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Still feeling the war
Khorramshahr, Ababdan and Ahvaz 11 years after the Iran-Iraq war

November 19, 2001
The Iranian

These are quick thoughts and snapshots from a recent business trip to Khuzestan. I wish I had more time to take pictures...


I left Khuzestan with a number of images etched in my mind. The first thing I re-learned is just how wonderful Khuzestanis are -- warm, hospitable and kind. Second is the level of poverty, unemployment and drug abuse, which tend to go hand in hand. I was reminded of the devastating war. All the loss of life and ruin... impossible not to be affected by the feeling that overcome you.

On the lighter side, i was reintroduced to delicious street food: samosas, felafels... I did not dare try the jeegar, but it looked yummy!

Two weeks ago was the 65th anniversary of the city's suspended bridge. Fireworks over the Karoun was quite a sight. the city had thrown a public ceremony by the riverside park. Soon, Khuzestani blood in the youth took over the crowd and people started dancing to music, turning the event into a rare block party.

A conservative member of the city council forced the band to stop the music. I talked to him afterwards. He told me that he could not allow the youth to dance on the same piece of ground that he saw his comrades die. "They should dance elsewhere, in their private homes, but not here..."

I tried to take some proper pictures of the Kakh-e Ostandari (provincial governor's residence), my last residence in Khuzestan, but a soldier approached me suspiciously. I told him this used to be my family house, when I was a child. He gave me a sarcastic, unbelieving response ("YOU were a governor's son?).

Fortunately, I had taken along my childhood savings account booklet which indicated my address. I then told him I used to be the governor's son at a very different time, when the governor wore a tie.

The young soldier immediately called his superior officer and tried to get me permission to tour the grounds of the governor's mansion. Access and further photos were both denied.

"Come back saturday, I can get you in then," I was told. But that evening, I was returning to Tehran. Ahvaz photos here


Khorramshahr is terribly distressing. The scars of war are everywhere. One is overtaken by a desire to observe many moments of silence for those who lost their lives here.

As you will notice from the shots of the building in ruins, some have not been able to afford to rebuild their war-torn home; there are people living in some of these devestated buildings.

The mosque is the famous Masjed-e Jame', the first place retaken from the Iraqis and now a pilgrimage for youg Basijis.

Most of the buildings are new, or left half errect, since the Iraqis levelled Khorramshahr before leaving. Not too many people are willing to invest in rebuilding a city so close to the border. You can still feel the war here. Khorramshahr photos here


I didn't remember too much of Ahvaz and Abadan, enough to feel sad. The scars of the war are still visible on some buildings. Mainly, one can see the ghost of a once thriving economy.

I also didn't realize just how close Iraq was. In the pictures of the boats, Iraq is across the water. Literally a stone's throw away. Amazing how this city held and never fell to Iraqi hands.

The picture of the large building is the famous Cinema Taj, which I believe is now Cinema Sherkate Naft.

I should have taken more pictures, but we were literally blowing threw town. It would have been particularly nice to take pictures of the NIOC houses and the refinery. Abadan photos here

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for the writer, Siamak Namazi

By Siamak Namazi

Namazi's articles index


Iran-Iraq War
Features, photos, momeories, music

Palm groves survive
From Ahvaz to Khorramshahr and Abadan

Easy targets
Photo essay
By Jassem Ghazban-pour

Gasping for air
You and I are alive. Many are not
By Arman Sadati

Nothing but a name
What did my father die for?
By Yasaman Rohani

Burning eyes
No one will cry for us
By Javdon

Oh, sweet home
Revisiting Abadan
By Shahrzad Irani
With more than 80 photos

Remembering our own
We can only belong to one country
By Zal Bameri

A voice in the crowd
Short story
By Babak Morvarid


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