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 15 -- Part 16 -- Part 17 -- Part 18 -- Part 19 -- Part 20 -- Part 21 -- Part 22 -- Notes --
A PATH TO NOWHERE is perhaps the first book of war memoirs by a veteran of the First Persian Gulf War (Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988) written directly in English. A former Iranian conscript lieutenant, Manoucher Avaznia has experienced the eight-year-war in Iranian cities and battlefields. In this book he has focused on the time he has spent in the fronts more than anything else and thus he gives a first-hand account of minutes of everyday life at war. As long as they are related to the core of the story, the gradual changing attitudes towards the war among soldiers and civilians and interactions of different regional and international factors that determined the direction of events and eventually the fate of the war are examined as well.
Characters in this book are real people with real life, real feelings, and real understanding of real circumstances. The author’s approach to his characters and the circumstances under which they lived and interacted is as realistic as expected from real people. Players are mainly arisen from the grassroots of ordinary Iranians and the author has tried to bring their names and lives as realistically as possible; however, he has forgotten some names and a few of them he has intentionally altered or has left unmentioned.
Since a few years had elapsed between the actual happening of the events and the time they were put in writing, perhaps some of the given dates are not accurate; however, all of them are accurate within the range of less than one week. Nevertheless, the months and the years of events are accurate. Also, most of the quotations in the text come from author’s memory and as a result they are susceptible to imperfection. Lack of documentation and the bare reality that in those days the author was unable to write what he quotes puts the burden of accuracy mainly on his memory. Nevertheless, he has tried to the best of his ability to bring the quoted materials as close to reality as possible. Notwithstanding, uniformity and similarity of the words and phrases in military atmosphere have made the task of memorization and their recovery easier.
Manoucher has been writing poetry in two languages of Persian and English since 2004 and has published two books of English poems. The English poems he has brought in this book belong to the period of time proceeding March 2004. He, also, has translated a sonnet from Hafiz: the great Iranian poet. This poem-to-poem undertaking has been accomplished sometime in the fall of 2006.
Appreciation for editing this work goes to Ms Sybil Grace who with patience, care, and encouragement has greatly helped the author to refine and enrich the book to the present form. Without Ms Grace’s help this work would not have become what readers have in hand.
Details Of This Tale
Nineteen years ago, few days before the end of the First Persian Gulf War in early summer 1988, I defected the ranks of the Iranian army to the neighboring Iraq in order to join an Iranian armed campaign stationed in that country to fight against a war that had started eight years earlier. Since then three more wars with disastrous consequences mainly for local people have been fought in the region around the Persian Gulf for the same reasons that caused and sustained the first war. Due to the persistence of the same circumstances, elements, and factors, no end is in sight for re-occurring more wars in the future.
In the uproars of the war mongering that assailed the globe ensuing September 11, 2001 and made the world a more dangerous and lawless place than the second half of the Twentieth Century when the Cold War raged, it seems the people around the globe especially in North America are not fully aware of the human catastrophes each war brings to the lives of millions of mainly helpless ordinary people whose lands, seas, and air turn to battlefields and subject to the most destructive weapons. Thus, it is crucial to paint a real picture of the war and its costs and outcomes for the people who are far from the battlefields and are long-distant onlookers of the distorted, under-informed, biased, half-true images that today’s monopolized mass media display for them. It was in pursuit of such a concern that I planned to write these memoirs nineteen years ago as I stepped out of Iran.
Shortly after defection to Iraq, among the deafening propaganda of the so-called Iraqi victory in the war and while songs in praise of Saddam Hossein the Iraqi president: ruled as president of the Republic Of Iraq 1979-2003, and the reports of the Iraqi troops fighting against Iranians were constantly broadcasted on Iraqi radio and television, I was sent to a small refugee camp near Town of Shomelee in the district of Hashemeyyeh near the City of Helleh in the Province of Babel (ancient Babylon) in south central Iraq.
The events that had taken place during nearly one month of my imprisonment and transfer from City of Ammareh to Shomelee Camp took me by surprise. Those events totally changed the direction of my life and the pursuit of the goal that I had originally begun my venture for. The Iranian side of the war had agreed to a cease-fire that it had adamantly rejected earlier; the armed opposition which I had crossed the border to join had waged its last bloody incursion to Iran to bring down the Islamic government of Iran and had failed to reach its goal; and instead of marching to a military facility I had found myself in a small camp for the mostly political refugees and military deserters.
On the very first day of arriving to Shomelee Camp, I befriended a young Iranian Kord man who was several years younger than myself and had no university education. Though because of his rough past and long involvement in political activities that had begun when he was a teenager and the fact that he had lived in the same camp for more than one year, my Kord friend was experienced and knowledgeable about the general situations of Iraq. He happily accepted me as his new roommate and introduced me to the realities of living in the camp and the surrounding communities. Through his fluent Arabic and Persian, he helped me and some other deserters to be registered with the local authorities for a tiny pay for our food and clothing and the authorities of the International Red Cross and the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees. Of course, he did all of these without any expectation under the circumstances that we needed them the most.
More than a month had passed my crossing the border. Vestiges of my motives for joining a political party had dramatically receded. The dreary life of the camp had started to show its grim face. I desperately needed to make a meaning out of the meaningless: to make my life meaningful before I fell to the dungeon of the same uselessness that many had fallen. I decided to write my memories of the war before I forgot them. How my memoirs looked like after completion was not important; important was that it could be a great project through which I could have filled my time and life with something useful. On the other hand, as a person who had spent almost one decade of his life on studying history it was very important that I kept a record of the human tragedy that had continued to assail the region for almost eight years. Importance of accuracy and access to related materials were not hidden to me. Without them the value of my work could be have been reduced to the level of an account of personal experience; nonetheless it was of a great value for humanity. This part of my intention was so important that I looked upon writing my memoirs as a mission to serve the cause of peace.
With these in mind I had finished the first page of my memoirs before my Kord friend saw it. As soon as he arrived with two glasses of freshly made tea, he looked at my page.
“What are you doing?”
He asked with curiosity.
“I am trying to write my memoirs of the war,” I responded, somehow annoyed by his interruption that in my belief came from his nuisance interventionism originating from his political background.
“Listen!” he said, “Where do you think you are? Do you think you are at university? This is Iraq and you are living in Shomelee Refugee Camp! If they catch you with your memoirs, they will send you straight to Aboo-Ghoreib.”
“Where is that?”
I asked, irritated.
“That is the place the Arab drop the reed.”
He brought the commonly used Iranian adage that brought a smile to me.
“I am serious,” I said, “What is that?”
“It is the prison where once you are put in no-one hears from you again,” he responded,
“Do you know how many Iranians are jailed there?” he went on, “Do you know how many Iranians who live in this camp collect information for Iraqi government? Many get paid for their service. For your own benefit I am asking you to stop writing. I am giving you the best advice I can. Write it later. Plenty of good opportunity will come to your way.”
I took the young man’s advice, tore my paper, and began occupying my time with reading all the mainly English books in the camp’s tiny library and teaching a rudimentary English to those who were interested to learn the language.
A few days before the end of November 1989 I landed in the City of Winnipeg in the Province of Manitoba, Canada as a landed immigrant. Despite the toll that the war and living in a refugee camp had morally taken from me, I thought the opportunity that once my Kord friend had mentioned had arrived. I had impatiently awaited this opportunity for over seventeen months that seemed as long as seventeen years. Now, I could relax and write whatever I wished.
Within a week a bachelor apartment was rented for me and I was left to myself to spend my whole time on writing and attending English as Second Language classes. Many nights I stayed awake until late after midnight jutting down what I could remember and re-evaluating the dates and the incidents that I had forgotten against the information that I could find in the books and the periodicals I found in public libraries. My finding was that my own personal knowledge of the events and facts was more extensive than the sketchy information of mainly unenthusiastic authors who had looked at the subject from a far distance.
The result of my work was a book over six hundred pages long composed in a poor English that I re-wrote a few times until I made it understandable. In 1992 I regarded my work finished. In the same year a publisher showed an interest in publishing the work if it were edited first. At this stage Ms Grace helped me with the editing job and I sent the manuscript to the publisher.
About a year passed. My book was not published yet. I was told the book market was not promising. Sadly, I found that in this side of the globe there was no factor to suffocate my voice; however, the distance that my voice could travel depended on the size of my wallet and the radius of the circle of my associates. From Iran, I had saved my skin only. In the new home I barely had a job and an income. My new friends in Winnipeg, who saw my perseverance, had kindly bought me a computer and a printer and had helped me with some correspondence; but they were not in publishing industry and could not extend further help. The result was that I recalled my manuscript and discarded it while I kept main parts of the work on a computer diskette.
In 2002 the fever of launching another war in the Persian Gulf Region was on. Mainly false and baseless cases were being presented to the public. Media were spending most of their time and energy on covering the matter in the ways governments intended their people to see. Subjects like that of my book’s had become popular and quite haphazardly I was introduced to a literary agent who was to edit the work again and publish it as a finished book. We signed a contract and I handed a copy of the work on a computer diskette to the agent who saw a good prospect for its publication.
Finally, the Third Persian Gulf War was needlessly launched. After a few contacts in which I was always told the work was a great project my literary agent stopped contacting me. More than three years passed the anniversary of the contract without knowing what had really happened to my work or the literary agent. Meanwhile I was discovering venues of self–publication. Some studies indicated with the hourly paid job that I was working at a restaurant in Ottawa, Ontario and my family’s sacrifice I could afford the cost of this kind of publication. I was heartened and revisited the memoirs, added a good amount of information to its body, enriched its English as I had advanced in the language, put my characters’ real names instead of my own invented ones, and put final touches on it with this hope that it shed a light on many important factors that caused and maintained the war in the Persian Gulf Region.
In my belief, there is nothing more precious than human life and no love should stand above the love for human life. Deplorably, this most precious gem of the whole existence is sacrificed at the foot of alluring worldly idols of profit and power. It was out of love for human life that I persistently reminded myself despite all odds:
Start to compose in the name of love
In mirage of life it stands above
All those medicines that claim to solve,
And the dissolvent who are to dissolve
Clearly divulge that you would involve
Inners of your heart indulged into love
Wondrous powers are stored in love
All kind of concerns capable to solve
Endure hardship, don't dodge or devolve
Hardship and relief will always revolve
Envies and greed uproot and dissolve
For love of others wear hats and glove
Sow the seeds of love into your heart's valve
Till from your heart ten lovers evolve
Once feelings of love within us dissolve
We become one whole that is called love
>>> 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 15 -- Part 16 -- Part 17 -- Part 18 -- Part 19 -- Part 20 -- Part 21 -- Part 22 -- Notes --
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