"We spent several days searching for corpses for several days. They removed the corpses from the village and threw them into the surrounding valleys. They brought the corpses to the wilderness to make it as if they had been killed in hit and run battles. Their faces could not be made out. We determined the victims' identities from their clothes. When we pulled on a hand or parts of the body to carry it, it would separate from the body. The villagers were terrified and were in a state of shock for several months." [video in Kurdish]
This was part of what Soltan-Khosravi and Omar Karimi, two residents of Qarana, said. Qarana is a Kurdish village in the Naqadeh district in the province of Western Azerbaijan, seven kilometers South-West of Naqadeh. This village was attacked by armed agents of Gholam-Reza Hasani, the Friday Imam of Urmia on 11 Shahrivar 1358. In the course of this attack, 42 women, men, children, infants, and old peoople from the village were killed. This disaster occurred in the disturbed atmosphere following the revolution when armed Kurdish groups were fighting the government's forces, but according to the existing information and eye-witnesses' explanations, the villagers of Qarana were unarmed and were not members of the opposition parties.
Thirty-one years after the tragedy of the massacre and forced migragion of the Kurdish villagers have passed and these stories have only been passed around by word of mouth and the limited number of witnesses of these crimes are passing away.
In order to keep alive the memory of the victims of these crimes, I sat down to interview eye witnesses to set down what they saw. [video in Kurdish]
Omar Karimi, how old were you at the time?
I am a villager. Villagers do not have proper birth certificates and at that time I had just returned from military service and so I was probably about twenty three.
What was the population of Qarana?
I cannot say. We were eighty families. We numbered ourselves by the number of animals we had.
What was the background of the attack on the village? Why did they attack your village?
At the time, the Kurdish parties were active in the area and there were nationalist tensions. For example, the members of the local komites were Turkish and had differences with the Kurds, but the population of our village played no role in the conflicts.
I had left with my brother and another family member to bring straw. We were going along the road when we saw Khosro Pahlavan, who was speeding alongside us in a jeep heading for Naqadeh.
Khosro Pahlavan before the revolution was a strongman and performed, pulling apart chains. After the revolution he became a Revolutionary Guard. When I saw him, I figured that something was up. That day, my tractor’s compressor had broken and it took a very long time to get my work done. We returned to the village and saw the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij heading for our village in their cars along with Khosro Pahlavan.
The sound of gunshots was heard from afar. Haji Sharif, who lived in our village caught up with me and said, “Omar, I think these cars have gone to destroy our village.” I told him, “Haji, whoever has a gun must defend himself.”
So the people of Qarana were armed?
No, maybe four or five families had a gun. In Kurdestan in those days, a few people had weapons to defend themselves. We were not armed. We were not at war with anyone. The Revolutionary Guards had come to our village before. They cursed at the villagers and dishonored them but the people were not worried about them. We did not think that something like this would happen. We had received a message from the chief of the Naqadeh komite four days before this event. It was a writ of safety in which it was written that they had the right to pass through to the city. It was also written that no difficulties would arise with the village.
What did the letter say?
I don’t know. They had given it to the village chief and the members of the village council, the village council, who were its elders. The people were happy about it. We did not expect anyone to trouble us.
When did you return to the village?
At noon, my brother said that we should return to the village. Only the sound of gunshots could be heard from afar.
How did the attackers behave?
When the attackers came to Qarana, the village’s cleric, Mullah Mahmud, went, Koran in hand, and said, “By God, we are not armed and had no role in the attack on the Do Ab Police Station. Have mercy on us, we’re Muslims too.” They apparently released him twice but in the end they decapitated him. Later, when we searched the corpses, we found all the corpses except for his head. The people said that they brought it to the city. Within the village, the people hid themselves in their houses. The attackers would knock on doors and say, “Let the men come out so that the chief of the komiteh could speak with them in the coffeehouse.” They had killed several people behind the coffeehouse and thrown their corpses into a water canal. They chased the people from their houses and later killed them. In one field alone, they killed the members of a family in one place and left their bodies there. In one place, they killed nine shepherds and members of the village, who were busy at work. They wounded two children alongside them, one was five and the other was twelve and left them there.
I saw a villager along the road. He had a five year old child with him who had been wounded. He asked me to bring the boy to his father. After that, I went to my uncle’s house. About fifty people were sitting there. They were terrified and weeping and wailing.
So the attacking forces did not stay there?
No. When they did their job, they evacuated the area. They were there for a few hours, maybe four hours. After that, we began t search t find the corpses. They had martyred three brothers behind our house, Kak Rahman Khosravi, Kak Abu-Bakr Khosravi, and Kak Abdollah. All three had married and had a wife and children. Several people saw their killing and were extremely terrified and hid themselves in an orchard which was full of trees.
No one knew how many had been killed and who had been able to flee. The first person they martyred was one Amu Rahman. When we found his corpse, there was a plant in his hands. He was clearly at work. After him, they killed two shepherds named Ebrahim Rasuli and Jaafar Ahmadpur, who were shepherds in the village. They did not even spare their flocks and beasts; they shot their dogs, sheep, mules, and whatever else was by the road.
Then, when a number of them who were in the process of cleaning chickpeas in a field heard the shooting, they thought that there was an armed conflict and that they would surely be safe inside the village. They were just returning to the village when they were ambushed by the attackers.
A child named Hamzeh was wounded. Although he was wounded, he headed for the village. Sayyed Fattah saw the child and wanted to bring him to his father. His mother, who saw him drenched in blood, began to scream when the Revolutionary Guards arrived and killed her, too. When her husband saw that they had martyred his wife, he left his house. As soon as he left, they martyred him as well. They also martyred the fourteen year old son of this family. They also martyred Sayyed Fattah, who had brought the wounded child home.
Did anyone take any pictures so that there would be a document of the crimes committed?
No one in the village has a camera. We were very terrified and no one thought about this. I asked around a great deal. The people are still afraid to speak up about this. But apparently a few people who had left the village took some pictures some days later.
Has anyone ever asked to interview you?
By God, you are the first person who has sought me out, me and Kak Soltan, who is living in Sweden and with whom you’ve spoken and one other person who has settled in Norway and who was then ten years old are the only witnesses of this event. Media connected with the parties in Kurdistan have made a few reports on this matter, but their information is somewhat confused. This story is being forgotten and no one has done anything about it. A book has apparently been written on it, but it is hard to obtain.
You mean the book by Mr. Behzad Khokhhali? I examined it. It is mostly a collection of articles from the newspapers of the time. Ettelaat and Keyhan wrote articles about it.
Yes. But the problem is that it only mentions two villages, Qarana and Qalatan, while I, being a resident of that region, can bear witness that several other villages had also been attacked, but they are not written about anywhere or recorded. Our few documents are disappearing.
I heard that in the village Sarv-e Kani, they gathered the people into the mosque and killed eighteen people on the spot. In the village Chaghal-e Mostafa, they killed forty-eight people and threw their corpses into a stream. When the stream reached its end and was too little, the people found the bullet-riddled bodies.
In the villages Vilan Charakh and Karijeye Shakakan, the government forces killed several people. IN the village of Mohammad Shah, the Revlutionary Guards cut open ths bellies of pregnant women and took out the children. They burned the arable land of the village Kaniye Mam Si Deh and shot the defenseless people and their flocks and killed them.
Many villages were victims of crimes which occurred in the mountainous regions and because they were isolated and so no news came out about them. The people were oppressed and the defenseless villages were not able to defend themselves. Of course, that was during wartime. The Kurdish parties also oppressed the Turks. Komeleh and the Democratic Party of Kurdistan were fighting, but we are talking about farmers and shepherds. They were not political people, but were minding their own business.
Translated by Dr. Evan Siegel.
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