Here he is, the man who doesn't know me at all but has made the oldest memories of my childhood. Well he is on trial today. Do I qualify as a witness? I think my memories are quite related!
Our 10 floor building is shaking. Our vacuum cleaner is left in the middle of the room and it starts moving on itself. I can hear a loud sound from outside and some noise from the above. Now it is night, we are at a neighbor's house, all the lights are turned off. People seem scared, shocked and quiet; I remember a small red, black-and-white TV and some thing about a red alarm. Then a young man comes in, he has found some black pieces of plastic or something like that, everybody tries to take a look at it and so do I.I was 3 at the time.
Yes, the war had started. We used to live close to a major factory (Zob Ahan*) and it was one of the first targets as the war started. Later my father’s aunt and his cousins arrived from Khoramshahr, in their slippers! They had got only enough time to get in their cars and drive with no belongings all the way to Esfahan; all of a sudden they were homeless! All of our neighbors' relatives arrived too. Little by little all those half built buildings which were I think remainings of an unfinished project from before the revolution were filled by dark skinned people who were coming from the South. They were poor. I didn't like going to their buildings. They had plastic bags for their windows and cloths for their doors.
I couldn't remember anything at all from before the war. When I turned on the TV it was always something about the war. When you looked in the streets there were always some slogans about the war. War was part of our life, sun rises, you wake up and Iran is in war, as simple as that.
When people talked about the countries that weren't at war I wondered for myself what exactly that meant. Most of the young boys were either going to the war or were escaping Iran. I remember families discussing the future of their sons as they were growing: “Hmm, should we send our 14 year old son out of Iran to some unknown country before he gets eligible for the military service or should we let him go to the war?”
I was in the forth grade when bombing the cities started again. This time ballistic missiles! Our schools were not regular any more. They were building bomb shelters everywhere. They were so popular that we children decided to build one of our own in the back of the garden where nobody could see it and then give it to our parents as a gift! Bombing became an every day thing. We'd count them as they were hitting each time, “1, 2, 3 ... and 10! Oh Saddam is getting better!” It had become very natural to see people who have lost someone in bombardment or in the war.
Saddam used Chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and Kurds. They told us in school that we had to carry a garbage bag and wet towels with us and they taught us how to stock ourselves in the bag in case we hear a gray alarm. We compared our towels with each other at school and wondered which one of us can play this game better and faster.
People were making jokes about Saddam: “You stupid Saddam! You are forgetting the other side of the river!”, “Oh Saddam with golden hands, please don't come to this side of the river!”, “ Saddam is hitting on Charsogh St. because he fears his mother-in-law!“ Of course, they all rhymed in Persian. It came to the point that he sent us a share of missiles for each meal; “breakfast 4, lunch 6, dinner 7, and now time to sleep!”
People fled the cities. It was too risky to stay in. Our house was almost hit once; fortunately it didn't explode right away. Our door exploded into a thousand pieces; as my parents ran to see how our neighbors were doing I took a look at our yard: it was full of fire bushes as if it was Chaharshanbeh soori**. They came back with my little cousin; he was wounded by broken glasses. They told me to keep an eye on him and they went to get others. The only thing I could think of, was to put the sheets on the wounds to stop the bleeding. The schools were closed but we had to go back as my parents had to work anyway. Life had to go on. We lived in our basement. My mother's favorite prayer had become: “Please God let our family either live together or die together. Don't let one of us be left alone” . . .
Another image is carved in my mind forever,
I am in my mother’s workshop. People are acting crazy, my mother is happy, her friend is crying, her other friend seems shocked and quiet. They tell me Iran has accepted the UN resolution 598. I ask them “ What does that mean?” “ It means peace! War is over!” I wondered by myself, “Hmm..., what does that mean?!”
I was 11.
* It is a major steel factory, located close to the city of Esfahan in central Iran.
** A Persian holiday, observed on the last Wednesday of the year, when one of the traditions is to make (small) bonfires and jump from one side of them to the other side.