An Extract of Memories of Nosratollah Mahmoudzadeh

Passing the River

by Faezeh Sassanikhah
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi

2023-01-24


The length of the pillar that had flowed down from the pass in the darkness approximated one kilometer. Heavy gun and the individual equipment had tired everyone. From time to time, the warriors raised their heads in the darkness and stared at the high summit of Gamo (گامو), which was standing in front of them. It was in the situation where the Iraqis were monitoring the entire region from the top of this high peak.

With their information of the situation in the region, the Basij forces were trying to reach the front line of the enemy as soon as possible by crossing the ups and downs of the slopes. Basij members felt fatigue. Some were sweating in that cold weather and they didn't mind to rest for a few minutes.

The battalion commander led them in front of the pillar. Blackness of the pillar, accompanied by whispering of the warriors, was a beautiful perspective. Apart from the scattered sound of bullets that could be heard from the far distance, there was no sign of the operational area.

The pillar of warriors was on the downhill path and their speed increased unconsciously. From a relatively far distance, the sound of the water flow of a wild river full of water could be heard. Little by little, the sound of the water, which was getting louder more and more, attracted everyone's attention.

The pillar moved slower and slower. Now, apart from the sound of the water flow, the sound of several bulldozers could be also heard. Basij members gathered at the river. The passage of people, which was a narrow bridge, had been destroyed. Anti-revolutionary groups that controlled this area for years and were supported by Iraq had caused these destructions. It was the first time that such numerous Iranian military units presented in the region. At the same time, the water had overflowed and submerged the only pedestrian bridge that the engineering unit had built upon this river at the last night, and the headquarter commanders had not been able to predict or prepare a bridge to cross Choman River.

Three bulldozers can be seen next to the river. The driver of one of the bulldozers, who was a young man, threw very large stones into the river to open the passage as soon as possible. As if speed of the water was increasing every moment. This river was the border of Iran and Iraq and it overflowed every year in these days.

The commander of the engineering team was worried when he saw several battalions gathered around the river. It was after midnight, and according to the plan, the time had come for these battalions to cross the river. The combat battalions had to go to the top of several peaks on foot until the early hours of the morning, and for this reason, the delay at the bridge could change fate of the operation.

The engineer unit’s commander approached one of the drivers and said loudly:

- If we throw bigger stones into the river, then speed of the water will be restrained.

Small stones were suspended in the middle of the rapid flow of water and had no effect in filling the river. The same young driver with the bulldozer’s shovel moved a huge stone slab that was as big as a car. The warriors followed the slow movement of the stone in the darkness with eager and watchful eyes. It was clear from their faces that they wanted to help the driver in some way. The driver lifted the stone and threw it into the river in the fifth move. Now, half of the depth of the river was filled and it had made them hopeful.

No one dared to cross the raging Choman River yet. The commander of the engineering team looked at the clock. Being worried about passing the bridge by the warriors had badgered him. Suddenly, an idea came to his mind, he jumped on the bulldozer and said to the driver:

We don't have much time. It is better to direct the bulldozers into the water. We can cross the battalions through the bulldozer.

The driver took a look at the river in the darkness and moved a moment later.

“You mean I can control the water? what If the water submerged the bulldozer?” The driver was saying these things to himself, but it was clear from his behavior that he was not afraid of water, and more than three hundred Basij members witnessed the driver's act.

The bulldozer went inot the water at a forty-five-degree angle, like a turtle entering a pond. For a moment, the driver felt his bulldozer was suspended in the water, and there was no way back. Now the bulldozer was completely in the water. The rapid flow of water hit intensely body of the bulldozer and legs of the driver. The bulldozer was still on and the driver advanced as far as he could until he reached the rock on the other side of the river.

The engineering team commander let out a breath. The battalion commander was still unaware of the driver's move, but when the driver of the second bulldozer entered the water, he realized their goal and happily ordered the fighters to get ready to move.

The pillar advanced. The first person who crossed the bulldozer was the engineer unit commander. The water was up to the bulldozer driver's waist, but his smile was a sign for the commander to continue on his way. The commander reached the land, and in watching movement of the pillar, he was overwhelmed with pleasure. The two bulldozers had become a solid bridge and the river waves, after hitting these machine giants, deviated their way and continued on their way along the edge of the river.

In the middle of the pillar, there were people who looked at the drivers differently from other warriors. Their clothes were Kurdish and they had a turban wrapped around their heads. “God! Why do these people sacrifice everything for the security of Kurdistan!”

Reviewing these thoughts and questions in the darkness of the night had changed face of those Peshmerga. They had volunteered to join the division that was now moving towards the heights in front of them with enduring all those difficulties. Each person in the pillar carried a gun, several magazines, grenades, and a backpack. They were guided by a number of Kurdish Peshmerga from Ramadan headquarter who were well acquainted with the area. They led the pillars towards the summits. Every time a mountain ridge was passed, they looked at the peaks they were going toward and continued on their way without resting.

It had become difficult to pass through downhill of the slopes, but the movement of the pillar had arranged in a regular rhythm in the silence of the night. After construction of the bridge over Choman River, the battalions progressively entered the area. They penetrated to the heart of the operational area in several paths and advanced in the heights no matter how hard it was.

Due to the possession of high altitudes such as Sargelou, Espi Darreh, Kulan, Galan and Qashan, Iraq did not imagine operations to be conducted in that area and had concentrated its troops only at the tips of the peaks. By carrying out the 5th and 8th Operations of Karbala, Iran had forced Iraq to move most of its forces from other operational areas to the south to prevent the fall of Shalamcheh; for this reason, it did not have a significant combat force in the northwest region. This open military situation had caused that there was no obstacle for the fighters to advance, and the forces continued to advance in the designated routes that were previously identified by the forces under the command of Ramadan headquarter.

Ramadan headquarter had conducted the successful 1st to 5th operations of Fath through this area, and prepared the conditions for wider operations such as Karbala-10. Along the way, the operation intelligence groups of Ramadan headquarter had occupied sensitive points and passages, and when they saw so many insider forces, they were relieved of tiredness of several years of guerilla movement in these areas.

Suddenly, the sound of the barrage and then explosion of RPG missiles changed the situation in the area, and the line-breaking battalions reached the trenches at the top of the peak. It was still dark, and from a far distance, you could see flares and tracers on the slopes of several summits, which were fired against each other.

The barrage of bullets that were fired from the trenches at the top of the peak relieved them of fatigue. Some Basij forces caught the Iraqis off guard by throwing grenades and extinguished the machine gun’s fire.

Despite the fact that the heights of Espi Darreh and Kulan had fallen, the battle continued at the top of Galan, which was the highest summit, and the Iraqis, who had more fortifications, continued to resist. Several Jihad engineering teams were engaged in road construction from the beginning of Choman river. The continuation of the battle at the top of the peaks convinced the bulldozer drivers to quickly extend the road to the conflict site. The speed and skill of the engineering battalions of Hamza headquarter in the mountains of Kurdistan was due to their experience during the years of war, and their activity in building military bases played a large role in cleaning the region. Now these roads, if connected to the peaks, could facilitate advance of the warriors. Several ambulances were traveling along the constructed roads. The bulldozers cut across the darkness and advanced the road meter by meter.[1]

 


[1] Source: Mahmoudzadeh, Nosratollah (1997) Rooftop of Kurdistan [in Persian: Bam-e Kordestan]. the Ministry of Jihad Construction’s Center for the Preservation and Publishing Works of Sacred Defense, Vol. 1, p. 7.



 
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