Da (Mother) 67

The Memoirs of Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni

Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni
Translated from the Persian with an Introduction by Paul Sprachman

2023-10-15


Da (Mother)

The Memoirs of Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni

Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni

Translated from the Persian with an Introduction by Paul Sprachman

Persian Version (2008)

Sooreh Mehr Publishing House

English Version (2014)

Mazda Publishers

 

***

The chaos and the psychological pressure I felt stopped me from going back to the Blazer. The din was horrible. The crying didn’t stop for a moment. At once dazed and frantic, I could neither cry nor stay calm, frantically looking for someone lost. If I found him, there would be true peace for me. With the arrival of the vans I helped load the wounded. I saw the Blazer move out with one of the vans. I jumped on the bumper and clung to the side. The van was full. I remained perched on the bumper all the way to the mosque. As soon as the van pulled up, people ran out of the building to help. Everyone was up and the lanterns were lit. We emptied many people from the van. The infirmary was full of men. The badly wounded ones were laid out. Others were sitting with their legs stretched out. Hoping to find Ali among the wounded, I began to walk around saying, “Ali, Ali, where are you?”

When there was no answer, I gave up. As the van that had brought the wounded was about to go back to the base, I hopped on. We returned to find the scene more chaotic than it had been the first time. They weren’t letting anyone into the building. “There may be an unexploded missile or mortar shell,” they warned. “I’ve come to remove the wounded,” I said.

They pointed to three wounded men and said, “That’s all there are for now. We’ll have to wait. If there’re others, we’ll bring them out.” We loaded the men and went back to the mosque.

I didn’t feel like myself anymore. My head was swimming. I didn’t know what to do. Mr. Najjar was so busy he didn’t have time to think. He asked me for an instrument, but my mind wasn’t on the work, which made him ask me what was wrong.

I didn’t know what to say. No matter how much I tried to get my feelings under control, I failed. I didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t have a clue why he was yelling at me, “What is wrong with you? What is this game you’re playing! Keep your mind on your work!”

It made no difference to me that he was angry. I searched among the wounded for any of Ali’s friends. The only ones I knew were Taqi Mohsenifar, Mohsen Baghalani, and Iyad Helmizadeh, but none of them were there. Then I was shocked to see Hoseyn Tayinezhad sitting on the floor with his legs stretched out. He was Ali’s close friend and was with him at Jannatabad and the Salman Mosque. I asked him whether he had seen Ali.

He raised his head and said, “Ali? Your Ali’s at the front. Ali was never with us.”

The first thing that went through my mind was that, God forbid, he didn’t want to tell me the truth. But then I thought: What reason would he have to lie? I gave up and went back to work.

The floor of the infirmary was covered in blood; the area was filled with the combined odors of gore and fresh earth. The floor was littered with so many bodies there was no place to walk, so we had to hop over them. The mosque and the infirmary were getting more congested by the minute. The soldiers arriving at the mosque, upset and listless, would ask about their comrades. About Jahan Ara. They were worried that with him gone the entire defense of the city would fall apart, which was true. The most critically wounded person they brought in was Mohammad Javad Golshan. A mortar hit the front of his ankle and his foot, looking as if it were on backwards, was hanging by a thread from his shin. Before they could stitch up the wound, he had lost a lot of blood. He was pale and didn’t have the strength to speak. Mr. Najjar examined him and said, “We can’t do anything for him here. The foot has been severed. We have to get him to the hospital quickly. Who’ll take him?”

I jumped up and said, “Me. I’ll take him.” Mr. Najjar gave me a sharp look and said, “There’s no need for you to go.” I looked at him and said, “I’m looking for Ali anyway. He might be at the hospital.”

He looked down, saying nothing. A couple of soldiers lifted Golshan from the floor, which was puddled with his blood, and laid him in the back of a pickup. I got in and the pickup went off. Mr. Najjar said, “We’ll get Golshan to the Oil Company Hospital where the more critically wounded are.”

As we drove a few of the soldiers began to talk about what had happened at the Darya Bod Rasayi School. They said, “The Fifth Columnists gave the coordinates of the base. Because it was only a temporary military position, they hadn’t been able to locate it.” They also said they had evacuated Mohammad Reza Rosta’i and two or three other amputees to Abadan. As I listened to what they were saying, I had my eyes on Golshan, whose condition grew steadily worse. I didn’t know what to do for him. My feelings for Ali made me see him in all the boys. Golshan was like Ali’s brother now. I wanted to take his head in my lap, but I knew it would upset him. On the other hand, I was worried he’d go into a coma. To help him breathe easier I took his head in my hands and raised it, but I also noticed his foot was still bleeding. I gently lowered his head back on the floor of the van and raised his leg to lessen the flow of blood from the wound. After we cleared the bridge, we were flagged down at a guard post. They were conducting night inspections of those going in and out of the city looking for Fifth Columnists. The van came to a halt, but the guards did not approach. From inside the van the soldiers confirmed our identity and said we had wounded, but the guards said, “Get out.” Fearing Golshan was breathing his last, I said, “Go and see what they want. This one’s almost gone.”

They got out, walked away, and didn’t return for a long while. Hearing them argue, I called out to the boys, “What’s going on? What’s keeping you?”

One of them returned and explained, “They’ve seen some suspicious people in the building. The guards haven’t been able to flush them out and asked us to help. If it’s okay, they want you to help them, because there are two women with them.”

I jumped out and walked over to an unfinished home where several very young boys had their guns trained on two mean-looking men. When they saw me, they said, “Sister, there are two women inside and no matter what we do they won’t leave. We got the men out by force, but we can’t treat the women the same way. We don’t know them. Can you do something?”

“We’ve got somebody half-dead back here,” I said.

“These are probably Fifth Column, and if we leave them, they’ll kill even more.”

I entered the yard and saw two hefty women almost twice my size. They were going back and forth with the boys, “What the hell do you want from us? What did we do? They threw us out of our home and now they won’t allow us to take cover here.”

One of the boys said, “You think it’s very safe here? If it’s really refuge you’re after, go somewhere else.”

I said, “Why are you being so stubborn? We have wounded who are dying. If it isn’t too much bother, why don’t you just move on? What’s the point of arguing?”

They ignored me, so I took a G3 from one of the boys, cocked it, and set it on automatic. I drove the barrel into the neck of one of the women, actually more a young girl. The G3 was heavy and the girl was tall. I don’t know what made me come unglued—seeing the wounded at the base and thinking about Ali, knowing the Golshan was about to breath his last—all these things had put me on edge. I had had it, and I held the gun to her neck saying, “As God is my witness, if you don’t leave I’ll shoot. The hell with you both! I can’t take any more of this. You damn well better leave this place before I kill you!” The woman uttered a filthy curse in Arabic.

It was so vile I got beet red, and several of the boys, who apparently understood what she had said, looked away and left. I angrily grabbed her hair from under her head covering and, clenching it in my fist, said, “Watch your mouth you worthless.... What were you doing in here half the night? Go on, get out. If you don’t, I’ll kill you right here!” Then I kicked her in the shin and shouted, “Get the hell out!” To the other woman, who was around forty or fifty and hadn’t stopped swearing the whole time, I yelled, “Out!”

I poked her harder with the gun barrel. Then the soldiers entered the building and returned with several Kalashnikovs, some Colts, and a radio. This convinced me they were spies, and, when they were confronted with the guns, they began to beg for their lives. First they pretended that they were just poor folk dressed as Arabs, and that, terrified by the Iraqi attacks, they’d taken refuge in the building. After they saw pleading was useless, they started cursing again. Then they returned to begging, “Honest to God, we didn’t do anything. Let us go. We’ve got kids. Homes.”

“When you holed up here planning God knows what, why didn’t you give them a thought then?” I asked.

A guard placed one of the men in the front of the van. One of the boys sat next to him holding a gun. The three others they put in the back and the van took off. By this time Golshan had lapsed into a coma. The floor of the van was full of his blood. To the women, who were staring at him, I said, “See what you’ve done to our boys? What did they do to deserve this?”

It wasn’t far to the Oil Company Hospital, but the road leading to it was in range of Iraqi fire, so the driver had to go all the way around the city to get to it.

After we pulled up to the hospital, male nurses put Golshan, now unconscious, on a stretcher and took him to the operating room. We followed them to the operating room door. They told us that it was too early to know about his condition.

As we left the hospital the soldiers said, “Get in. We have to hand these people over to the Revolutionary Court.” I was about to board the van when that same red Blazer pulled up. As soon as I saw it I froze. The soldiers kept telling me to go, but I told them, “No, I want to stay and find out about the boys who’ve been killed.”

They said, “That’s fine, but you can do that later. Who else will take you back to Khorramshahr this time of night?”

“No, I’m really searching for my brother. I’ve got to find him.”

“You mean your brother is among these?” one of them asked.

“I don’t know. My brother was with the army boys. Maybe he’s one of them.”

“Okay. What should we do?” they asked.

“Nothing.” I said. “Go and hand these over to the court. Then come back for me.”

“Fine,” they said and left.

I wondered why the Blazer, which had left before we did, was just arriving. I stood there wondering whether I should wait until they unloaded the dead or open the door myself.

 

To be continued …

 



 
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