Hajizadeh

Hajizadeh

Ahmad Golami Fard

Essay and hope for life

gholamifard
Ahmad Gholami-fard, was born in 1964, Mashahd, Iran

Since he was a little child, he began to learn team working by helping other members of his family at work. Instead of going to school, he spent his time to help his old father with his job as a mechanic teaching other people the real meaning of self-devotion. On 1984, by the time his brother was back from his military service he became a soldier to assist his people and country. Soon on 1986, he and his comrades were injured by chemical weapons in the suburbs of Abadan and was hospitalized for healing his cutaneous, optic and pulmonic disorders. After his military service he got back to his family and continued his job.

Respiratory problems due to inhaling sulfur mustard weakened his ability of working and his pulmonary disorders were so chronic that he had to travel to Germany for his therapy several times.

Even these disabilities did not detain him from helping his family and children to build a brighter future. The severe obstruction of his upper respiratory system did not effect on his hopes and efforts in life.

Now he and his two high-educated children are happily living in Mashhad.

Seyed Kamal Loh Mousavi

A survivor of a field hospital

seyed-kamal-loh-mousaviSayed Kamal, Born in 1963, Isfahan, Iran

Fatemeh-Zahra, a field hospital located near the southern front of the Iran-Iraq war, was a place to provide medical cares to war casualties and local people but it was attacked by airplanes and artilleries of Iraqi army several times and the medical staff had got used to this condition.

Sayed Kamal, as a lab technician replaced the previous group whom were wounded during an air strike and what was unusual for him was that he had to learn how to use protective equipment against chemical attacks and undergo training to be prepared for a possible gas attack.

In March 1986, the bad thing happened and the field hospital was targeted by chemical bombs containing Sulfur Mustard. The gas attack, resulted in serious exposure of doctors, nurses, medical staff as well as the patients and wounded soldiers, Seyed Kamal was also among those who were exposed and sustained injuries. He knew that this was a violation of humanitarian law about protection of hospitals during the armed conflicts.

The hospital was contaminated and became dysfunctional so Sayed Kamal was unable to return to work by the time he was partially recovered from initial injuries.

Despite suffering from long term health effects due to his exposure to Mustard Gas, he continued his life by participating in social and educational activities. Due to lung problem, he had to move to other part of the country with more humid climate.. Currently he is working with an NGO to advocate for chemical weapons victims.

Asadollah Mohammadi

From Gas attack to Peace activism

asdollah-ohammadiAsadollah Mohammadi was

Born on 1964 in Kashan, at the center of Iran. He was 22 when he was seriously injured during a gas attacks by Iraqi airplanes in Majnoon island in 1986. He spent several months in the hospitals following his exposure to Mustard gas and due to severe pulmonary and visual problems; he couldn't get back to work and normal life any more.

Inhalation of Mustard gas caused stenosis and scaring in his trachea (windpipe) and main airways of his lung so he had to travel to Germany from time to time to undergo complicated surgery to keep his airways open and had to be under strict medical care for his lung lesions.,

Despite all his physical and psychological difficulties, he did not lose his hope; he returned to the society, started a family and began his social and cultural activities in his hometown. To have access to better medical care he had to move to the capital and studied Chemistry in the University then he joined the NGO Tehran Peace Museum as a volunteer. He is currently involved in several educational activities to raise public awareness on catastrophic consequences of war and Chemical Weapons and to promote a culture of Peace among young generation and other citizens..

Mehri Melkari

mehri-melkaryMehri Melkari

She was born in 1964 in sardasht and got married in 1987 her son was less than a year during the chemical bomb attacks in sardasht.

Lots of her family members got poisoned by mustard gas and many of them died or sent to other cities for special treatments and some of them were sent overseas.

Mehri and her husband were sent to Spain and she got her health back but without her son and husband, she lost them…

Nowadays she is still suffering from chemical injuries late effects and living her life with hope that someday there is a world without war, sanction or mass destructive weapons.

Amir Amiri

Chemical Weapons and Travel from Poetry and Flower City to Flower Country

amin-amiryfars

Amir Amiri

Born in 1965 in Shiraz

Saddam Hussein's incursion in 1980 transformed a peaceful life in city of Shiraz with rich heritage, human civilization and extensive communication and social friends to a volunteering presence on the battlefields.

On 13/02/1986, during a massive chemical bombardment of the war zones and civilian areas, he and his soldier friends were injured by the Iraqi aircraft chemical rocket when they had not yet enter in operation area.

The large number of injured people in the country's hospitals, severe ocular and dermatological and pulmonary complications caused him to be sent with a number of his friends in hospitals to the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Belgium.

He was admitted to Hospital in the Utrecht city inNetherlands.

His wounds reminded of the painful days of World War I and the use of chemical weapons. The world should have opened its eyes.

Now, the monster that had been dormant for many years had re-emerged, and a global determination was needed to deal with it.

The determination that was made in 1992 by the ratification of the draft of UN Chemical Weapons Convention and in 1997, with its the entry into force, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague was established.

Amin returned to Shiraz after treating injuries, peace returned to his home and Shiraz is still the city of poetry, flower and the heritage of human culture.

Poetry of Sa’di who sang in the seventh century:

Human beings are members of a whole, 
In creation of one essence and soul.

If one member is afflicted with pain, 
Other members uneasy will remain.

If you have no sympathy for human pain, 
The name of human you cannot retain.

 

Alireza Totki

alireza-torki

Alireza torki

He was born in 1966 in shahrekord

In 1984 in Ahvaz, United Nations investigators for the first time after WWI confirmed the evidences of the use of chemical weapons.

Crimes that were unbelievable.

Alireza was a member of Tohid Battalion in majnoun islands that got aimed by chemical bombing attacks. Almost every one of his comrades got poisoned and sent to hospital. His commander died by severity of injuries.

Nowadays, reminiscence of those memories, needs the global obligation for prohibition of manufacture, accumulation and use of mass destructive weapons.

Jahanshah Sadeghi

 

Jahanshah Sadeghi


“What do I wish for?  I wish for a world without suffering.  I wish that peace in this world would replace my coughing, my wheezing vocal cords.  I wish that I could once again smell the aromas of all the beautiful flowers.  I wish for one night – just one night – when I can get a full night’s sleep.  Just one night of peaceful sleep for my wife and children.”

 

Jahanshah Sadeghi, a retired army medical corps Colonel, shares his story about the gas attacks during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) and the responsibility he feels has fallen to him to publicize the horrors of chemical weapons.

 

Jahanshah-1

Jahanshah Sadeghi

at Tehran Peace Museum

When the war with Iraq broke out in 1980, Jahanshah had just graduated from medical school and was immediately sent to work in military hospitals in Kermanshah Province.Several months later he was sent to the war front, to Field Hospital 528 near Soomar, a small town a few kilometers away from the Iraqi border with Kermanshah.  

 

From 1980 to 1986, Jahanshah served in front-line field hospitals in Kermanshah Province as well as continuing his education at university in Tehran to become a laboratory and blood bank technician.

 

“I loved my job,” said Jahanshah, beaming with pride, “I really felt like I was making a difference.  My work and my colleagues were like family to me.  We were all eager to help the wounded soldiers survive.”

 

Confronted with horrible injuries and coping with life and death on a daily basis, Jahanshah is able to share many anecdotes of bravery.  Remembering a unique medical procedure carried out in the field, Jahanshah spoke with satisfactionabout how one courageous young soldier was kept alive by an ingenious chest specialist called Professor Riahi.  Jahanshah relates that he was part of a medical team on dutythat day.

 

jahanshah-2“This young soldier’s lungs had been pierced by a piece of shrapnel.” said Jahanshah, “We could hear the air hissing out of his lungs.  He was brought to Professor Riahi who worked on his lungs to seal up the wounds with a plastic freezer bag.  The professorpacked the bag around the soldier’s lungs to stop the air being sucked from the wound.  He closed the chest wound so that the soldier could be evacuated to a hospital in Kermanshah for further surgery.”

 

Jahanshah was sent to accompany the young man in the helicopter evacuation.  He met the soldier’s family and explained what had happened.

 

“We were all so happy. “ remembered Jahanshah, “My colleagues and I were so proud of the fact that – despite the odds – we could work together to try anything to keep our men alive.”

 

A devoted family man, Jahanshah recalls the special day of his marriage to Batoul Tavakoli in 1984.  The following year they were blessed with the birth of their first son, Saman.

 

“My wife and I felt complete when Saman was born,” said Jahanshah, “there was so much disorder in the country at that time, but when my wife gave birth to our son, we felt that there was at least order in our own lives.”

 

Jahanshah-3Jahanshah spoke of the strength he drew from Batoul and Saman, who faithfully followed him to stay in the city of Kermanshah, close to the field hospitals.  However, by 1986 the Iraqi War of the Cities campaign of aerial bomb attacks caused Jahanshah to fear for the safety of his young family.  Batoul and Saman returned to their family home in Harsin – further away from the Iraqi border – while the war continued to rage all around Kermanshah.

 

In preparing for Operation 6th Karbala, Jahanshah joined specialist medical teams in Soomar.  That was in December 1986 and the field hospital was reinforced with medical experts called up from all over the country.

The Soomar field hospital, stocked with specialized medical equipment,was nestled into the foot of a hill, a mere 23km from the front line.

 

jahanshah 4In normal circumstances, an army field hospital is required to be 60km from the front line.  “But it was decided to move the unit closer,” recalled Jahanshah, “so that we could assist the casualties faster.  We were prepared for any type of medical care from simple first aid to even brain surgery.”

 

Describing the field hospital, Jahanshah said, “There was no mistaking what we were.  We had an enormous capital H painted in red on the roof of the hospital.  Ambulances were parked across the road.  It was obvious we were a hospital unit”.

 

Towards the end of December 1986, as the Iranians completed their preparations for Operation 6th Karbala, Iraqi forces began a fierce artillery and aerial bombardment of the Soomar area, resulting in hundreds of soldiersbeing killed and seriously wounded.  Casualties inundated the field hospital.

 

On December 30th, Jahanshah remembered Iraqi planes flying overhead and dropping strange objects.

 

jahanshah-5“It looked like balloons and bits of paper, even little smoke bombs,” he said, “and at the time, we had no idea why the Iraqis would drop such unusual things.  Of course, by the next day, we realized they were testing for wind direction.”

 

The following day, December 31st 1986, the Iraqi air force dropped chemical weapons on soldiers at the front line near Soomar.  They would also target Jahanshah’s hospital unit–hitting it directly with eight chemical bombs.

 

“The day of the chemical attack is one I will never forget,” said Jahanshah.  “It was 8 am and I heard our anti-aircraft guns start.  I saw six bombers overhead dropping conventional bombs.  There was also heavy shelling.  Our hospital unit had no air defence.  We were overwhelmed with wounded soldiers.  There were hundreds of them coming in to us.”

 

But, it was not until just after midday that the actual chemical weapons attack with mustard gas took place.  Four Iraqi aircraft dropped the eight bombs on and around the medical unit, instantly killing medical personnel and already wounded soldiers.  The entire medical unit was paralyzed.

 

Jahanshah’s soft poetic eyes filled with tears as he remembered that terrible day.

 

“For us, it was a different kind of attack,” he continued, “chemical weapons don’t explode like ordinary bombs because there is no explosive device.  When the bombs fell, something like white powder escaped, and there was smoke and droplets splashed everywhere with a garlic-like smell.  We were all exposed.  All of us.”

 

“One bomb landed at the entrance to the emergency room.  Everyone inside was trapped.  There were no survivors.  Another bomb hit the operating room where two surgeons were operating on a soldier.  They all died either the same day or later.  We were not prepared for this.  Why would anyone drop bombs on a hospital?”

 

Jahanshah-6As soon as the attack was over, and completely unaware of the consequences of such heinous weapons, Jahanshah and the surviving medical team surveyed the damage to the hospital.

 

“None of us were wearing gas masks,” said Jahanshah, “it wasn’t that we didn’t have any.  The masks were stored in our barracks.  It is just that none of us seriously expected a gas attack.  Hindsight tells us we should have gone to higher ground, but the hospital was bunkered under the hill.  We were trapped.  We were all exposed.”

 

The effects of chemical weapons do not normally start to appear until between one and two hours after the attack.  The first symptoms are usually constant vomiting, breathing difficulties and loss of vision.

 

“After about an hour,” Jahanshah recalled, “everyone started to vomit.  Violent, projectile vomiting.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you that people vomited so severely that they started to vomit their own faeces.”

 

Jahanshah’s memories are honest yet painful.

 

“People started to lose their sight,” he said.  “We all felt like we were suffocating.  At one point, I took a mask off one of the dead soldiers.  I washed it and tried to use it, but it was too late.  The suffering was intolerable and people started to die.  My body was burning and I was coughing so much.  I couldn’t really see, so I didn’t know what was going on.”

 

As the entire region was a war zone, the bombing had irreparably damaged hospitals in the nearest cities.  With the province in such chaos and with so little medical knowledge about how to treat chemical weapons victims, the casualties were transported by ambulance buses to Tehran.  Many were still wearing the clothes contaminated by the mustard gas.  What followed for Jahanshah was an 11-hour bus ride, covering 600km to the capital.

 

“It was 11 hours of nothing but suffering and pain,” said Jahanshah.  “On the way we made several stops to use the bathroom.  None of us could see properly, so we had to go to the bathroom and come back to the bus in one long line holding each other’s hands.  Tragically, one of the buses crashed and many died.”

 

Jahanshah-7On arrival in Tehran, Jahanshah and his comrades were transported to the city’s Azadi Sports Stadium.  The staff was overwhelmed by the number of casualties and, struggling with their limited knowledge of the injuries and chemical burns, often made unintentional mistakes.

 

“Their job at Azadi,” recalled Jahanshah, “was to change our clothes, gives us showers and send us to hospitals in Tehran.  The people there didn’t understand how to treat our skin burns so they gave us hot showers.  It was probably the worst thing they could have done.  I ran out of the shower, begging them to stop.”

 

Jahanshah was finally sent to the Khanevade (Family) Hospital, where he remained for 20 days.  “The doctors did their best,” said Jahanshah, “but they had little experience of these chemical injuries and were often unsure what to do.  I suppose no one expected this.”

 

Within 48 hours, Batoul, pregnant with their second child, arrived at the hospital demanding to see her husband.  The doctors were unwilling to let her near Jahanshah.  There was no certainty at that time that she would be free of contamination. But Batoul was determined.  Lying about her condition, she claimed she had already given birth and was permitted to visit Jahanshah.

 

With damp eyes, Jahanshah recalls that day, “Batoul was so worried and concerned that she was even prepared to pretend she wasn’t pregnant so that she could see me.  But when she finally did see me, she couldn’t recognize me.  My body was covered in severe burns.  My face was burned and my eyes were swollen.  I thought I was going to die.”

 

Jahanshah’s condition did not improve.  Almost four weeks after the attack, the High Medical Council assessed his case.  Declaring Jahanshah to be a critical emergency, he was sent overseas to Germany, where he spent one month in the Elizabeth Hospital in Recklinghausen, near to Cologne.jahanshah-8

 

In Germany, doctors treated Jahanshah’s severe lung injuries and the grave damage to his eyes and skin.  Since then and to this day, Jahanshah has to make use of oxygen machines to stay alive and receives hospital treatment both in his hometown of Kermanshah and in Tehran.

 

“As a result of the chemical attacks,” said Jahanshah, “doctors have diagnosed that I only have 30% of normal lung capacity.  I am admitted to hospital between 8 and 10 times a year.  I have to use special sprays and inhalers.  I use a drug delivery device called a nebulizer.  It works by administering the medication in the form of a mist inhaled into my lungs.  At night I use a BiPAP machine for ventilation.”

 

Afflicted with this chronic lung disease, Jahanshah is one of many chemical weapons survivors who suffer from polycythemia, whereby the number or red blood cells rise in the body to compensate for the low level of oxygen in the blood.  The consequence for Jahanshah is fatigue, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing when lying down, blurred vision and joint pain.

 

“I have many problems with my eyes too,” said Jahanshah, “I will never have perfect vision and I see the world in blurred images.  I have had five operations on my eyes including stem cell and corneal transplants.  I have to use eye drops at least every hour to help me see better because the mustard gas destroyed my tear glands.”

 

And, although the scars on his skin have healed, Jahanshah has suffered from deeper, more emotional scarring.Jahanshah-9

 

“I have to admit,” he said quietly, “I have suffered from depression because of my inability to see properly.  I will never return to the healthy man I was before the war.”

 

Yet, despite the incredibly difficult life that Jahanshah has led since the chemical attacks, he is a deeply reflective man, who now feels it is his responsibility to educate the youth of Iran and others around the world about the value of peace and international cooperation.

 

“In Iranian culture,” Jahanshah said, “we have a saying:

 

Digaran kashtand o ma khordim
Ma bekarim o digaran bokhorand

 

Which means that the previous generations planted for us and we are now eating it.  Now it is our turn to plant for the next generation to eat.”

 

Humble and gentle are only two words describe the humanitarian outlook of Jahanshah, who has dedicated his life to teaching others about the consequences of chemical weapons.

 

jahanshah-10“We need to educate our young people about the horrors of chemical weapons,” said Jahanshah, “and at the same time we need to encourage our children to love their neighbours.  Every peace activist in the world, no matter what his or her religion, should work hard to make sure nothing bad happens again in the world.  We should look to our Bibles, our Torah,and our Quran and find the good things written there, and live by those codes.  Then, I believe that the tension between countries and nations will just disappear.  That way people will be happy.  I will be happy.”

 

Jahanshah’s peace education campaign is driven by the desire that following generations should never suffer like him or his fellow survivors.  His inspiration leads him to volunteer at the Tehran Peace Museum whenever he is in Tehran.  He has travelled to The Hague in the Netherlands, to meet the ambassador and other delegates at the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

 

This year, 2014, Jahanshah visited Hiroshima in Japan on the anniversary of the nuclear attacks during World War II as part of the peace exchange programme between the Tehran Peace Museum and the citizens of Hiroshima.  During the visit, Jahanshah met and shared experiences with survivors of the atomic bomb attacks.

 

Eliminating chemical weapons from this world is Jahanshah’s ultimate aim, but he also asks his fellow men to carefully considertheir responsibilityto seek the humanity within themselves, to work towards a more caring and loving world, a place where everyone can live in peace.

 

Jahanshah’s story ends with his recitation of a poem by the famous Persian poet Sa’di:

 

Of one essence is the human race,
Thusly has Creation put the base.
One limb impacted is sufficient,
For all others to feel the mace.
The unconcern’d with others’ plight,
Are but brutes with human face.

 

Oral reflection by: Jahanshah Sadeghi
Farsi to English translation by Elaheh Pooyandeh
Written by Elizabeth Lewis

All Rights Reserved

 

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