Da (Mother) 92

The Memoirs of Seyyedeh Zahra Hoseyni

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


Da (Mother) 92

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




Chapter Twenty Four: A Needless Death

One afternoon seven or eight of us left the clinic and headed for the front lines. Dr. Sa’adat was with us. We walked to the end of the Mowlavi neighborhood and ran into defense forces scattered here and there in the alleyways. A little farther away near Sentab, the fighting got heavier. Our forces would fire from one section, then run to another position and fire from there. As soon as we appeared, a couple of them told us, “There’s a wounded man behind the wall of that house. It’s been quite a while since we put him there. We keep looking in on him to see whether he’s still alive.”

Dr. Sa’adat and I went to where they were pointing. Because they had simply deposited the boy behind a wall, I imagined his wound wasn’t critical. When we got there, I saw that the boy, who was no more than twenty, lay with his back against the wall with a severe shrapnel wound. His thigh had been ripped apart, and he had fallen on his side. He had lost a tremendous amount of blood, and it seemed he would lose the leg.

Dr. Sa’adat got to work immediately. He found a vein and attached a serum drip. He added some medications to the drip. There was nothing else we could do. The boy’s comrades had torn strips from their own clothing and used them to bandage him. Then they went in search of a vehicle, but with the heavy fire it seemed to take ages for a truck to come. I asked the boy, who was too weak even to open his eyes, “What’s your name? Are you a Basiji? Army?”

He said nothing. Occasionally he managed to pry open his eyes, but they would soon close again. What he was mumbling under his breath from time to time was a mystery to me.

A truck arrived and I held the drip while Dr. Sa’adat loaded the wounded boy. At one point, he began to flop around like a fish out of water, as though he was having a seizure. With panic in his voice Dr. Sa’adat said, “Hurry up! Let’s get him to the hospital.”

I had the feeling that the boy was breathing his last. I couldn’t look at him any longer. I handed the drip to one of the boys and jumped down from the truck.

The truck drove off. G3, sixty caliber mortars, and the RPG fire forced me to crawl on my stomach and take cover by a wall. I was a mess. I knew the young man would not make it to the hospital because of all the blood he had lost. Why did he have to wait that long for someone to help him? Of course, that was precisely why I insisted on being to the front—to prevent such needless deaths.

Then I remembered Uncle Shanbeh’s son-in-law. A few days before, when we were bringing wounded to the Oil Company Hospital, I was surprised to see uncle Shanbeh’s wife there and asked her why she was there.

“Our son-in-law was wounded.”

I had met their son-in-law. He was an officer in the navy and a devout and honorable man. She told me where he was, and I went to visit him. Mahin, their daughter, was by the bed, fanning her husband with a piece of cardboard. I said hello and asked her about him. “He’s got shrapnel in his leg,” she said.

He didn’t seem all that good to me. He was feverish, constantly begging for water. They would merely wet his lips and fan him as he moaned helplessly. I left the room and asked the nurse about his condition. “At first it wasn’t that serious,” they said, “but he’s got an infection and has lost a lot of blood, which is why he mustn’t have water.”

I went back into the room, but didn’t say anything to my aunt and her daughter. I hung around a bit and then left the hospital. The next day I happened to go to the hospital to deliver some wounded. I asked the driver to wait while I ran to the son-in-law’s room. The bed was empty. I asked one of the nurses about him, and she said that he had passed away the night before.

Shocked, I said, “He didn’t seem that critical yesterday. It’s true he was moaning and parched, but it didn’t look like he would die from the wound.”

It was on account of the infection, they told me. It got into his bloodstream. I started to cry. The man was not that old, not much over forty. He had five or six kids. Very upset, I went back to the truck and sat, thinking how the lack of proper care had taken the life of a fine officer, a father, and a loving husband.

They were calling my name, and I stopped thinking about uncle’s son-in-law. The girls and I remained there a while, tending to the wounded. When the shelling intensified, the men told us to go back.

Feeling worn and battered, we walked back the way we came. A truck going to the city center pulled up and gave us a lift. We had yet to leave the Mowlavi neighborhood when it came under fire. The driver headed toward the houses. We could hear the sounds of men and women wailing and shrieking in the distance. Before the truck came to a halt, we jumped out. The way the people were shrieking, we imagined one of their children was being dismembered before their eyes! A wall in front of two homes had been hit, making dirt and dust rocket into the air. To make people aware I was there, I said “Yallah” and entered the compound. There were a few men and women standing around. The women were beating themselves and crying. The men were yelling, trying to get the women to stop.

I came closer, expecting to find the bloody body of a loved one. Instead, there was the carcass of a cow on the ground. A large piece of shrapnel had entered its flank, and smaller pieces had penetrated its legs. The worst thing was that the cow was on the verge of calving. The women were standing around the cow crying their eyes out, and the men, with terrified looks on their faces, were shouting in Arabic. They wanted to cut open the cow’s stomach and save the calf, but no one had the nerve to do it. Meanwhile the poor animal was struggling to get up; it would get up, bellow, but then fall to the ground. Occasionally it tried to lift its head and opened its terror-filled eyes. The men were beside themselves, seeing the cow in such pain and watching their wealth go down the drain. One of the boys from the truck, who had entered the compound with me, said to the men, “Why are you just standing there twiddling your thumbs? It’s suffering; this is sinful. You’ve got to put it out of its misery.”

Another asked, “Is there no one around to butcher it?”

This made the women shriek even louder. The memory of the death of the young man by the wall still fresh in my mind, I couldn’t take any more of this and started to walk back down the alley. Many of the houses had been hit, but, luckily, they had been evacuated. I expected at any moment to hear the sound of one of the boys putting the cow down. I put my hands over my ears and walked on, but I could still hear the women shrieking, especially the older one, who appeared to be the mother of the family. A bit later the boys came back and got in the truck. The driver went off and picked me up at the head of the alley. I didn’t ask the boys what happened.


End of Chapter Twenty Four


To be continued …


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