Saturday, May 24, 2008

1982: May 24 Liberation of Khoramshahr

None of my war memories are as sharp as the day Khorramshahr was liberated ... It was the first time my mother celebrated some deed accomplished by the IRI 'regime'--as she still calls it. She, who had lost everything because of the Islamic Revolution, put her scarf on in her clumsy way, took our hands and brought us to the street--with a box of sweets she bought from Papa Bakery. A nation was celebrating; and we (the anti-revolutionary Taghooties) were united with the revolutionary mostaz'af. It was then that I realized the revolution had not really ruined everything.

I have never seen Khorramshahr, but my parents used to call it the Bride of the Iranian cities. Perhaps because they spent their honeymoon there. I have seen khoramshahr through black and white pictures of my parents: Palm trees, row boats ... must have been green.

Wikipedia describes the Battle for Khorramshahr as this:
During the Iran-Iraq War Khoramshahr was extensively ravaged by Iraqi forces as a result of Saddam Hussein's [breaking the] scorched earth policy. Prior to the war, Khorramshahr had grown extensively to become one of the world's major port cities, and home to some of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Iran. The population was predominantly wealthy and upper class, and along with Abadan, the prevalent culture was that of modern Iranian cosmopolitanism.

As the Iraqis drew near at the beginning of the war, the Iranian Army evacuated much of the city. In the defense of Khorramshahr, the Iranians prepared a series of dykes on the outskirts of the city, the first dyke holding regular soldiers and the second dyke holding tanks, artillery, and anti-tank weapons. Personnel wise, the Iranian Regular Army was responsible for the city’s external defenses and the Pasdaran (i.e. The Revolutionary Guards) were responsible for the center.

The Iraqi objectives were to occupy the city outskirts, the Dej Barracks in the north, and the port in the south. In the first days of the fighting, beginning on September 30th (1981), the Iraqis cleared the dykes and captured the area around the city, cutting it off from both Abadan and the rest of the Khuzestan province. The first two attempts to enter the city, launched by an armored division and Special Forces, were met with heavy losses for the Iraqi forces. In response, the Iraqis planned on sending in additional commando units with armor providing backup. Iraqi Special Forces and Commando units took the port whilst Iraqi armored brigades took Dej, both before moving into the suburbs.

It was in the suburbs that the Iraqi attack stalled when they encountered Iranian Pasdaran and Chieftain tanks. Local counterattacks by tank-infantry teams turned back the Iraqi forces at several points. The sheer weight of the Iraqi tank force settled the issue in their favor, but when Iranian armor was encountered on the defense, it stopped attacks cold. Only repeated combined arms assaults broke the ability of the Chieftains to dominate the open areas within the suburban battle space.

As the fighting moved toward the city center, armor operations were reduced to a supporting role, since the tanks couldn’t fire as effectively through the tight and narrow streets. The Iraqis tended to attack at night to advance troops and gain surprise, and place observation points on tall buildings. The Iranians would often move in snipers at night, which also bogged the battle down for the invading Iraqis. [...]
The final objectives towards the end of the battle were the Government building where the Iranian headquarters was located, as well as the nearby bridge connecting the road from Khorramshahr to Abadan. Fighting for possession of the bridge took 48 hours. The last Iraqi attack started at dawn on 24 October and lasted five hours. The city was cleared by 26 October.

The city practically became a ghost town afterward with the exception of the Iraqi army occupants. During the occupation, the Iraqi soldiers looted goods from the Iranian ports and had them transferred to Basra. According to other claims, soldiers raped several Iranian women in the city as well. Due to both the strategically high loss of men and the harsh weather following the battle, the Iraqis were unable to conduct any further offensives against Iran.

The city remained in Iraqi hands until April of 1982, when the Iranians launched Operation Jerusalem to recapture the Khuzestan province. The first attack (April 24 to May 12) consisted of 70,000 Pasdaran and succeeded in pushing the Iraqis out of the Ahvaz-Susangerd area. The Iraqis withdrew back to Khorramshahr and, on May 20th, launched a counter attack against the Iranians, which was repulsed. The Iranians then launched an all out assault on Khorramshahr, capturing two of the defense lines in the Pol-e No and Shalamcheh region. The Iranians gathered around the Shatt al-Arab waterway, surrounding the city and, thus, beginning the second siege. The Iranians finally recaptured the city on May 24th after two days of bitter fighting, capturing 19,000 soldiers from a demoralized Iraqi Army after the fighting was over. [...]

I remember that year I had sent a gift to the frontline. I don't recall the gift, but I remember the card: a Gold background and a white swan. I don't remember what I had written; must have been something like "Happy new year soldier; thank you for defending me; I feel safe in school; and I watch you on TV all the time, fighting in those dry harsh ditches" I don't really know I am imagining. But I also remember the soldier who received my card wrote back to me. What a non-romantic fool I was; I should have kept the letter. I wonder if he lived ... or if he was in one of those many coffins that our school made us follow to the graveyard, as a sign of respect for our soldiers ...

Sad war ... sad sad sad war ... but if they come again, this time the paper tiger himself, I will keep the letter I receive from the soldiers ... who knows, maybe I will be a soldier myself.

but I HATE war ...

10 comments:

enigma4ever said...

very very sad...war is always sad...

RickB said...

Can you expand on Taghooty, which is a fantastic word and I gather a kind of bourgeois designation?
It's terrible to have memories of such a war and then again to have a threat of another attack, can we not have one generation that doesn't know war? Sometimes it's so embarrassing to be human.

Naj said...

My Rick ... now I am trying to remember what was the historical reference of Taghooti exactly; but after revolution, people who were westernized, or rich, or anti-revolutionary, or non-islamic, or well-dressed, or employees of previous regime were considered taghooty ... well that's what I associated the word with when I was a kid.

:) I need to refresh my memory; will get back to you!

I don't think you quite understand what it is to belong to my generation (Have you seen Marjan Satrapi's Perspolise? We are of the same generation.)

We grew up VERY disconnected from everything; especially if our parents were 'victimized' by the revolution. This was my case.

I have very vivid memories of everything; and I still remember my anxieties; I used to get diarrhea every time the "red" alert went off; we didn't have a bunker; so we went inside a little hole in the garden (that never finished to be a pool; as everyone who had a pool had to make it into a garden; or at least my aunt and her neighbors did!) ... I would stare at the sky and imagine bombs shredding me to pieces ... sometimes there would be these satellites orbiting, moving stars, and I would follow them; while watching for Iraqi airplanes ... the breaking of sound barrier ... don't light even a cigarette, they will bomb ...
and boys disappearing; the "taghooty" boys; disappearing to Turkey, and then ending up as dishwashers, laborers in Amsterdm, America, Paris ... no they didn't defend us; they left ... those who stayed; and who fought, and who were damaged by war, were not good enough to marry the taghooti girls ...
You don't know the deep pain every single Iranian feels; has felt; we are not whiners; but I am sure you will find deep scars in ANY single Iranian you come across ... we just wear our wounds proudly, and silently ...

Naj said...

sorry, that had to read:
oh my, Rick, ...
lol

RickB said...

Naj, I'm waiting on Persepolis it's due out on August 18th here on DVD. So expect some writing about it in late August maybe.
Your description is very affecting, I'm sorry. I don't think my family has been through such times since the war with Hitler, and even then they weren't out of favour with a new revolutionary government in their own land. To be twice under attack must of been close to unbearable, no wonder at the disconnection.
And to be under air attack and the constant suspense and fear of it. It reminds me that both Bush's and McCain were Air Force, they (except AWOL George) dropped bombs on people and get called war heroes. And Kurt Vonnegut said something about that, how these 'heroes' never saw a single person they killed as they were several thousand feet in the air. And then unsurprisingly they go on to reckon on war and attacks from the air as a useful activity, they have never been under sustained threat of air attack, nor has the US mainland. My Mother had the blitz, you had Saddam. Palestinians have the IDF. Iraqis have both the USAF and the RAF. Flying machines making the ground into fleeting holocausts.
Your reminiscences are very powerful, maybe Persepolis has competition, would you ever write about it in a longer form (it need not always be silence)?

Your experience also made me think of this animation- Goodbye Blue Sky from The Wall by Pink Floyd.

Take care Naj, my favourite Taghooti!

Naj said...

would i ever write? I wish ...
Right now, I am constantly told by the Nazi, who stole my London job, that I do not write well; and because of that the little petty creature is blocking my life and progress ...

so I fear writing because I do not write well ...

Anyways, if i break my silence, one day ... perhaps ...

Naj said...

Watched the Pink Floyd ...

...

History has always punished the warmonger, the rapist, the invader. Today, only after 15 years, Iran stands tall and green ... yes there is a LOT of crap happening; a lot of bridge under the water; but only after 15 years, a country brought to her knees by a bloody revolution and an unfair and unjust war, is turning into an impressive inspiration. Because i am far from it; and because i saw the state from which it's arisen, i am allowed to romanticize. They didn't steal the blue skies. Delayed, yes, but today, many of blue prints that my dad didn't get to carry, because he was ousted, are being delivered; with a major difference: thirty years ago; Americans had to supervise everything; today Iranian are gaining technological "independence"

This is why to HAVE nuclear technology on iran soil is such a big deal that has rallied ALL Iranians behind the Regime ...

If they bomb Iran because of this; they have committed the greatest historical mistake; nothing will change in Iran, really; but the table will flip over the West's head, for good!

60 years ago, they had Russia to divert the world's attention from the nuclear crimes against the Japanese ... but now?

Naj said...

lol "water under the bridge"
okey i need to sleep :D

Pedestrian said...

I was born in 1983. And no sweeter childhood memory will I ever have with me than those days when we had all huddled in my grandfather's citrus orchards. I assumed the family was on vacation. In reality, they had all lost their homes (I am from Dezful, a region devastated by those first days of bombings and these orchards were in the outskirts of the city which Saddam bombed less often).

We lived in Tehran, but would go to those orchards for new years sometimes. I knew there was a war somewhere, but nothing about what it really was or what was happening.

This is what I lost in war.

I loved reading your post. I think many of us Iranians have forgotten our war and our war dead way sooner than we should ........

goatman said...

This is horrible; reminds me of pictures I've see of WWI and the trenches of western Europe. Same type of meat grinder I suspect with more modern weapons of death. I wonder what this area looks like now. Probably green and productive.
I can see why Iranians like America, after we got rid of Saddam for you. (I read that you won that war, but to what advantage?) Too bad that our government cannot capitalize on that good will and at least talk with your leaders; engage in discourse.

So you are in London, are you?