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" >>> Introduction -- 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
1. The word SAVAK is the Persian acronym of Sazeman-e Ettela'at Va Amniyyat-e Keshvar: the Organization of Intelligence and Security of the Country. It is the name of the secret police the American Central Intelligence Agency established for the last Shah of Iran in 1958. Discovering a network of Communist officers of Tudeh Party in the Iranian army was the motive behind the creation of SAVAK; however, the real aim of its creators was to repress any movement that jeopardized Western and monarchy’s interests in Iran.
Many: Communists or not, were arrested, tortured, executed, banished, and harassed by SAVAK. Burning, sexual assaults, flogging, cutting victims’ limbs, and hanging from ceiling were amongst what SAVAK was serving its victims. Combination of all of these made SAVAK the most hated royal institution in the country.
SAVAK enjoyed a vast training and co-ordination from CIA and MOSAD: Israeli intelligence agency, until its abolition in 1979. Shah’s agents killed the first head of SAVAK: General Teimoor Bakhtiyar who had fled to Iraq. The remaining three heads of the agency were executed in Tehran in the early days after the victory of the 1979 Revolution.
2. Khomeini's first name was Roohollah, meaning “Spirit of Allah”.
3. In the Hezbollahis and the Guards invasion of universities during Cultural Revolution, armed clashes occurred and several students lost their lives. Arms clashes were especially intense at the University of Tehran and Jondeeshapour University of Ahvaz.
4. According to the twelve-Imami Shia branch of Islam: which believes in twelve infallible Imams (religious leaders) Prophet Mohammad's cousin Ali was the first Imam to be followed by eleven of his descendants, Mahdi (meaning the Righteous Guide) is the last Imam and the Savior. Although strongest and the most politicized among Shia believers, the idea of a Savior coming from the line of Ali and Fatemeh: Prophet’s daughter; is not confined to the Shia believers. Mahdi is supposed to reveal his mission at the End of The Time when the world is most corrupt to save the people according to his new interpretation of the divine rules of the Qur'an.
Shia’s Mahdi, son of the eleventh Imam, was born in the ninth century A.D. and went to an Occultation in his childhood around 870 A.D. During his Lesser Occultation, Mahdi had been in touch with some godly scholars of the believers and through them he had given his religious directions and orders to Moslems. At the beginning of The Larger Occultation he cut off his contact with everybody and will not contact anyone until his revolution at the will of Allah. According to Shia, in Mahdi’s absence the Islamic Jurists: Foghaha or Olama (scholars of religion), have the responsibility of guiding the believers on Mahdi’s behalf.
Shiites also believe in just government as one of the principles of their religion, making them the most revolutionary branch of Islam. After their first Imam's martyrdom in the first half of the seventh century, all other Shia Imams have resorted either to sword to establish the just rule of Allah, or have been engaged in passive campaign against unjust rulers. So, all of them were killed in battles against the ruling governments, suffered long imprisonments, or were poisoned.
During the Larger Occultation the Shiites have repeatedly revolted unjust rulers hoping Mahdi to assume the leadership of their revolution to eradicate oppression from the Earth. These revolts have made the history of Shia a history filled with revolutions both victorious and failed.
Some conservative Shiites believe differently. They believe they should not take any action against evil or social ailments. According to them, until the world is not filled with evil, Mahdi will not come to save humanity. So, they just wait until the Promised Imam reveals his worldwide revolution. Hojjatiyyeh Association: Association of Hojjat (Mahdi), in Iran follows this theory.
Shrewd religious and political leaders have used the belief in Mahdi as an effective means to consolidate their governments or fan wars amongst the Shia. In the past fifty years, at least, two of Iranian rulers have used this concept. Khomeini enjoyed the title of “Naebo-ol-Imam: Vicar of Imam Mahdi”, and many Shia were convinced that he was receiving his instructions from Mahdi. The last Shah of Iran who was a secular ruler writes while walking with his guardian he had a vision of Mahdi and concludes that an unseen divine hand was backing him and his throne. (*)
(*) Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, Mission For My Country, London, Hutchinson 1961, 55.
5. The Persian word Bassij means mobilization. Here, the word refers to the volunteer civilians who were mobilized for the war. The Bassijis were trained by the Revolutionary Guards and were taken to the front lines to fight for a short time, mostly in attacks. The complete name of the organization is “Bassij-e Mostazafan or Bassij-e Mostazafeen: Mobilization of the Dispossessed”, but people used to call it Bassij and its personnel Bassiji.
6. The Revolutionary Guards and the Martyr Foundation were established after the 1979 Revolution.
7. Sazeman-e Mojahedin-e Khalgh-e Iran stands for People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran generally known as Mojahedin-e Khalgh or simply the Mojahedin. Originally a guerrilla organization founded in 1965, the motives behind Mojahedin establishment went back to the early 1950's.
Then, Iranians’ campaign for the nationalization of the oil industry from the British under the leadership of the Iranian National Front led to a CIA and British Intelligence Service’s concerted effort in favor of absolute monarchy. On August 18, 1953 a coup overthrew the nationalist government of Mohammad Mosaddegh and the Pahlavi dictatorship resumed after a halt that had started by Reza Shah Pahlavi’s abdication and exile in 1941.
A post-coup rift between the secular and religious activists of the National Front led to the creation of Liberation Movement of Iran under the leadership of some former religious leaders of the National Front. Mahdi Bazargan, Mahmoud Taleqani, and Yadollah Sahabi, later to become leaders of the 1979 Revolution, had modern attitudes toward Islam. They considered Islam a progressive religion that should and could play a role in politics. These men were strong believers in Islam and had engaged in a peaceful campaign against the despotism of the last Pahlavi king.
On June 5, 1963 after Khomeini's famous criticism of the Shah, thousands of people in Tehran and other cities waged peaceful demonstrations. The Shah’s secret police and army cracked the demonstrations down in blood. Many (fifteen thousand is the figure which this author frequently heard that seems to be highly exaggerated) were massacred.
Mowing the defenseless civilians caused the younger generation of the intellectuals in the Liberation Movement to revise their peaceful political activities. Within months three men, Mohammad Hanifnezhad, Saeed Mohsen, and Ali-Asghar Badizadegan, formed a small group to discuss the methods of challenging the Shah. This was to be the nucleus of the Mojahedin Organization. In ensuing years many young men and women joined the founding fathers.
Through extensive studies, the organization gave a new interpretation of Islam and Shia beliefs. They advocated that Islam was a religion against any kind of oppression and exploitation that after Prophet Mohammad and Imam Ali’s demise unjust rulers had deviated from its original path. In their belief, Shia Imams who had revolted against ruling governments had lost their lives to preserve the true anti-oppression Islam. The Mojahedin studies concluded that they must launch an armed struggle against the Shah's regime that was as cruel as any government the Shia Imams had fought against.
In the Mojahedin interpretation of Islam there was no room for the professional mollas. Rather, mollas were regarded an integral part of the oppressive system who constituted the religious tongue of the oppression. This conviction was the seed of their future antagonism with Khomeini.
In 1971 there were lavish plans for the claimed 2500th anniversary of the Iranian kingdom. (In fact the history of civilization in Iran goes back to thousands of years before the claimed date to Ilam Civilization and even before that civilization while the history of the so-called Aryan monarchy went back, at least, to the Mad Dynasty that had begun in early seventh century B.C. The Shah ignored historic facts and came to a magical conclusion that Cyrus titled the Great had initiated monarchy in Iran in mid-sixth century B.C.). The Mojahedin decided to disrupt the festivities by blowing up the main electrical plant in the Capital City of Tehran. Their plan was foiled and they were arrested en masse by SAVAK.
After extensive torturing: varying from whipping to burning, they were put on a mass trail. Many of those who had been detained were condemned to death: founding fathers included. Others were given long-term imprisonments; however the movement was not quelled. It continued both in and out of prison.
The only member of the central committee of the Mojahedin who survived until the 1979 Revolution was Masood Rajavi: the Mojahedin’s present leader. Rajavi assumed the movement’s leadership after the mass release of political prisoners of 1978-1979. During the guerrilla fighting of February 9-11, 1979 that led to the collapse of the Pahlavi regime, the Mojahedin and the Marxist-Leninist organization of Fadaiyan Khalgh-e Iran played outstanding roles.
Mojahedin's vision of an Islam and Shia without clergy ran counter to Khomeini regime after the revolution. The regime accused Mojahedin of eclecticism: mixing Islam with Marxism, the accusation which SAVAK had already posed under the Shah. Then, it called them Hypocrites like those who had antagonized Prophet Mohammad in the seventh century A.D. Madinna. Meanwhile club-wielders attacked their offices, arresting their supporters, and killing their sympathizers.
By June 20, 1981, when Mojahedin commenced an armed struggle against the Khomeini government, the club-wielders, Islamic Republic Party, and the Guards had killed more than seventy of the organization’s followers at their meetings and peaceful rallies. On June 20, the Mojahedin called hundreds of thousands of people in different cities to the streets to express opposition to Khomeini. They demonstrated against banning of freedoms and imposition of religious law to the civil rights code. Half a million came to the streets in Tehran. Khomeini and his clerical circle condemned the demonstrations as an opposition to Allah's will and heavens’ decree. The Guards opened fire on demonstrators, killing tens and injuring hundreds. During the demonstrations and subsequent repressions many were arrested, briefly tried, and executed.
In the years following June 20, 1981, Mojahedin fought the religious tyranny and lost thousands of lives. Some supporting families like that of the Mesbah were entirely executed in the ensuing massacres.
By the time that National Liberation Army of Iran was founded almost all Iranian political organizations and parties had lost ground to the Islamic Republic. Many had accepted expatriation and many had considerably reduced their activities; but Mojahedin had grown into the most powerful and the best organized armed opposition of the ruling government.
By June 1986 the leadership of the Mojahedin, after a few years of exile in France, had moved to Iraq to get closer to the Iranian borders in order to conduct their armed campaign against the war.
8. Shams-e Ghanat Abadee had been killed shortly before the 1979 Revolution.
9. This was a routine on the government-run TV since 1981, the beginning of systematic repression of freedoms. The prisoner was subjected to harsh psychological and physical torture, videotaped while confessing to what he had been told to say, and broadcasted on national TV.
10. "The Iraqi imposed war on Iran" was one of the frequently used titles of the war.
11. This widely used title tied the Iraqi regime with Israel against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
12. Meaning dead; as someone else would carry the body in a coffin.
13. According to the religious order decreed in 1981 by Ayatollah Mohammadi Gilani; the revolutionary court judge, the wounded counter-revolutionaries must not be treated. They must be put to death by worsening their injuries. Any clinic that accepted them would be closed and the physician would face the death penalty.
14. This organization was to deal with political and religious questions of the army personnel. But, it acted as a means of control.
15. In the Iranian army it is forbidden to salute by hand without having a headgear on.
16. Some stations along the roads leading to the fronts offering food, bath, haircut, and other services to the armed forces free of charge. The name alludes to the fact that the recipient of the service was morally obliged to praise Prophet Mohammad by saying: “O Allah praise Mohammad and his family”.
17. Some mountain heights in the Iraqi Kordestan.
18. An Iranian city at the head of the Persian Gulf that housed the country’s largest oil refinery and was besieged by Iraq in the beginning of the war.
19. The Town of Bostan as well as some other Iranian border towns like Soosan-Gerd in the Province of Khuzestan was inhabited by Arab Iranians. When Iraqis invaded, these people regarded them as their liberators, and welcomed them by immolating bulls and rams, celebrating, and dancing. Many inhabitants were evacuated to Iraq to organize an Arab People's Organization Army to fight against Iran.
This brutality of an Arab army against Iranian Arabs invoked the rage of the armed forces against Iraq. Both the military and the Guards extensively used the incident to ignite vengeance among the armed forces.
20. A winter seasonal skin boil caused by poor sanitation, normally lasting at least a month and leaving a big scar on the skin. It begins as a tiny rash and develops into a big wound. The common remedy for this disease was repeatedly injecting medicine into the boil.
21. According to soldiers, golden shrapnel was a small piece of bomb shrapnel that slightly injured the person. The wounded usually received one day of clinical treatment and went on a few weeks of medical leave.
22. A few months later the military police forbade designs of the female faces for needle working. According to them, female designs were provocative and were in contrast with the Islamic codes of ethics. They started confiscating those designs at the Karkheh Bridge checkpoint.
23. Khomeini's famous title for the U.S.A.
24. When somebody leaves home for a long journey Iranians throw a bowl of water after him. By holding the holy book over the traveler’s head, they wish the Qur’an to preserve the traveler. By pouring water they wish him to return soon.
25. On my vacation I met Ali Avaznia: my brother, who used to serve as a conscript soldier in Sumar and asked about the event. The following account is what I heard from him.
"That night there was a heavy fire exchange on the front. All of a sudden, we heard a few barely audible explosions in the headquarters of the army and one of its regiments. At dawn, we were told both headquarters had been bombed by cyanide gas and we were ordered to evacuate bodies.
More than four hundred people had been suffocated in the bunkers and foxholes. Virtually nobody had been left alive and the military had to send personnel from the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Tehran to keep the army running.
Each corpse was swollen to the size of three men. Their faces were black. We noticed a body with gas mask and not swollen like others. It was strange. Why had he had died?
Carefully looking at the body, we noticed that the soldier, probably in his excitement, had not removed the filter cap from his gas mask. He must have thought he had been affected like others and had died unnecessarily."
26. Soldiers had nicknamed this colonel “Sarhang Salman: Colonel Barber" with contempt. He was suffering from shellshock and was speaking aloud with foaming mouth and always carried hair clippers in his commanding jeep to cut soldiers’ hair.
27. Two days later, the Intelligence announced:
"From the issuance of this order up to two days there must be no paper littered in the area. Commanders of all units are responsible for the implementation of this order. Violators will be severely punished."
28. Normally taking prisoner at night is not allowed in the armies. This move of the Mojahedin’s was unique, as well.
>>> Introduction -- 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
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