A Reading of the Book: “Guy of the Mall”

Memoir by Hamid Ghasemi

Fereydoon Heidari Molk-Mian
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi

2022-11-01


“I woke up with the sound of gunshots. I looked and saw they were Iraqis! They were very close to us. The guys were shooting. We knew if we acted late, we would be massacred. I shot at the Iraqis. My magazine became empty. At the same time, I saw an Iraqi coming up from the fort! He had a big and well-trained body; I was terrified! I was confused. If he reached me, he would have eaten me alive! Suddenly, my eyes fell on a can of compote near me. The can was full. I picked it up and threw it towards that desert giant with all my strength.”

This is an attractive and suspenseful excerpt from the book “Guy of the Mall (in Persian: Bacheh Bazarcheh” which was chosen for the back cover and has a common background with the cover. In addition, there is also imprinted on it photo of a young man with a weapon on his shoulder under the entrance portico of an old mall.

After pages CIP, the title, and the acknowledgement, we reach the introduction. After that, we immediately encounter text of the memories, which contain nine voluminous chapters. Then we see the part of documents, and black and white photos with good quality. The final pages of the book are also dedicated to the index.

 “Guy of the Mall” is memoir of Hamid Ghasemi, who states in the introduction that even though tens years have passed since the end of the imposed war and this great event went down in the history, but if one of those who participated in that war is still alive, so that war is still considered a living memory. Therefore, he writes: “It is the same for me. The sweetest days of my teenage years and the beginning of my youth were spent on the front and in the war; unreturnable heavenly days, but still memorable!

For the first time, when he was only nine years old, he had the desire to go to the front and fight, but it wasn’t possible and he could not realize it. But this desire remained in his head until he became a fifteen-year-old teenager and finally went to the front, and until the end of the war, he remained bound to the camp, the trench, the canteen, and its magical camaraderie...

In the years after the war, he tried to write down his memories of the war. Therefore, in this way, he takes advantage of companionship and guidance of his friends and comrades, who, in its place, mentions them, one by one, with goodness and magnanimity in the introduction; And in the end, he even prefers to decorate his statement with an allegory, so as to sacrifice, like in the book “Locust Thigh”, the ninth chapters of his memoir to the “Soleimans” of the era, those good ones...

 

Chapter I

The first chapter begins with a passionate narrative: “We were three who planned, argued, and got ready to run away; run away to where? to the front. All three of us were named Hamid, and all were nine years old...”

The narrator goes back to his childhood and mentions the neighborhood of his birth place at that time: from Javadiyeh Bridge and the slope of the mall, which started next to the Shirin cinema, then two hundred meters down and after Nahr Firouzabad Street, on the left, it reached Ghasemi dead end. Their house was right at the end of this dead end. The place where he was born and raised.

He was narrator of the fourth grade of elementary school when the Iran-Iraq war began. Their neighborhood was near the railway, and they planned with two of his friends to board, without tickets, the train of Tehran to Andimeshk and mingle with the passengers, and go to the fronts of the imposed war. But the first step to go to the front was that they were detrained at Robat Karim Station, and they had to return to their homes.

Chapter II

This chapter describes five or six years later and when the narrator finally passed fifteen years. Although his beard had not yet grown, he had a good physique. He had to be sixteen years old to go to the front. He went so many times to Malek Ashtar Base and insisted, even garbled his booklet certificate, and did everything until he managed to get the letter to be sent to the training barracks from the same base of Malek Ashtar on October 1986. However, he still couldn't believe that he was finally allowed to go to the front. Therefore, December 3, 1986, the day he waited for six years, arrived. He said goodbye to all his family and friends. He went to Malek Ashtar Base and was dispatched from there to the front with another group... to the days of destiny!

 

Chapter III

The destination of the front line defense was Majnoon Island. The Karbala Battalion had three companies, each of which consisted of two platoons, and each platoon had also three groups of twelve people. The forces of each platoon included the commander and deputy, signaler, shooter, shooter assistant, RPG shooter, RPG shooter assistant, rescuer, courier, and free forces. The narrator was sent along with his friends (Hamid Sabouri, Reza Ameri, and Amir Hossein Abbasi) to the first platoon of Jihad Company. They formed a square. All four friends were in the same platoon. Since they were amateur, they were assigned as shooters assistant and RPG shooter assistant. The narrator armed with a Kalashnikov with stock, and assigned as a RPG shooter assistant. They were also given equipment such as iron helmets, anti-chemical masks, canteens, backpacks, ammunition belt, and extra magazines; so they really became warriors ready for the war.

The front line of the enemy front was at the end of the northern Majnoon Island and behind the road. They also waited in ambush in the waterway like the narrator and his friends. The Iraqis shot aimlessly mortar shells, which sometimes landed far from them and sometimes near them fell into the water and exploded; sometimes it didn't work. The possibility that at some point one of those mortar shells would hit the boat was not counterintuitive. Once he and Hamid Sabouri boarded the boat to patrol around, but they were ambushed by the Iraqi enemy. The Iraqis shoot and hit his friend's chest...

“I did not know I should bandage the hole in his chest so that air doesn’t penetrate his injured lung. I clewed my keffiyeh and put it on his back wound which was open and bleeding. He did not shout at all. I pressed his face to mine. He looked at me while he was washed out. My hands were stained with Hamid's blood. His face turned gradually white…”

When he realized that Hamid left Majnoon Island forever, flight from the material world, and ascended to the infinite world along with his hands in hands of angels, the world turned black for him. He hit his head...

On January 2, 1987, they settled accounts with Karbala Battalion and returned to Tehran. Their square turned, off course apparently, into a triangle. As Hamid Sabouri was always in their hearts. Three friends make an appointment to go together to Saburi's home.

 

Chapter IV

Reza, Amir Hossein and the narrator went to Malek Ashtar Base to be informed of the date of the next dispatch. Operation Karbala-4 had just ended. Many martyrs had been brought to Tehran. The city had a special atmosphere. Cities were also bombarded. Now, ordinary and innocent people were killed and injured in their homes or in the streets, during working or resting. In all the alleys and streets of Tehran, they had posted martyrs' death notices or martyr's chamber. Most of the mosques played Noha and Rawda. The city was in mourning!

It was decided that the three friends would go to Vali-e-Asr Barrack on January 15. The next day, they entered position of Hazrat Sajjad (a.s.) Battalion in Kowthar Camp, which was prior to position of Karbala Battalion. In total, there were about thirty people assigned to this battalion. This time, the narrator had lived and tasted the experience of direct and hand to hand conflict with the Iraqis. Operation Karbala-5 was a bloody operation, and there were many martyrs and wounded fighters. Out of the thirty people, only six or seven fighters were alive and they had also returned while they had gotten clobbered. The narrator who was ready for death and martyrdom, when he decided to hit the enemy helicopter with an RPG, a rocket exploded near him. He leapt up due to its wave, and then hit the ground hard. Then he did not understand anything. When his friends, Reza and Abbas, saw him at the bottom of a pit, they first thought he had died a martyr. His face was bruised and blood was getting out of the corner of his mouth. Hair tips of his head and eyebrows had been burnt. They two people lifted him and took him to the canal. They gave him water but he vomited... When they took him to the hospital, they noticed his left boot was full of blood. A piece of quiver had pierced his boot and entered his ankle.

They spent a few days with memories of their martyred friends and comrades in Kowthar Camp; it was time for leave and they went Tehran...

 

Chapter V

When the narrator returned to Ahvaz from Tehran after a few days, he and his friends joined Ali Akbar (AS) Battalion. Spirituality of the guys had given a special intimacy to the battalion. It was as if everyone was ready to martyrdom. Before dying a martyr, they were spiritual martyrs. They had behavior of a guest; A person who knows he cannot stay in this caravanserai and will leave soon. They were people of prayer and supplication.

They stayed in the same Kowthar Camp and position of Ali Akbar (a.s.) Battalion for a few days. Finally, on March 3, the troops went on a war footing and went toward Shalamcheh. Operation Karbala-5 continued in the same vicinity; The complementary stage of the operation. There were five combat units: Fajr, Nasr, and Fath infantry companies, the special platoon, and Al-Hadid equipment company. In the darkness of the night, they went to V and Inverted-V Bridges under Ahvaz-Khorramshahr Road. On March 5, they boarded Toyota trucks and moved to the front line. They had not yet reached the area when sound of shooting and explosion was heard. The enemy's artillery fired heavily the road with all kinds of long-range weapons. It was a critical and dangerous situation. They should have immediately entered into action and engaged with enemy tanks and fighters. When they jumped down from the cars, they entered the battlefield with the enemy to fire at will and without any agreement, and started shooting at the Iraqi forces who were entrenched behind the tanks. The conflict continued difficultly for some time. The enemy's casualties were numerous. Several of them were killed and wounded on the side and on the road, and around the tanks. Despite all the difficulties and efforts, our guys had succeeded in repelling the enemy attack.

But again another line of their square had been broken... it was Amir Hossein Abbasi who was a RPG Shooter and had been shot and died a martyr.

On March 8, they handed over the front line to Zuhayr Battalion and returned to Kowthar Camp. Out of our platoon with 40 people, less than 15 people survived, and the rest had died a martyr or injured. The empty tents and silent atmosphere of Kowthar Camp were mournful and we missed the martyrs.

On March 9, all of the battalion was furloughed. They returned to Tehran.

 

Chapter VI

Nowruz of 1366 (1987), although he was with his family, but his head was in the clouds: Ali Akbar (a.s.) Battalion and Kowthar Camp! On the March 23 or 24, the leave ended and together with his friend Reza Ameri, they went Kowthar Camp. A few days later, other forces of the battalion returned too. After that hard war, he was gradually getting a place in Ali Akbar (a.s.) Battalion.

On April 5, they were on a footing war and marched towards Shalamcheh. When they reach the minefield, Iraqis noticed and started shooting. They also started to shot Iraqis. Iraqi’s machine gun was shooting over their heads. With one of grenades thrown by the Iraqis, Reza Ameri, who was a few meters away from the narrator, shouted: “I got burned... I got burned...” The narrator ran towards Reza and suddenly he was shocked. His stomach had been torn, his intestines spilled out, and he had died a martyr. One of the guys was shouting: “Ya Hossein... Ya Hossein...” The fighting continued... until he was also hit by a mortar shell. He got his back. There was an incision in his side. At that moment, he did not know why he remembered Hazrat Zahra (pbuh). His hand was bloody. He lost his balance and fell. He tried to get his act together. He nauseated. He tried hardly to breathe. He was about to vomit. Blood was pouring from his back. The more he tried to breathe, the more intense the bleeding. His side was wet and hot. He felt no pain; But he felt numb and lethargic. He was heavy and whacked. He couldn't do anymore. He gradually got cold. His eyes were blurry. He was becoming more and more thirsty and exanimate. Intensity of the shots and shouts increased. “The Iraqis are closing in,” one shouted.

There was no one left to stop the enemy. He could not get up. He recited the Shahada (testimonies). He was happy to go to Hamid Sabouri, Amir Hossein and Reza. Their square was being completed on the other world:

“I couldn't even move my fingers or open my eyelid anymore. I was dying! And I died for a moment too!”

One or two cars came to take bodies of the martyrs. The guys of cooperation unit collected and transported corpses of the martyrs. They threw his body too on other martyrs. They threw some martyrs on it. He can hear conversation of cooperation forces; but he could not speak to them. He could not even give a sign. His brain worked; but his body was not at his will...

Like other corpses of the martyrs, they wrapped him in nylon and tied it. But because his body was alive and warm, the nylon steamed. One of the guys of the cooperation notices the steam in the nylon and says: “Oh... this martyr is alive!" They immediately take him out of the nylon and sent him to Shahid Baghaei Hospital in Ahvaz. After being unconscious and hospitalized for six days, he was sent to Tehran along with dozens of other injured people.

 

Chapter VII

The bandage on his stomach wound had not yet unbandaged, and his sick leave had not ended when he decided to return to the front. For some time, focus of the war had shifted from the south to the west of the country. When he was informed that units from the 10th Division of Seyyed al-Shohada (a.s.) and Ali Akbar (a.s.) Battalion had gone to Kurdistan, he decided to join his friends in Kurdistan anyway. It was at the middle of June 1987 that he went to the West Terminal and bought a bus ticket for Sanandaj. He still felt a certain pain in his stomach when he walked a distance; but he did not care it.

The battalion was temporarily settled 25 kilometers from Sardasht on a mountain slope. The troops were preparing for the operation. He was glad that he had arrived on time. The new operation involved a long walking. They trained and prepared the troops for this long march because the mountains were high and the distances were long.

Operation Nasr-4 took place at a height called “Tapeh Dogholoo (twin hill)”. In the first stages of the operation, our forces had conquered the hill; but with the pressure and counterattack by the Iraqis, they had to retreat from that height. Although the guys had not been able to capture the place, they had inflicted many casualties on the military vehicle and the enemy forces.

In several previous operations, from Karbala-5 to Nasr-4, a large number of cadres of Ali Akbar Battalion died a martyr and were injured. Some of them left the battalion to other units or went on leave and had never come back. Therefore, there was a visible gap in the experienced cadre of the battalion. Something had to be done to fill this void. It was decided that the remaining forces of the battalion would be sent to specialized training courses.

 

Chapter VIII

In November 1987, his brother Amir also came to Ali Akbar Battalion and joined him. Amir became RPG shooter of one of the platoons of Nasr Battalion. Sometime later, on January 15, 1988, both brothers participated in the operation that was carried out on the heights of Qomish. When the sound of firing from the enemy's long-range rifles was heard, the first bullet roared, hit the ground, and exploded a hundred meters behind our forces. Before the narrator came to his senses, the second bullet roared and hit the ground ten meters away from them and exploded with a loud noise. Suddenly he felt groin of his right thigh hot. He looked and saw one of the guys who was close to him fell on the ground and died a martyr. A large part of his thigh meat was shredded. When he touched the wound, he saw a hollow. It was disgusting! Blood was pouring from his thigh veins. His body was still warm. Therefore, he did not feel any pain. At this moment, the operation code was announced. The RPG shooters had to get close to the enemy tank and shoot it. Amir did not notice his brother was injured. When he passed him, he saw a person died a martyr next to him and his brother was sitting. He asked: “Brother, is something wrong?” As he started to feel pain, he said: “No! nothing has happened. You go. I hope you hit the tank!” He did not let his brother became aware of his injury. Amir also went towards the tank... but when he came to his brother, he understood everything and was shocked. He asked: “When did quiver hit you?”

“Just last night when you passed by me.”

“so, why didn't you say?”

To make his brother calm, the narrator joked: “I didn't say, you couldn't hit the tank; If I had told you, you would have hit the heart of our own forces!”

Amir laughed and said nothing.

They rode and tied the narrator on a mule and reached a road through a mountain path. From there, they took him by ambulance to a field hospital. In the operating room, when the mask was put on his face, he fainted and didn't understand anything anymore. When he regained consciousness, he realized he had been transferred to Tabriz. Operation Beit ol-Maqaddas-2 was ongoing.

 

Chapter IX

On February 23, 1988, the narrator returned to the front again, to a camp in front of Dokuhe. For some time, the war had spread from the south to the west of the country and territory of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Nowruz 1367/1988 also passed in the camp. Until he was informed that a unit named “Tabuk” was formed in the division, and the forces of this unit are supposed to be hand-picked from the division for special operations abroad. They selected Three others and He from Ali Akbar Battalion for Tabuk unit.

But when the news of adoption of UN Resolution 598 was broadcast on the radio, everyone was shocked. The narrator was confused and surprised for several hours as if his head had been hit with a hammer...

“I wanted to stay until the end of the war and fulfill my duty and reach my martyred friends; but what happened? The news of acceptance of the resolution killed me; It dashed my hopes and the end point for the passion of martyrdom. My best friends had gone and I was left. I didn't want to cry in front of others. Fasting and prayer was an opportunity to give vent to my feelings! Sometimes, when we gathered together and recited Noha or Rawda, I cried; But my heart did not lighten. I whispered this Noha:

My heart has complications

As if it has a desire for Karbala...”

With the end of the imposed war, he felt the table of war and martyrdom had been cleaned. He was only seventeen years old. Now he had to live and build a life for himself out of the front atmosphere...

The book “Guy of the Mall” written by Hamid Ghasemi. It was published by Sooreh Mehr Publication in 2022. It was also released in 284 pages, 1250 copies, at a price of 940,000 IRR, in a regular cover with medium octavo.



 
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