". I said, "They are most welcome, but how can I put them into the helicopter?" He replied that I would do this! He managed to put them into the helicopter and sat on the copilot's seat and said if you did not take them, I had to stay here with them, even if one of them remained on the ground! And if you launched, all of us would be killed after half an hour. I said it was unlikely that I could rise, I had to launch vertically and passed over the tress in order to speed it up, and thus it needs a lot of power. Sayyad asked whether I accept God. I said if I did not, what could I do here? He said, "So, do whatever you can". I saw God's hand there. I closed my eyes and trusted in God, and said Oh God, I know that this vehicle does not have enough capability, you help us! All of a sudden, I saw that we were over the trees. My whole body was shaking. We had problem for landing too. I declared state of emergency. A fire engine came and there we landed with God's help. When everybody left, the general told me that this operation was one of the largest operations ever undertaken. He said, "I know if you record this operation in your flight notebook, you will be punished for flying all these people, do not register and do not tell anyone. After years, for the first time, I officially defined this memory here. After that operation, I did not see those people anymore and did not find out who they were and where they had come from."



Nazoori continued, "When Operation Valfajr 4 started, we had some 15 to 16 Bell-214 helicopter, and three Shinook ones. Three more helicopters had been given to us by the Air Force. Our first mountainous flights were carried out after the operation in south of the country. Amid the operation, I was informed by the radio that all of the helicopters 214 were bedridden. This was while according to the guys, the presence of a helicopter and even its sound was strength of heart for them. Was it possible for us to stop the operation until the helicopters were inspected? That night was a very bad night for me. I called the technical staff at night and asked for help. The technical personnel said: "It's possible to get the helicopters off the ground, if the instruments we want for overhaul are ready. Each helicopter will take one day to be overhauled and eventually it takes 15 days". This happened in Abadan and Sanandaj is very cold in this month with heavy rains. There, we did not have any hangar and our equipment was scattered in the open air. The technical staff asked us to provide framework and plastic in order to cover around the helicopters and work round-the-clock. We ordered the necessary equipment for Isfahan in order to overhaul them. We used Shinook helicopters. These helicopters should not go to the frontline. But it was compulsory here. The Shinook helicopters can carry more cargo and ammunition than the 216 ones, but it has low maneuver capability and escape power. We found out that the helicopters sent from the Air Force had a newer model and had been inspected. This became strength of heart for us that we could fly with six helicopters until the 214 ones were overhauled, but our pilots were under pressure, because they were supposed to fly five hours per day, now they had to fly ten hours per day. I supervised the work of the technical personnel for several nights and witnessed that their hands stack to the body of and components of the helicopters as a result of the extreme cold. We have always talked about the sacrifices of our pilots but have not mentioned the hardships of the technical personnel. On the whole, instated of 15 days, they controlled the entire instruments in less than one week and thanks God that we managed to succeed."


Iraqi general asks our martyrs to cure daughter

Seyed Javad Hashemi was the third narrator. He said, "One of my friends said I was in charge of the swap of the martyrs and Iraqi bodies. We went to Shalamcheh border, took delivery of the martyrs and delivered the Iraqi bodies. I knew that our martyrs are buried in Iran in the best places with dignity; I wanted to know what the Iraqis do with their bodies? Do they bury them at all? I went and with broken English asked the Red Cross agent whether it was possible to see that side of the border? He said no and showed me a tall strong man with black face and curly hair and said that he must allow. He is a general and has been the plenipotentiary of Maher Abd al-Rashid (an Iraqi army high officer). I forgot it. Ten years passed. They had put the bodies of our martyrs in the coffins that were made by ourselves. We had put the Iraqi bodies beside each other and we wanted to swap. Suddenly, I saw that that ugly man was walking among our martyrs, inserting his hand in our martyrs' coffins, taking something and holding in his hand. There was a man there. I shouted and said that he had no right to insert his hand in the coffin of our martyrs, what is he doing? He invited me to silence. But I was angry and just walking. I used the negligence of the soldiers and the Red Cross agent and went toward him, grabbed him by the collar and shouted who has allowed you to touch our bodies? I know you. You are the agent of Maher Abd al-Rashid! He looked at me penetratingly. He knew Farsi language and said that I didn't do anything, sir! He repeated this sentence several times while I was speaking. He looked at the coffins. His eyes were full of tears. He said, "I have a sick daughter who is no hope of staying alive according to the doctors." He opened his fist and I saw that there was the decayed texture of the shirts of our martyrs inside it. He said, "I have heard that your martyrs cure, allow me to take a piece of their shirts, I want to put it in my daughter's shirt and he was crying."


The young boy and Haj Agha

Hashemi continued, "We had a Haj Agha (a respected religious man) who was the division commander. He was a bad tempered man seemingly. We also had an old man in the propaganda unit of the division named Amoo Hasan also known as Amoo Hasan of the fronts. He in the mornings ran around the large field of Dokooheh Garrison ten times and did not get tired. He was an honest and sincere man. We brought a good-looking, elegant teenager to Haj Agha and said that he is afraid of the dead and the jinn; prescribe something for him not to be afraid. Haj Agha said, “Find a ladder and sit under its shadow and repeat the bids that I tell you twenty times! The young boy repeated the bids for some ten days and then went to Haj Agha and said that I did not find any ladder and is still afraid of the dead and jinn. He said, “Come to Haj Hemmat Hossainieh on Tuesday, I’ll tell you the prescription.” Tavassol Supplication was going to be held in the Hossainieh. A large crowd had been sitting there. Haj Agha told the eulogist to give him the loud speaker to speak with the crowd. He took the loud speaker and said, “One of the division’s guys had cancer and has said that if I died, bury me here in Dokoohehe! After the ceremony, I asked Haj Agha who has cancer? Haj Agha turned his face to that young boy and said you have cancer! The boy had scared and said that I don’t have cancer, and Haj Agha told him not to talk! He said, “Don’t you want not to be afraid of the dead anymore?” He said yes. Haj Agha said, “So don’t say anything.”  On the order of Haj Agha, the guys enshrouded him in the middle of the propaganda unit, meaning that he had died of the cancer! Amoo Hasan who was a naïve man, came and said, “Who has died?” We told him who has died. He became very upset and said, “we must turn him around the field of morning parade and chant La Illaha Illallah (there is no God but Allah)! We all looked at each other. We asked Haji what to do. He said that it had nothing to do with me anymore and left.  They put the body on their shoulder and held a funeral procession, putting the coffin in front of the building of a battalion whose commander was the same Haj Agha and deputy commander a respected cleric. The cleric asked us to say Meyyet (dead) prayer for him. In the middle of the prayer, the body moved and I found out that he was alive. I continued the prayer and saw that he was breathing. After the prayer, I said that I have heard that this young man has asked to bury him here. I have dug a grave behind the embankment, take and bury him there. When the young boy heard this, got up and started running!”    


The story of three-year old girl

Hashemi stated his last memory this way, “I told a memory in a commemoration ceremony for martyrs. After the ceremony when the lights were lit, I saw that a 22 or 23 year old girl was still crying heavily. She took a piece of paper to me, asking to read. A poem had been written on it. She said, “I read this poem on the day of my marriage. I am the daughter of martyr Seyed Alireza Mousavi, waited 22 years, and said I do not marry until my father returns.” I asked, “Did he come back?” She said, “Yes!” while crying, she said, “My name is Roqayeh Sadat Mousavi. When I was three, I was very mellifluent in a way that I had become famous among the families and neighbors. Whenever my father was on leave, bought a doll for me without exception and brought with himself. He played with the doll with his right hand and caressed me with the left hand. I went and sat on his leg and started talking in a mellifluent way. Once when he was on leave, I went and sat on his leg. I saw that a doll is in his left hand. He was playing with the doll and caressed me with the same hand. I touched and saw that the sleeve of his right was empty. I asked: daddy, where is your right hand? He said that I had left it in the bastion. I cried a lot and said, “You must go and bring your right hand.” He said ok, this time when I return to the bastion, if I did not leave myself behind, I’ll bring my right hand. My father went and he himself was left behind. I saw that my mother sat in a corner and cried. I asked her whether you were crying for father. She said, “Yes, my daughter, I miss him.” I saw that they brought the coffins, turning them round the city. I asked whether my father is inside any of them. My mother said, “No, my daughter, your father is not inside any of them and there may be no other time.” I understood the meaning of missing little by little. A few years ago, they took the children of the martyrs and missing to Syria. While my hand was in my mother’s hand, we passed through a narrow alley the end of which was a small dome. I asked my mother whose dome was this. She replied that your father had named you after Roqayeh to this lady’s love. My mother said that one day, this alley was in ruins. This lady like you loved her father very much. When the enemy saw that this girl was weeping for her father put her father’s head in a washtub and brought for her. She talked with her father’s head. When I reached to her small shrine, released my mother’s hand and ran toward her shrine. I talked to that lady and said that you resemble me a lot, but we have one difference with each other. You saw the head of your father; do you know what missing means? On the day of marriage, I asked to turn off all the lights. My father has promised me to come and I read my poem, “What has happened that you don’t come back? Why don’t you come back, all of my mother’s youth? Though hard, your daughter has grown up, don’t you come for her marriage? Father, the bride and groom are going to travel, for pilgrimage to shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH), don’t you come? I wrote lots of letters, prayed and avowed. Don’t you come? I missed you daddy, don’t you come…”  

The 291st Show of Night of Memory organized by the Center for Studies and Research of Resistance Culture and Literature and the Office of Literature and Art of Resistance was held on Thursday evening 24th of May 2018 in Sooreh Hall of the Art Center. The next show will be held on 28th of June 2018.

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