Iran-Iraq War: A Path To Nowhere (15)


Manoucher Avaznia
by Manoucher Avaznia

To the memory of the soldiers who fell before my eyes in the first Persian Gulf War. From my Iran-Iraq war memoirs that has been published in a book titled "A Path To Nowhere" >>> Part 1 -- Part 2 -- Part 3 -- Part 4 -- Part 5 -- Part 6 -- Part 7 -- Part 8 -- Part 9 -- Part 10 -- Part 11 -- Part 12 -- Part 13 -- Part 14 -- Part 13 -- Part 15 -- Part 16 --

Last Maneuvers

By late January 1988 we evacuated the Hellish Base for a resting spot. We were very happy to leave the source of so many terrible days and nights; though, being in a resting place did not mean being immune from the front line or an incursion. Those days everybody was predicting an offensive attack and, expectedly, few days later we were ordered to occupy a place on the front line in the northernmost portion of Fakkeh. This area belonged to a battalion of our own regiment but we were not told exactly where it was located. Sharafzadeh told me we were to substitute three platoons in order to free their forces for an incursion against Iraqi positions.

The crescent of the new moon and the evening star were still in the darkening sky of an early lunar month when we started inching our way in two trucks with lights off. We were to go to three different companies: Heidaree to the southernmost, Siamak’s former platoon to the middle, and I to the northernmost companies. At midnight we reached our destination and substituted the evacuating platoons.

Once again we were enclosed between two four-meter high embankments. To the east of the embankment, some hills mildly climbed to the horizon. A twisted line of bushes and reeds were stretched along a salty brook to the top of the hill. Iraqi positions were in the west; and a creek with a little water provided the contact line between the two sides. The course of the brook was deep in the ground and had made a wall-like earthen cliff. There had been many clashes over that wall; and many Iranian and Iraqi soldiers’ bodies had remained above it with neither side being able to evacuate them. For the same reason soldiers had named it “The Death Wall”. I had heard that a soldier of mine named Naderee from Kermanshah who, despite my advice, volunteered for a commando unit when I was in Fakkeh had been injured in one of those many clashes over the same wall. Two kilometers to the south the creek turned to Iraqi territories and in the rainy season its water probably joined the Tigris River.

There were some hills deep in the Iraqi-controlled area with trenches. They were too far to be used as observation posts against us. Apparently, they were provisional trenches to be used as the last preventive positions in face of an Iranian incursion. On the northernmost corner some vague images of high mountains loomed; perhaps they were an extension of the Zagross under Iraqi occupation. Sometimes, it had been mentioned that international border was the summit of those heights where the rainwater was divided between the two nations. To the south, our embankment continued with many turns as far as we could see while on the north our visibility was obscured by an immediate slow rise of the land.

In this area the earth was of blowing sand with patches of clay. A smooth land stretched from the embankment to the brink of the Iranian side of the creek. A winding groove for trafficking had been dug in the ground. A trench at the end of the groove, facing the creek, was used as an observation post during the day and a monitoring spot at night. Two television-shaped mines: named television mines, were planted before the trench with their screens toward the creek. They were connected to a hand-held magnetic electricity generator in the trench. In the case of enemy approach, the sentries were to explode the mines. With the explosion thousands of pellets would be thrown toward the on-coming enemies.

Although the mines added to our strength and security, they were a great source of concern as well. If the enemy took advantage of our negligence and turned their screen toward us, when our soldiers detonated them they would have targeted themselves instead.

On the first night of our transfer to the Death Wall, Ali left for leave. Sixteen days later Sharafzadeh told me Ali was arrested at Karkheh Bridge for carrying a considerable amount of hashish as he was returning from leave.

"He has confessed to the military police that he was carrying the drug for his commander Lieutenant Avaznia," he would laugh aloud, "You will be taken to court very soon. Prepare yourself to face charges."

Whatever the teasing, I was sure Ali had taken the drug on purpose to make a case against himself and get out of the war field for a while; it was one of many ways to escape the fronts. This time he reached his goal and was imprisoned for four and half months and did not experience the eventful days we had ahead.

Also, my conscript corporal was transferred to the company logistical supply spot to drive company’s truck. I heard he had bribed the chief sergeant to influence the commander to keep him far from the front line. Another soldier whose father was a wealthy auto-dealer in Tehran, and once I had met the man and had personally handed his son’s letter to him, bought a generator for the company and was sent to the battalion’s logistical spot scores of kilometers behind the front line.

In my host company I heard from its commander’s assistant that two soldiers who had a relative member of the Islamic Assembly had bought a truck at a cheap government price for their company and had been sent to serve the rest of their military service in garrison in Mashhad. Whoever had money, or was smart, or had enough influence was trying to stay away from the front. The people who suffered the most were the poor, the naive, and the honest.

Some ten days after our transfer to the Death Wall preparation for the incursion started. We were told the mission was aimed at capturing several prisoners to gain military information. They were to be taken from three Iraqi trenches and their adjoined bunkers before the three companies. But, it seemed the real intention was to foster another agitation in the society in order to divert attentions from domestic economic problems to military activities. By military standards in Iran-Iraq war it was a relatively long time since a lull had started to rule the fronts. There was no major activity since the failed Karballa operations.

The platoons that we had replaced were taken to “Tappeh Razmi” that in English translates to Combat Hill. Located some eight hundred meters behind the middle company, Tappeh Razmi made an ideal place to practice military exercises of infiltration, trapping, and taking prisoners.

On the hill difficult combat practices were executed by three platoons under different commanders. A large variety of weapons were being used in an almost real combat. In the first day of the exercise a soldier was killed by heavy machine gun bullet. His death did not hinder the exercise and operational planning. The forces continued their exercises in a full swing for two full weeks and were prepared for the incursion.

To keep as many soldiers as possible in the war field and to keep the combat information intact, all leaves were cancelled throughout the army for an unknown period of time; and reconnaissance on the enemy positions intensified. Commanders of the attacking platoons were appointed; and they started to attend reconnaissance missions with the reconnaissance platoon every other night. During the day, with binoculars in hand, they were watching enemy positions and activities from every possible angle. In my host company two staff sergeants were put in charge of the attacking platoon and they were clearly told that they would not be let go on leave unless they carried out the mission first. Also, they had been reminded that there was a long vacation period sitting at the end of a successful attack. Obviously, this pressure tactic was to be effective on the married men who had not visited their families in the previous forty-five days.

During reconnaissance missions the two men were also to clear a path through the minefield before the observation trenches from which the enemy soldiers were to be snatched. This task was supposed to be completed at night and by its own nature and the timing of the preparations it was delicate and time-consuming. Especially, if we take into account that the mission was supposed to be carried out with full secrecy until the enemy soldiers had been taken captive, the slow pace of the preparations stood high. In addition, the participants in the mission were not showing any enthusiasm towards it. As a result, the mission was pursued with such a slow pace that it dissatisfied the regiment commanders. They accused the commanders of the platoons of ineptitude and verbally reprimanded them.

Meanwhile for the first time we directly confronted the Mojahedin. Sometime around four o’clock in the morning of February 10, 1988 in a face-to-face shooting one of our men killed a reconnoitering Mojahed in the area of the middle company. This was a grave incident and I wanted to become directly aware of its details.

As a norm, soldiers who were involved in such incidents were being evacuated to the garrisons as soon as possible. The only way for me to hear the story first hand and detailed was to interview the soldier involved; I should have done this before he was evacuated. In the afternoon of the day of confrontation, without drawing attention or suspicion of the host commander with whom I had some arguments, I walked to the middle company and saw the soldier whose accent showed he was coming from the Province of Azarbaijan.

Since I was a conscript lieutenant and soldiers felt I was one of them they were very open to me. This soldier whose name I have forgotten was not an exception. He was still pale and scared and spoke to me with a trace of remorse in his voice. My feeling was that he had been advised by the battalion not to talk to others about the incident; nevertheless, he gave me the following story:

"It was four in the morning. My guard-mate and I were walking in the ditch toward the trench before the embankment to change the previous guards. As we had been ordered we were walking separately with rifles slung from our necks ready to open fire in case we encountered the enemy. My guard mate was walking such a distance ahead of me that I could not see him.

We had gone some two hundred meters when two men appeared, walking toward me out of the ditch. I thought they were our own sentries who had left the trench before we reached them. Even if so, why they were returning out of the ditch that somehow could be seen by the enemy? Nevertheless, I ordered them to stop. Without stopping, one of them swore at me and told me to shut up. I thought our guards were joking with me and I returned some bad words to him.

When they came quite close I ordered them to stop once again and received the same words and returned the same words. At last, the swearing man was about one meter away from me. Standing out of the ditch, he was rather tall and impressive. He grabbed my shoulder and showed me a hand grenade and said if I made a noise he would kill me with the grenade. I still believed he was a soldier of ours that enjoyed teasing me; and I told him that early in the morning I had no time for nonsense. Suddenly I noticed the man had goggles on his eyes. I was sure he was an Iraqi soldier because we don't have night-vision glasses. I was frightened and dragged the trigger without exactly knowing what I was doing. My gun roared, the man instantly fell, the other man ran away, and I fled toward our embankment. I was still running that I heard an explosion. It was the fallen man’s hand grenade that had exploded.

By then the sky had turned bright. Four soldiers brought the dying man to the embankment. My volley had hit his abdomens and the explosion of his grenade had cut his hand off. Several minutes later he passed away. The escaping man had shot my guard-mate on the thigh. He had not killed him. After evacuation, my guard-mate was sent to the hospital."

The soldier was rewarded twenty days of extra-leave, five hundred Tumans cash, and a new uniform. The murdered Mojahed was buried beside the Shush-Ammareh road. A cannon shell was placed on his grave to distinguish it in the plain and the site became known as Mojahed’s Grave.

The incident of Mojahed’s death and his gravesite became important landmarks. In soldiers’ everyday conversations, they frequently referred to the incident. Many times I heard them saying a specific incident had happened how many days before the death of the Mojahed; or a specific incident had taken place how close or how far from the Mojahed’s Grave. In those days that a heavy silence had been imposed upon the nation as a whole and no voice could object to the continuation of the war, Mojadedin’s way and cause were the causes that I admired the most. Besides, it was strange that the army personnel rarely called them by the government-given title of Hypocrites: a term used in official announcements. Putting a cannon shell on the fallen Mojahed’s grave was unprecedented and in contrast with the government policy of destroying Mojahedin’s graves and burying them in unknown sites in order to cover their identity and cause. Here, nobody took the cannon shell away and no one destroyed the grave. It seemed there was a general sympathy toward the dead man's fight; and perhaps he was a hero for some. After all, he had fought and died for the ideals of peace and liberty like those who had lost their lives in prisons under torture and by the firing squads or hanging.

The fall of the Mojahed ripened the atmosphere for the spread of demoralizing rumors in a vast extent, diverting attentions from the attack that our forces were about to begin. One rumor said the Mojahedin had contacted the commander of the company where their comrade had fallen and had promised to annihilate his company in retaliation. The Iraqi side of the front line supposedly had been transferred to the NLA in order to attack us. Supporters of this rumor claimed that reconnoitering forces had heard Persian conversation on the Iraqi side. Was the whole planning of the operations not directed at finding what Mojahedin were doing on the other side of the front line?

Whatever the rumors and conjectures, one day an official warning about NLA activities in the area was issued:

"According to recent reliable information received from Iraq, two thousand Hypocrites are practicing military exercises under the command of Maryam Rajavi; Masood Rajavi's wife and second in command of the Mojahedin, near the City of Ammareh. The Hypocrites' attack is a strong possibility. Adequate defensive measures are to be implemented."

As we received many warnings about the probability of attacks this warning was not out of the ordinary. Dreary military life and receiving numerous warnings had made us dull to warnings and we did not take it as seriously as we were supposed to, however, this time I had noticed a difference between these warnings and the ones we used to receive. Now the frequency of warnings regarding the threat of the Mojahedin surpassed those of the Iraqi threat.

In the meantime preparation for the attack came to an end. Participants in the war drill were given some days to rest before the incursion. The soldiers who were to attack were kept segregated from their original companies. But, no one was looking forward to an operation. Even soldiers who were not taking part in the attack were not happy with the oncoming military enterprise.

The two sergeants who were to lead the attacking platoon in my company started a long argument over taking command of the platoon. One of them was more senior to the other. According to military rules and regulations, the more senior man automatically must have assumed the leadership of the mission. He was adamant to the idea and argued that according to the same military rules and regulations a commando with special training was to assume the command. He was not a commando and had no training for such a mission.

His colleague was arguing that he was not a commando either and since he was more junior in the military hierarchy he must have been exempted from taking the command. He went on that he would assume the position in the case the senior person could not perform his duties; and in those circumstances the more senior sergeant was healthier than he was

Another argument was that they had not received enough training for the mission. Both of them agreed on this matter. They said for a mission of that nature they must have received at least two months of training and preparations. With a hasty two-week training program they would be unable to do the job. Accordingly, any attack with that much training was like committing a suicide and the army did not allow such an enterprise.

As these technical arguments were dragging on I was introduced to Mr. Che. Originally, Mr. Che’s last name was Chenaree that alluded to his hometown of Chenaran near the City of Mashhad in the Province of Khorassan. As a common practice in Iran that people are normally called by their last names, Mr. Che must have been called Mr. Chenaree; however as a respect for his age and kindness and the time that he had spent in the army soldiers used to call him with the friendly name of Mr. Che.

Why his last name had been shortened in this way had another reason. Mr. Che looked like Oriental people as many Iranians who live in eastern Khorassan do. Thus, the name Che had been chosen to imply that he originally was Chinese and his name should be shortened to sound Chinese. This name he never resented. As he was called by that name, he showed a big happy smile and answered: “Yes, My Dear”, in Persian “Janam”. And so he had made a special place in soldiers’ hearts.

When I met him, Che had served in the military for over twenty-seven years. He had spent most of his long career in an airborne regiment in Tehran and Shiraz. From those days he had some badges on his shoulder and chest. With that long background and the eyeglasses that he wore, it was strange to see Mr. Che in the line of fire facing the enemy. It was during one of the arguments that I had with the commander of my host company that Mr. Che called me to his bunker a few hundred meters behind the first line of fire where I defended.

As we sat down and two glasses of tea were brought for us, Mr. Che told me that the commander of the host company had asked him to mediate a peace between him and me. As a respect, I said whatever he decided on I would agree with and reminded him there was nothing crucially important going wrong between us. Nonetheless, I added that the commander had baselessly accused my platoon of being disorganized and undisciplined before a visiting colonel that was coming from the regiment. I believed he had done this only to wrongly promote his status through lying and I had told him that I would not visit his bunker and would not talk to him unless he clarified he was giving me a military order.

“Avaznia,” Mr. Che would draw my attention, “In this hell no one knows when he dies and what happens two minutes from now. It isn’t worth it to argue with this man. He knows he is wrong. After this mission you will take a different direction and he will follow a different way. These are all politics that we are here. They try to keep us busy with something that indeed is nothing.”

“I like you,” Mr. Che continued after a short pause, “No one had told him off as you did. Perhaps, because you went to school in the city of my beloved.”

I laughed; he sighed.

“Let’s play chess,” he went on.

“I don’t know to properly play the game,” I answered.

“I don’t know very much either,” Mr. Che Said, “Important is that we keep playing. As long as we go we exist.”

With my reluctance we started the game that had been lately legalized by Khomeini’s decree in which Mr. Che was more skilful than I was. Meanwhile he started telling me a story that sounded dreary and dull.

“Like what you said,” Mr. Che went on, “Yesterday I was with the commander of the battalion in the presence of a molla who was visiting the headquarters. I asked him I had served the military for over twenty-seven years and it was my time to serve the rest of my time in the garrison before I retired. You know what he said?”

I looked up at his smiling face waiting for the rest of the story.

“In front of the molla he told me that almost twenty years of that service I had rendered to the damned Shah,” Mr. Che went on, “I was stunned. If I were young like the days that I used to serve in the airborne regiment in Shiraz, I would have knocked him out with one single parachutists’ combat technique.

But, nowadays I have more verbal techniques than combat skills. I opened my mouth and told him that in those days that in garrisons he was spending a good time with his American instructors and friends, I was a man with the rank of sergeant and I was a pure slave. I told him that I was making less money than American instructors’ pets while he was a lieutenant and he was a master enjoying all kinds of benefits and services.

You don’t believe how pale he turned. I felt the sun on his shoulder was reduced to less than a star, Avaznia. Then, I said now in front of the new rulers you call yourself a servant of the nation and call me a traitor who has served the Shah. Who was the boss those days, Major? It was you or I? Who was in command of the service I was rendering to the Shah? Who is the boss now? Is it you or I?”

“They are all the same,” Mr. Che resumed thoughtfully, “They use you and then they spit on you. Let me give you an advice. In this war, just try to preserve yourself. Do not waste your life as you waste your pawns with your hasty playing now.”

We laughed at what he articulated; though Mr. Che was indeed grinding my patience by his advice and criticizing the way I played chess; and I was wasting my chessmen by playing a game that I did not know very much of. After losing every pawn Mr. Che reminded me that I was not controlling the battlefield with care and patience and I was wasting “poor soldiers’ lives” for no combat-worthy reason.

“Many years ago when I started serving in the airborne regiment I was stationed in Tehran,” Mr. Che resumed, “Those days some of the people who later became famous movie stars were my soldiers. I trained them all. They were all talented, kind, and loyal friends and we spent plenty of wonderful time together.

We were the first people transferred from Tehran to Shiraz to establish the famous Fifty-five Airborne Regiment in that city. We did a good job, but shortly after that my soldier friends concluded their military service and returned to Tehran and I was left in Shiraz. There, I fell in love with a Ghashghai girl, but because I was a poor man serving in the army I was denied marriage to her. My heart broke and this is the reason I said you have gone to school in the city of my beloved.”

Mr. Che sighed.

“You have read lots of books,” Mr. Che resumed, “But this is a real life story. What happens in your life is more enlightening than what you read in books or you see in movies. It is just enough for you to open your keen eyes and see the difference. I am trying to say that politics and its games have different faces; but in essence they are all the same. The game of this war was going on for a long time, but under cover. Indeed, as I entered the army over twenty years ago this game was already on. Let me go back to my story.”

Mr. Che went on with his smart smile.

“In my early days of service in Tehran I befriended a man with my own rank.”

Mr. Che gave me a name that I have forgotten, but it sounded like an Iranian Armanian name as we started to smoke cigarettes while playing chess and sipping our tea.

“We were extremely poor,” Mr. Che went on, “My friend used to borrow money from almost everyone he knew. Those people could be his own neighbors in the city or the people who were serving in the garrison. And, thus, he had made a bad reputation for himself as no one was lending him money any more.

One day when we had gone to an expensive restaurant, because of our poor appearance we were denied service and somehow they told us that we had to leave. We did not want to leave and were ready to fight them, but they had too many people that out-forced us and led us out of the door where we saw a man in an expensive suit and a pair of dark eyeglasses coming out of a brand new expensive car toward the restaurant. At the door the people who had thrown us out bowed to the man and he entered. My friend walked toward his car and I told him not to steal anything from the car as the man looked to be a very important person. My friend looked into the car but did not steal anything and we walked our way toward the garrison as I found my friend pensive. He told me he wished he lived two years like the wealthy man and then died. Genuinely, I could see that he literally wished to have such a life however short.

The next day at the end of morning ceremony in the garrison my friend’s name was called in order to introduce himself in person to the commander’s office. I was dying of fear that they would call my name as well. My whole concern was that they were going to severely punish us for the disturbance we had caused in the restaurant. My expectation did not materialize. I was not called in and my friend returned with a sad face. He told me several people from whom he had borrowed money had filed complaints against him with civil court and the court had contacted the garrison asking for him. Therefore, my friend had been ordered to appear in the court the coming day.

I was relieved and did not see my friend for two days. On the third day he was in the garrison with me again. I asked him what had been the outcome of the court. He smiled and happily responded: “I successfully beat them all.” When I asked what he meant by that, he answered that in a rare opportunity he had taken advantage of the prosecutor’s negligence and had stolen a big bundle of files that included his own files and had nonchalantly walked out of the court yard happy and victorious. He told me that he had learned the stealing skills in the army as a parachutist. I was amazed at his bravery and intelligence and asked what he was going to tell the commanders. He responded that he would tell them the whole truth as he had told me and could show them the documents if they asked for. He said he did not care about what they would do to him afterwards.”

Mr. Che’s story was getting interesting. The raining sky was turning clear. The sun was showing its bright face here and there. His soldiers served more tea and we kept smoking more. I became all ears to see the outcome of the old man’s story as he was adding more taste of advice to its body.

“Expectedly, the same day my friend was called to the commander’s office over the loudspeaker,” Mr. Che would resume, “I thought the court had called him back; or his complainants had filed new charges against him. He went to the office while I expected him to be either sent to prison or to be dismissed from the service altogether. Criminals always caused headaches for the system and they were not welcomed, anyway.

None of my expectations was fulfilled, however from that day on my friend used to show up in the garrison every once in a while. Many times I reminded him that the military could dismiss him, but he did not take my advice seriously. Generally speaking, my friend seemed a happier man than what he used to be and no more he was trying to borrow money from anyone. In fact, he was trying to pay back his debts to his military colleagues as well and eventually he paid them off, raising my suspicion that he was involved in a neat stealing business, while his endemic absence from the garrison continued for quite sometime. Now, we rarely heard of him and his whereabouts. Until one day over the loudspeaker we heard of his dismissal from the armed forces for one year and one day. According to military law, such a punishment would bar him from returning to the service once and for all. That day was the last time we heard his name.

Many years passed. A huge flood like the one we witnessed this year ravaged Khuzestan. Many villages were wiped out, many towns and cities were surrounded by floodwater; many people lost their lives and live stocks. As a parachutists regiment we were ordered to send sustenance to the stranded people by airdropping. We used to mainly deliver food and water by airplanes and parachute them on the besieged people.

As a patriotic mission we took the task seriously. I was commanding a small platoon of enthusiastic conscript soldier parachutists who were doing the job. We put our heart and soul in our efforts and carefully did the mission on a few flights until on one of the flights a seagull hit the plane’s window and damaged it and we had to make an emergency landing in Abadan that was also surrounded by floodwater. At the airport we thought until the window was fixed or we were assigned to another plane we could go to a restaurant in the city for lunch and see beautiful girls. Thus, about a dozen soldiers and I went to an expensive restaurant in a shopping mall in downtown.

At the entrance of the shopping mall I saw an expensive new car that had just stopped before we went in. There were a goat-bearded man and two beautiful girls with full make-up and eyeglasses in the car. They were so beautiful that I took a few steps aback to look at their half-naked chests and drew the man’s attention. Soon I fixed my appearance and walked back to the mall assuming the man was a very important official in the government and must have been offended by my action; especially that we were in military fatigues could have serious consequences. I felt a trouble was on its way and had nobody to blame for except my own reckless lustful looks.

My platoon took the farthest corner of the restaurant and we started to eat while the bearded man and the two girls sat somewhere near the entrance and could see us on our way out. My feeling was that the man had me in mind and had purposely sat at the entrance to bar my exit to ask about my unit and whereabouts to put me in trouble. So, I was trying to somehow hide from his looks, however in vain.

We hastily ate our lunch and I went to the cash to pay the bill. As I was walking, the man beckoned me to his table. Now I was sure that I was in a big trouble. In order to get rid of the problem I was ready to show so much humility that the man somehow forgave me and I could go after my business. So, I ignored his beckoning and pointed to the cashier that the rich man was calling him and waited in front of the cash with my back toward them.

The cashier went to the man and came back, telling me that the man wanted to see me. My heart jumped to my throat and I went to him and stood firmly with my heels clicked as in a military salutation fully prepared to express my regret for what I had done.

“What did you eat?” The man asked me calmly.

I told him what I had eaten. Then he asked me what was the total amount that I had spent and how much I was making a month. I gave him the amount we had spent there, adding that I was making a good amount of money in the army.

“Your bill is paid,” he articulated.

I thought he was trying to test my loyalty to the military and the system. So, I firmly said that His Majesty’s military pays me so much that I could easily pay for my own food and my platoon’s. Now the two girls had rested their chins on their hands looking at me. I could see half of their breasts while the man was talking to me.

At this, the man asked me to lower my ear to his mouth. Fearfully, I did what he had told me.

“You stupid, I am …” he said and gave me his name.

For a moment I was stunned. He removed his eyeglasses and I looked at him. He was the same man: my long lost friend. I relaxed a bit and tried to become like his old friend and looked at the girls’ hanging breasts. He put his glasses on and took control of the situation and in a very formal and commanding voice ordered me to respect his superior. Understanding his situation, I set aback and said: “Yes, Sir.”

Then, he gave me two banknotes that almost totaled what I made in a month in the army and I left the restaurant without paying anything for the food. All along the way to the airport my soldiers were asking about the strange man and I was lying that I had been reprimanded by the man who seemed to be an important person.”

I thought Mr. Che’s story was thus ending happily; and the two old friends were re-meeting safe and sound; and they were planning to spend plenty of happy time. So, I expressed my delight at his wonderful story and asked why he was serving in the first line of fire with his age and why his friend had not used his influence to help him to climb the ladder of progress while it was possible at the time of the Shah.

“I hope you are not here to make lots of field allowance to build a mansion,” I said jokingly while bursting in a loud laughter.

“Not at all like that, Avaznia,” Mr. Che answered.

He continued that for the sake of money he wanted no soldier to spend a single minute of his life in the war fronts. He said he stood above financial considerations and so he was a poor man; and continued that since he had grown old and no more could serve in the air-borne regiment he had been transferred to our army to serve in an infantry unit near his hometown of Chenaran. For quite sometime he was indeed serving in the headquarters of the army until once he had been caught with some illicit drugs at Karkheh Bridge and thus he had been banished to the front line and that was the reason I met him there. Why to carry drugs if he did not care about money? I tended to think he was carrying it for his personal us or to share it with friends in one of many parties in the circumstances that alcohol was prohibited.

After this, Mr. Che resumed his story. As I found out this last episode was what he really intended to tell me.

“After August 1953 Coup General Teimoor Bakhtiyar with Americans help established the SAVAK in Iran. In a short time Bakhtiyar’s power and prestige rapidly grew to such a level that he became the second even the first most powerful man in the country,” Mr. Che continued as I was wishing he did not drew many generalizations of political life that I had read so much of that I was almost disgusted to hear them repeated, “His ever-increasing power alarmed the Shah and so he decided to bring Bakhtiyar under control as he thought the coup had been orchestrated to render absolute power to him and not to Bakhtiyar: something that Bakhtiyar resented especially that the previous queen who was coming from his tribe of Bakhtiyaries and his powerful tribe were assets to his position and ambitions.

Continuation of power struggle between the two men led to Bakhtiyar’s feeling unsafe for his life and escaping to Iraq that in those days had turned to Iran’s number one enemy. Iraq granted Bakhtiyar asylum and protection and provided him with security and radio services and other means of communications with Iranian dissidents and Bakhtiyar’s followers inside and outside Iran. Many years later, one day we heard two Iranian university students had hijacked an Iranian civilian airplane and had landed in Baghdad. We were told the students were followers of General Bakhtiyar. Our blood pressure rose; a frenzy of anti-Iraqi fervor overtook Iran; especially the armed forces were put on the highest alert for any needed sacrifice for the homeland.

Not a long time passed that we learned Teimoor Bakhtiyar was assassinated while hunting in Iraq. We, also, learned that the assassins had been two of his highly trusted bodyguards.

Months passed; the situation eased; and we were relieved. Details of Bakhtiyar’s assassination became rumored across the country. We found out that the assassins were SAVAK agents that Teimoor Bakhtiyar had established. They were his own most trusted people during the time that he was chief of the SAVAK and the story of hijacking had been staged by SAVAK from the beginning to the end. This was the reason that after the hijackers had entered Iraq they had been able to easily enter the innermost circle of Bakhtiyar’s bodyguards and in an appropriate time assassinate him. In this way Bakhtiyar tasted the bitter fruit of the tree he planted. Now, hear the fate of the assassins.

We heard one of the assassins had been killed in the hunting field by Bakhtiyar’s other guards while the other one had been able to escape the scene. He had escaped all the way to the border of Iraq and Iran in Khosravee while SAVAK was tracking his homecoming. Right in the moments that he had approached Iranian guards, at the direct order of SAVAK and by the bullets of the Iranian forces that man was put to death and thus he was rewarded. The man that was thus killed was my old lost friend.

Avaznia; you see how they breed you until you are fat enough and then they send you to the slaughterhouse. They took my old friend from the garrison, trained him, sent him to university or even out of the country while he was a SAVAK agent, and eventually killed him to leave no trace behind. Now, the story of these two poor sergeants is like the story of my old friend’s with a big difference. My friend wanted to live and die in that way, but these poor souls have taken this job to live and support their families; not to die for the tiny pay they receive.”

I had fully followed Mr. Che’s story. In a short time it had taught me more than many books I had read at school. The skill and delicacy of his storytelling had amazed me. Many times I had lost the chess game that was being interrupted while I was immersed in details of his story. I wanted to hear more similar tales from the man. In my belief, he had accumulated plenty of stories like that in his memory, however I had to return to my platoon and check on my soldiers who were in the harms way. Thus I thanked Che and his soldiers, put my hardhat on, took my gun, and left his bunker.

Once out of his bunker, I walked southward over the embankment that separated my platoon from Mr. Che’s towards my platoon while the sunshine had already filled the area. My soldiers had amassed sitting or standing in front of their bunkers without any protective gears looking northward at the direction that I was emerging. They had spread their clothes and blankets before the sunshine to get them dry from the rain that had come down the whole previous day and night.

A concern overtook me that if a mortar shell landed near their bunkers, I would have suffered great losses. So, I was just about to tell them to go into their bunkers that I heard a very low hissing of a shell coming towards me. Such a low whistle could be coming form a 60mm mortar shell that was renown to be the most treacherous Iraqi shell that always took casualties. I was certain the Iraqi observer had seen me passing over the rampart and had targeted me with the 60mm shell. The main advantage of this shell was its low whistling noise while flying in the air. The people who did not have sharp sense of hearing would not hear its approaching noise; would not take protective measures; and would normally make a good prey for their shrapnel.

As the whistling stopped I understood the shell was about to come down on me. My assessment was that it would land very close to me; and so I plunged on the ground over my hands and abdomen and clasped my hands around my neck to protect myself from shrapnel. My guess was correct. A 60mm shell exploded on the ground about five meters away from the place I had prostrated. Right after the explosion I sat up; a small cloud of dust and smoke had been raised to the air and few tiny shrapnel fell on my hardhat.

I kept walking toward my soldiers as I was beckoning to them to take cover inside their bunkers. Amazingly, they were recklessly reluctant to follow my order. I thought I had to shout at them about the seriousness of the situations that another whistling shell interrupted my thoughts. I dropped myself on the ground again and the second shell exploded about three meters away from the place I had fallen the first time. The story after the first explosion was repeated. Within a few seconds another shell came and exploded farther away, nonetheless I did what I had done before. Obviously, the Iraqi observer who had seen me had no clue that my soldiers were closer to the range of his shells.

In this way the fire game continued for a few more minutes as the shells were losing their accuracy and falling farther and father away from me in the open field. As the fire stopped indicating that either the Iraqi assumed he had hit the target or he had missed the target altogether, my soldiers applauded me by clapping and whistling while I was screaming at them to go inside their bunkers. Nearly ten mortar shells had targeted me and all of them had missed the target. We were all amazed at this good luck if it could be called a good luck.

Finally, I reached my platoon and sent all soldiers inside their bunkers; and at the end I entered my own bunker. Ghobadee; a soldier from the Province of Fars and a relative of one of my classmates’ at the University of Shiraz, was on the verge of crying. With a heavy Shirazi accent he said everyone in the platoon thought I was hit.

“You don’t know how happy they were when they saw you walking unharmed,” he went on.

“Don’t worry,” I added with no emotion, “Next time. One of these days, it won’t be too late. Can you answer the phone?”

He picked up the telephone.

“It is Mr. Che; he wants to talk to you,” Ghobadee said.

I took the receiver. Mr. Che told me they had watched me dancing in the tune of the mortar explosions and they were happy to see me safe.

“I always yearned to dance thus in the middle of the field,” I hinted at a verse from Rumi.

“By the way, I was informed that I am supposed to be sent behind the headquarters of the army and supervise a brick producing kiln that the army has recently built,” Mr. Che went on, “Before I leave I want you and the host commander in peace.”

I expressed my happiness for his new position and promised to meet him at the commander’s bunker that night and ended the conversation.

As I put the receiver on the cradle, I saw Masood at the door. At my request he came in and told me that Saeed Toossee; his friend and serviceman of my platoon machine gun coming from Tehran, could see an Iraqi soldier in his position. Masood asked my permission for opening fire on the Iraqi observer.

“We are children of Tehran,” he said, hinting at the joke I used to crack with them when I tried to tell them they were bluffing, “We want to show them they can’t mess up with us with a handful of fire crackers. We have just finished cleaning and oiling the machine gun. Sir, it is time to fix their clock.”

The story of seeing the Iraqi soldier from Masood’s trench could be fabricated. Iraqi positions could not be easily visible from that firing position. From my point of view, Masood’s story was an excuse to obtain shooting permission especially that in the new company we had plenty of shooting restrictions: the situation that grinded soldiers patience and made them bored. Anyhow, I told Masood they could shoot only two hundred and fifty cartridges to practice their shooting skills to hit the so-called Iraqi soldier. Masood left happily and I took the history book that I was translating its last pages as radio Mojahed was broadcasting the inspiring song; “Where are you; Fairy?” In Persian: “To Ey Paree Kojaee? ”.

In those tough moments of fire and blood nothing was more soothing than the song that brought all hidden desires stored in the remotest corners of my memory before my eyes. In the last several years that song and similar songs, no matter who broadcasted them, always accompanied us in our victories and failures despite every kind of restrictions the government had imposed upon us. In their strange ways, arts kept flourishing among Iranians either in Iran or outside: hidden or exposed. Though that singer had died years ago, his eternal song was still highly inspiring.

As I was lost in the midst of my thoughts not noticing the passage of moments that the machine gun had roared, Masood had reappeared at my door. He told me they saw the Iraqi soldier lowering his head as they were shooting; and asked permission for more shooting. This time I was certain he had fully made up the story. Nonetheless, to make them happy, I said they could shoot another two hundred and fifty rounds.

“Make sure you are giving him a good lesson,” I said, “Please, don’t shoot more than what I allowed you to. You know we are under ammunition restrictions.”

“You bet on that,” he answered and jumped on his feet and ran to the machine gun position.

Soon I went back to my translation and shortly after the machine gun’s roaring arose and went on for a few seconds. About half an hour later Masood rushed to my bunker saying Saeed was injured.

My mind went back to my own being shelled earlier and I thought another 60mm shell had targeted my position. I threw the book and pen and paper away and stood up.

“Damned it,” I said aloud and bare-footedly ran out of the bunker with Ghobadee following me.

“But, no shell has landed,” I called Masood’s attention, “We don’t need this damned thing. How is he injured?”

“By his own bullet,” Masood answered.

“By his own bullet?” I growled with surprise.

“Another self-inflicted injury?” I said.

“No; I swear by my mother’s life,” Masood answered, “Cartridge exploded inside the barrel,” he went on.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“A cartridge exploded inside the barrel and injured him in the eye,” Masood answered.

We reached Masood and Saeed’s bunker that was located a few paces away from the position they were shooting and I saw Saeed with his left eye closed. A small piece of metal had hit him on the eyelid and through the eyelid had reached his eyeball; a tiny stream of blood had covered his eyelid. I examined his eye and saw a red spot on his eyeball while I was burning with despair of an incident in which a young man in his early twenties was needlessly losing an eye for no obvious reason.

With a full grief we called the ambulance and sent Saeed to the clinic while I was telling him not to come back to the front unless he had to. Masood was saying his whole reason for being in the battlefield was staying with his friend Saeed. Now that he had been evacuated, he would not return from his next leave. This was what he did. I never saw Masood once he left for leave.

I reported Saeed’s case to the headquarters of my own company and the host company, however the strange injury stuck to my mind for quite sometime. The nature of the injury indicated that it could not have been a self-inflicted injury. Soldiers who wanted to inflict injuries on themselves normally shot their feet, fingers, thighs, and the like that could save them from fighting duties and injuries could be partially remedied after a while. Wounding oneself in the eye looked liked a grave insanity or a real failed suicide of which no one had heard; especially if we recall that Saeed had been injured by a tiny bit of metal from the cartridge and not by a bullet that came out of a gun barrel that he could control.

I returned to the firing position with Masood who was shaken by the incident. A disassembled machine gun; with the shell of the exploded cartridge still in the barrel, was still sitting there. An almost full box of sparkling new cartridges was sitting to the left side of the machine gun. The ramrod was still in the barrel. A small yellow piece of the back part of the cartridge was fallen on the ground. I took the piece. It seemed that piece was the very piece that had hit Saeed in the eye.

Masood explained that as they had shot some cartridges the machine gun had jammed. So, they had stopped shooting and disassembled the gun when they had seen a cartridge stuck in the bottom of the barrel and they had tried to hammer the cartridge out by the ramrod. They were not able to take the cartridge out; and so Saeed had held the barrel higher in the air and had looked at the cartridge. That was the very moment the cartridge had exploded and its bottom had flown to his eye.

I looked closer. A white powder had smeared the back part of the barrel and the area around it. This part Masood had not explained to me. Either he was too excited to remember the details, or he was not aware of the importance of the matter. For me the heart of the matter was exactly the color of the residue that had been left on the barrel. I could never understand this phenomenon. In the past months of directly dealing with ammunitions and explosives I had never encountered a white powder after shooting of any kind of my guns. I even had not heard of any white powder left after shooting. What was normal to our eyes was a black smoke and sooth that was left in the barrel and the areas that came in contact with the bullets and cartridges. Of course, we all understood the reason for such a black smoke was the gunpowder explosion that took place at the bottom end of the barrel.

What had taken place inside this barrel was of a quite different nature that I believed required an inquiry to find the real reason behind it. Also, I needed some evidence to support myself against the accusations of negligence that was a norm in the military. Thus, without cleaning I took the whole machine gun to my own bunker and kept it to show to Zeerakee upon his visit.

What I had suspected came true. Within hours Zeerakee called me back from the headquarters saying that Saeed’s injury had no justification because he was not under enemy fire. He said military regarded the matter unacceptable. In return, I tried to explain the real reason for the injury and the fact that both the injury and the explosion were not understandable, however in vain. I mentioned that I could not talk to him for too long over the phone and asked him to visit me the next day so I could show him the evidence.

That sad evening Mr. Che and I went to the host commander’s bunker; a large high bunker where one could stand with his full height, brightly lighted by a kerosene burning light that one could never find in soldiers bunkers. The walls were fully covered by many military blankets and the floor was fully carpeted by a few layers of blankets that sat on boards. In general, the soldiers who worked and lived in that bunker had meticulously maintained it.

As we sat the short bearded brown man who was coming from a town in east-central Khorassan ordered a glass of tea for each. As a norm of military conversation he asked me what the news were. With a stinging tone I responded that the “town was safe and secure” and everyone was ready to carry out the command of the commander-in-field.

The commander looked at Mr. Che.

“Chenaree;” he called Mr. Che’s full last-name, “In Lieutenant Avaznia’s ideal world no one is becoming target of ten 60mm mortar shells; Saeed Toossee does not lose an eye to cartridge explosion inside his machine gun; and after twenty-seven years of serving the military Chenaree is not sent to the first line of fire with his eyeglasses. But, realities dictate differently and necessities do not agree with our ideas and ideals. So, we make decisions and use the words that are not always desirable. Military life is the life of permanent challenge and constantly receiving emotional or physical injuries. If we take everything to heart, we will not last very long in the army.”

“As long as it comes to the military life, I have no problem to receive severe blows, let alone slight injuries” I responded, “If you order me to go straight to the Iraqi line, I will follow your order right now. Order is order. I have nothing in life except a few books; and so I am very much a light-burdened person to face the realities of war. My problem begins with fabrication or distortion of facts for your personal gain that I saw in you Sir.

What you said to the colonel who had come from the headquarters of the army and knew nothing about the battle line was exactly in that direction. You told him that we had scattered the ammunition around that guarding position while we were not even guarding there and your own soldiers were guarding that place and you were fully aware of that. Besides, you are asking me to count the cartridges I give my soldiers every few hours and get them sign a paper about the amount of the ammunitions they receive twice a day.

I cannot do these. I trust my soldiers. If you do not trust your soldiers, you are in a wrong place. You know in this hell they can easily deceive us, fabricate facts, and even kill us. So, not trusting them is not solving any of our problems; and counting the ammunition is not making them pay more attention to their preservation.”

We kept the conversation going to Mr. Che’s satisfaction for over one hour and the commander wished me good luck with my idealism and I told him I would never fabricate any false story to get even with him or anyone else. At the end we made peace as more important matters were ahead of us. Mr. Che left for his new position shortly afterwards as I was preparing myself to face Zeerakee.

It was around ten o’clock in the morning of the next day that Zeerakee came to my platoon in his commanding jeep. As he entered my bunker, in his soft and calm tone, he reiterated that military would not accept my explanation for Saeed’s eye injury.

“Over the phone I could not explicitly speak to you,” I said filled with dismay while bringing the machine gun to the light before the entrance to show him what had really happened, “This is what I wanted to show you.”

I pointed at the white powder that had covered parts of the gun.

He took the barrel out of the gun and held it up. The broken cartridge fell off the barrel; it was covered on the outside and inside with the same white powder. He wiped a part of the barrel and gave it back to me as I was telling him that perhaps something seriously wrong was going on in the whole production system and we could have prevented the problem if we submitted a report and the gun to higher commanders.

“Don’t put us in more trouble,” he told me, “Clean everything and use the machine gun. I report Saeed’s injury result of mortar shrapnel. Don’t worry about anything else.”

“Don’t they ask what kind of mortar shell gives off this kind of shrapnel?” I asked.

“Mortar shells produce every kind of shrapnel, any way,” he responded, “We are not showing them the piece by which he had been hit.”

“But, we cannot use this barrel again,” I interjected, “A bullet is stuck inside and perhaps the barrel is useless altogether.”

“Give it to my driver,” he said, “I’ll take it to the arms depot and send you a new spare barrel before sunset.”

“You are the commander,” I said.

“Don’t talk about it,” he added.

He acted as he had promised. A short while after he left I received a new barrel for the gun; but I was left with plenty of questions about his decision. Obviously, his decision about not reporting the exact nature of the incident and its real cause was not a unique decision. Those kinds of decisions were made all over the military. Perhaps, there were many other commanders who did not report exact causes of incidents to show the brass that everything was going all right. Any such report would lead to an extensive search and research of the matter that field commanders were reluctant to participate in lest they were found guilty of negligence. The amount of the fear of taking responsibility for the mishaps was so prevalent that commanders were hiding matters that were probably nationally crucial.

As I was looking deeper into the matter I could see deeper consequences of the neat cover-ups. The chain of command in the military did not have enough capacity to understand the matters to be honestly reported to them. With this narrow-mindedness the army practically was depriving itself of discovering problems before they reached a critical point. And once problems reached that point, they had to spend several times more energy, time, and resources to locate and fix them. This was an absolute waste of resources. In my opinion, lack of bravery to face the problems in time had created a long chain of cover-ups that lead all the way to the highest commanding ranks.

Days passed. Mr. Che’s story had come to an end; he had been transferred to his new position behind the battlefield; ten mortar shells had targeted me; Saeed had been evacuated with his injured eye; I was still alive and healthy; but leadership debate between the sergeants was still going on.

The argument went on few more days. At last, the night before the onslaught began, the subordinate staff sergeant consented to assume the command of the attacking platoon. I heard of similar heated arguments among sergeants in other two companies as well. It appeared they had reached compromises similar to the one reached in my host company. Nevertheless, the commanding officers were not confident whether the attacking commanders would actually carry out a successful mission. After all, they had put plenty of weight on a successful conclusion of the mission. This lack of confidence showed itself in commanders’ words and gestures as they were assigning responsibilities to the attacking platoon.

In the evening of the night of the operation commanders of every platoon that was under the command of my host company were summoned to the commander’s bunker. First, he briefed the two staff sergeants and the conscript sergeant, who was to accompany them, insisting that they had to successfully carry out the mission. In his last attempt he fanned the fervor of competition.

"Mr. Conscript Sergeant;” he addressed the young man, “If the staff sergeants are not doing their job, you do their job and your own."


This was outrageous. With what authority this commander was assigning a subordinate conscript person above the senior staff of the army? However the conscript sergeant showed a smile; for me it was a smile of mockery. After this, my host commander let the commanders of the attacking platoon leave for rest while the commanders of the supporting units including myself were left in his bunker for his next orders. Within half an hour of staying in his bunker he divided responsibilities and missions of the heavy and semi-heavy backing weapons among us. The distribution of fire and limits of each weapon was assigned and it was clarified for every commander in case the attacking platoon was bombed how to support them with the long-range weapons under his command. Otherwise, every one was to wait until 4:45 A.M. when the aggression would end and the attacking platoons would withdraw.

Supervision and the command of a piece of 81mm mortar, an S.P.G.9 anti-armor gun, and a 106mm gun were assigned to me. We were to open fire at the commander's order, though from eleven at night to five in the morning we were to be on the highest alert to crush any Iraqi would-be infiltration, fire, or preemptive counter-attack. In addition, we were to appoint a couple of soldiers to intermittently shoot to the air in order to show the situation was normal like previous nights.

At around eight I conveyed the commander's orders to my soldiers and the units under my command. After, I tried to sleep to get refreshed for the dull and bloody hours ahead. Rest was crucial. That was the first time I was participating in an aggression of that nature and I needed more energy to endure what was to ensue.

Sleeping was out of the question. Every corner of my mind was filled with anxiety. Outcome of the operations was bleaker than the night in whose heart I was seeking rest. I sat up to translation. That did not work either; I had finished the job. I thought to keep myself busy with its Persian version. It was impossible; I could not concentrate; none of my words made sense. Fear was relentlessly attacking me from every side; unease was boiling in my heart. It seemed other residents of the bunker shared the same feelings; however I did not asked them. I could read what was going inside them on their faces.

Ghobaddee was quiet, smoking silently as I thought he wanted to share a concern. As my classmate in a letter had written to me, the young man had lost his mother in his childhood. Up to that age he had been brought up with all kinds of difficulties and hard labor. Now, he was to lose his life in a war in which he had no interest whatsoever. Still, he was more patient and calmer than me: his commander. For him I was a shelter while I needed to learn more lessons from his sufferings and his quiet deep look.

Ghaderee was on leave. Ardasheeree was in the bunker. His gun was sitting beside him, his hood on his head. He was checking the guards that night. He did not smoke; but shared our concerns quietly. He was coming from Mazandaran; he had lost his father long time ago. Despite, his rank he needed support too. Until then he had spent one year of his military service in a garrison and that was the first time he was participating in an attack. Perhaps, both Ghobadee and Ardasheeree needed a better leader than me to cheer them up. I was not the person to try to be happy for no reason as some people were. I could not cheer myself up; how could I make others happy? I missed Sergeant Ali. If he were around us, definitely, he could have made a big difference. With his sense of humor and nonsense talking, especially after he was high with hashish, he could have turned a gloomy mood to a happy one. His nonsense was more valuable than my whole intellectual orb that had been reduced to a small room with its longest radius to be the walls of my bunker a few spans away from my head: the farthest edge that my thought could travel. Waves of my thoughts, shortly after emitting from my mind, were hitting those grey walls and were coming back to myself cold, rough, dull, undesirable. Now, Ghobadee had come to my rescue.

“Jenab Sarvan: Sir,” he called me with his Shirazi accent, “If you cannot sleep, I can bring you a glass of tea.”

“A sea is roaring in me,” I thought, “Eyes of thousand volcanoes are boiling in me.”

What the young man understood of my refined words? What I could understand of his kind words? A vast gap was sitting between us. If he did not understand my words, what was the use of uttering them? What was the use of having them at all?

“Ya! Please!”

I hastily responded numb, not conscious of what I had uttered. Ghobaddee brought three glasses of tea for three of us. As we were sipping, Ghobadee and I smoked our half-dried Zar cigarettes after smearing the moisture of our tongues on them.

Eleven o’clock at night approached. I divided the supervision between Ardasheeree and myself. With my gun in hand and my hardhat on head I went to the eastern flank of the embankment where I had access to the long-range weapons. As we took our positions the offending platoon set off.

The night was dark and clear. Stars were twinkling brightly. A cold breeze was in oscillation between Zagross and Plain of Khuzestan. Silence was stark and fragile. Every fire on both sides was visible from far away. Flames would leap from an Iranian gun and within moments the sound would reach our ears. I would count one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three and would times by three hundred thirty to find the distance. On the Iraqi side some places before their front line were relentlessly pounded with 60mm mortar shells. Sometimes, an illumination was launched; sometimes, a spot was suspected and targeted by tracer bullets as Iraqis had done in the past few years. As night progressed frequency of shooting increased. Once a big explosion occurred in the area of the middle company: a mine had exploded and an Iranian soldier had lost his life and another one had been wounded. As we approached morning, the Iraqi fire expanded considerably. Apparently, they were routinely shooting to avert a morning attack that Iranians normally undertook.

At last, the moment of 4:45 A.M. approached; everybody was excited and ready to open fire. My swift heartbeats heralded the approach of an order that was never issued. The dispatched platoons failed to reach their targets, but we were not ordered to vacate the trenches.

By daybreak the dispatched platoons had returned and the commander of the army ordered us to bomb Iraqi positions along Fakkeh and Death Wall with all kinds of long-range weapons for five minutes. We duly launched our huge bulk of shells, raising a thick fog of dust and smoke. In response, Iraqi mortars bombed us injuring a soldier in my host company. In the unsuccessful operation and its preparations three Iranian soldiers were killed and few more were wounded. How many Iraqis were hurt? We knew not.

Few days after the failed mission our company was transferred to Tappeh Razmi. Behind the hill, we pitched our tents. Our new mission was to practice military exercises in order to maintain our operational preparedness and support the front line at night. The same day I left for leave, in the midst of the war of cities. I was still in Death Wall that the war of cities had ferociously re-started. This time it was more brutal than ever. Apparently, Iranian forces had bombarded some Iraqi border towns with long-range artillery shells and had violated the fragile cease-fire on residential areas. Iraqis retaliated with bombers and Russian-made surface-to-surface SCUD missiles.

It was not the first time that Iraqis were using missiles against Iranian cities. From the very first days of the war they had used their medium and short-range SCUDs against Dezful, Masjed-e Soleiman, Ghasr-eSheereen, Hamadan, and many other cities. Some of these cities had been attacked by tens of missiles. What was different this time was the range of the missiles. SCUDs had been developed under the names of Al-Abbas and Al-Hossein and pounded Tehran for the first time, as well as, few other cities deep in Iranian territories and some cities close to the border, causing casualties and damages more extensive than previous times. Likewise, Iran announced the four Iraqi holy cities of Karballa, Najaf, Kazemein, and Sammera immune to the Iraqi people to take refuge in, and pounded other cities as far as she could.

It was under missiles that I reached Tehran. The city was less crowded than before, though still many people were living there. Many had left for safer places in farther cities and villages. Shadow of war, missiles, robbery, and mourning had spread everywhere. Lest Iraqis corrected their launching errors, the government-controlled media did not disclose locations of the explosions. During my two hours staying in the city a missile landed in the eastern parts of the city as I heart the sound of its explosion. Some young men who were running towards the assumed place of explosion were saying Esfahanak had been hit. They were wrong. No one knew where and when the next missile would land.

As a result of missile attacks burglary was soaring in Tehran. Abandoned houses offered a haven to impoverished drug-addicts who freely roamed the streets. When a place was hit, robbers looted the place until the Committee police forces arrived. These revolutionary police forces were another menace to people’s belongings. I heard they were robbing people’s belongings as well. This robbery, of course, differed from those of the drug-addicts’: nobody prosecuted the official robbers. According to heavens’ law some robbers’ fingers were cut off, but theft went on as long as missiles came in.

The war of cities was still on when Iranian forces unleashed their last attack against Iraq. This time Union of Iraqi Kordestan Patriots under the leadership of Jalal Talebani and Iranian Guards operated in a joint venture, capturing a vast area in the Iraqi Kordestan including Khormal, Darbandikhan, and most important of all, town of Halabcheh.

The news was in the media for two days; but jubilance of the so-called victory ended with mourning. On the third day after the fall of Halabcheh the news of the catastrophe that befell the town was released. Iraq bombarded her own Town of Halabcheh with cyanide gas. Thousands of civilians and some Iranian Guards and Kord guerrillas were killed as Western supporters of Saddam Hossein had provided him with an abundance of chemical weapons to use against any target he wished >>> Part 16

>>> Part 1 -- Part 2 -- Part 3 -- Part 4 -- Part 5 -- Part 6 -- Part 7 -- Part 8 -- Part 9 -- Part 10 -- Part 11 -- Part 12 -- Part 13 -- Part 14 -- Part 13 -- Part 15 -- Part 16 --


Recently by Manoucher AvazniaCommentsDate
زیر و زبر
Nov 11, 2012
Nov 03, 2012
شیرین کار
Oct 21, 2012
more from Manoucher Avaznia