Hear them asking

In an endeavour to explain his policy of war against Iraq to the American people as well as to an increasingly sceptical world, president Bush and his team do not shy away from referring to the 1980 attack on Iran, which led to 8 years of war between the two neighbouring countries. This, although Mr. Bush has chosen to link the two countries – as well as North Korea – together in an “axis of ….” , and without any mention of the fact that the United States supported and also armed Iraq throughout that war.

“Hear Them Asking…”

In an endeavour to explain his policy of war against Iraq to the American people as well as to an increasingly sceptical world, president Bush and his team do not shy away from referring to the 1980 attack on Iran, which led to 8 years of war between the two neighbouring countries. This, although Mr. Bush has chosen to link the two countries – as well as North Korea – together in an “axis of ….” , and without any mention of the fact that the United States supported and also armed Iraq throughout that war.

These days as we listen to the news , increasingly fearing a new war in the region , I note still that almost no Iranian wishes another war on the people of Iraq – who have gone on to suffer bombings and more than 10 years of hardship under an embargo in addition to all else that one suffers under a dictatorship – while listening to a friend’s memories of the war ,which came to mar his childhood and forever alter his views and expectations of life:

“I was fourteen. It was in the early morning of the first day of the new school year. I was just about to take a bite out of a piece of bread and cheese that my mother had prepared for me, that the skies of our city – Abadan – (in south) were filled with the deafening sound of about hundred fighter planes, of what was then an unknown origin. Terror had suddenly descended on us. Against my mother’s screaming words, I rushed up onto the roof to see an endless number of bombs coming down , with people rushing about trying to find cover, one person seeking a refuge in a corner which another had just left, in hope of finding somewhere more safe. But from above it was clear that there was no safe corner in our city – and later we realised that it was the same in many cities, in the south and the west of Iran.

Our neighbour – a lady I would sometimes joke with and play tricks on – died from a heart attack in the first hours of that day, so horrific were the sounds and so unexpected was the turn of the day. Still none of us could know that this was only the first of a long devastating war , which would devour our resources and bring nothing about, except death and destruction.

Afraid then, that the war would stop in 2 or 3 days, I wanted to lose no chance for a major experience! So I ran away from home, leaving my family without any news for 10 days, and using my local contacts got a ride to where the fighting was most fierce.

During those first few days, I saw confusion and chaos, fighting and death. Nights, resting not far from one of the occupied towns, we could hear the screams of the women and children, and I – unable to help or do anything – learned to cry myself sleep, to get ready for the next day’s madness. I only went home at the end of those 10 days to bring the body of my best friend to the brother who had beaten him only a few days before to prevent him from going to the front! The days had passed like centuries and he who returned was not I , but someone much older, who had seen all the rules and niceties of the world torn through within a matter of days – a 14 year old man who had seen the worse!”

He goes on telling his stories, naming the numerous friends he has lost, recalling the last hours of each, detailing operations, retelling the jokes and tricks that they played on one another. In all of this there is no mention of an “enemy”! The Iraqi soldiers play no role in his memories except as pawns in a dirty game called war. But he talks long and with bitterness of the fact that once the chance for peace came, Iran did not take it, going on instead with the war for 5 more years, until being forced to accept the UN resolution that led to a cease fire. And intermittently he reminds me that now that I have heard the tales, I too have a responsibility towards the dead :

”Hear them asking, ‘ if the certain and historical outcome of each war is to bring us back to diplomacy and dialogue towards peace, why should we have been the innocent victims of the in-between?’ ”

(“He” has agreed to write for this site about his memories of war. We look forward to reading these pieces which are to follow – as well as other articles submitted on this subject!)

Leave a Reply