A section of memories of Behjat Afraz

It is eight or ten months that we have had no letter from our captive

Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan

2020-08-18


From 1988 to 1990, when the Iranian freed-POWs returned to the country, Saddam had become more rebellious and did not allow them to be visited and the issues related to them to be pursued or letters of the captives to reach their families. For this reason, the families were referring to our office and said that we have not had a letter from our captive for eight or ten months, and the families of the missing people asked what would be the destiny of their children. They cried and said, "Lady, we swear by God, bring us just a nail from our children, we will bury just that and go on Thursday to cry so that our hearts will be relieved." We also said these to Dr. Vahid. Dr. Vahid also referred the issues to the Foreign Ministry for action.

During this time, Saddam had been strengthened a lot and when Dr. Velayati, the then Iranian Foreign Minister went to Geneva to hold meetings in order to address the situation of the captives and the missing, he prevented from convening a meeting.

When the story of Dr. Velayati's trip to Geneva and his meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz was published in the newspapers, we calmed down the families and said that Dr. Velayati wanted to go to Geneva and clarify the fate of the captives and the missing eventually. You calm down and do not cry. In short, we calmed the people down with tricks. The Iraqis bothered a lot when Dr. Velayati and his entourage went to Geneva. For example, if a meeting was to be held at 8 pm, they would be late until 12 or one in the midnight, and only then, they announced that they would come tonight and the meeting would be held tomorrow morning. They were late again the next morning. When the meeting took place, they dragged the meeting into deviant issues, did not discuss about the captives and the missing, and left the meeting with no result. After returning to Iran, Dr. Velayati had nothing to say, and the families were asking us, "What is the response of Dr. Velayati, who has come last night?" We had no response for the families either, so they started crying and yelling.

We spent difficult days from 1988 to 1990. During this period, the Iraqis gave us the details of some 4000 captives. Thus, the number of the registered captives increased to 13000 which was a small number compared to 35,000 missing in 1988. But this new situation caused the people to calm down and became more hopeful. For example, we told them that Saddam had gotten his high horse and would announce the names of the captives. In this way, we were calm for a while.

The mothers who came to find the names of their children, wailed, broke tables, vases, and glasses, and fainted, and even though they knew the problem would be solved by Saddam and not the Iranian government, they got angry and they were right. I was told how you would feel if one day your son was late? A mother said, "I swear by God that I have not slept all night for some time now. I have a pillow under my armpit, walking from one corner of the room to the other". Another said, "On winter nights, I would sit on the roof so that a motorcycle would pass, and assuming that he has got a news from my son, I relax a bit. Think about how sensitive it was and to what extent the families were upset, waiting and suffering.

The families had been scheduled to gather in the Red Crescent Garden on Tuesdays. Believe me, I could not sleep since the night before, thinking what would happen tomorrow. On this day, a large crowd gathered in this garden. And I spoke to them through a loudspeaker. Families sometimes went and lied down on the floor of Shariati Street in front of the Telecommunications Office, blocking the street and telling us what we should do. Why doesn't our son's name come up? Sometimes, they decided to go to the office of the Red Cross office or the parliament or the Office of the President, but we begged them to stop moving and made them sit on the grounds of the Red Crescent Garden. I sat on the floor next to them and cried with them. When they saw the head of the department crying, they calmed down a bit and said to me, "Calm down, madam." I told them, "What can I do? I am the same as you and feel your pain wholeheartedly."

Once, the person in charge of the information section of the entrance door told me, "Do you know how many people have referred here today?" I said, "No." he said, "15,000 have come today." It was really a high number in a single day. Each of the ministries and organizations had separate departments for their captives and missing, but our office was the main center for all of them. People from all over Iran referred to our office and it was very crowded.

The ambulance in the office was ready every day to take people who got unconscious to the hospital. I always kept a bottle of pussy willow distillate and rosewater in the office to sprinkle on their faces or give them to drink. The situation in those years was very strange. Thanks God, the staff of our office all treated the families with patience, respect and love. Some families were very patient. In fairness, they indeed did not say anything and calmed others. We appointed some very patient families who had given two or three martyrs and who had captives and missing, to speak to the people, and we used the families themselves to reassure them.

In this situation, the Monafeghin or hypocrites (MKO terrorist outfit) also came to our office in the name of the families of the captives and the missing, and created chaos and incited the families. Families who did not know they were Monafeghin, united with them and sometimes insulted me. By the grace of God, after 32 years of cultural work and hard work in education and years of service, God had given me strong patience and nerves to be able to endure all this hardship. Also, one of the committee guys in disguise came to help me. Also people from the Ministry of Intelligence came to our office to monitor the situation.

In the years between 1988 and 1990, the number of our employees in Tehran was sixty and about 300 in the towns and they worked with interest and seriousness. The nights when new names came from the Red Cross, we slept in the office to get our work done sooner.

When the letters and cards of the captives belonging to the towns arrived, we had to separate them. Initially, the cards of each province were separated. Then, they were separated and classified based on the names of the towns and then the villages of that province, and we provided a list from all of them. Then we made a copy and sent it to the provinces as soon as possible.

5000 cards and the names of the captives arrived. Since we had many visits in the office, we could not work there; so I took the cards to the home and invited a number of employees to carry out the job sooner in a quiet environment. We also assigned a number of people to deliver food to the staff. We also appointed a number of popular forces to deliver the cards to the provinces sooner. For instance, for all three or four provinces that were on the same route, I appointed people and said, "on the way, give this to Isfahan, then go to Shiraz and then to Bushehr". We had divided the entire Iran into several such routes, and before the cards and names were reached to the families, in order to make them happy sooner, we informed the Red Crescent of the towns with a long-range wireless radio device belonging to the Red Crescent and they let the families know so that they got happy sooner before their cards were handed over.

Thanks God, God gave me a lot of success in this regard. Hojjat-ul-Islam wal-Muslimin Shahsavari, who was in charge of handling complaints in the Imam's office and his own child was a captive, sometimes came to the Office of the Captives and Missing to get his son's letter, sat down and watched how people swarmed, and I still have phone contact with him sometimes. He says, "I witnessed how you treated with the people there. While the Imam's office received complaints from all revolutionary institutions, no complaints were ever received from your office.

 



 
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