MohammadRezaTaghipour

MohammadRezaTaghipour: Victim of Aggression, Voice for Peace

 

“When I see an Iranian standing on their legs, I am happy because I lost my legs so that they can stand today.”

 

Taghi-pour-fuMohammadRezaTaghipour was 15 years old when he joined the Basij as a volunteer soldier to defend his country, Iran, in the eight-year war with Iraq. It was the year 1982 and within four months of being at the front, MohammadReza was injured in a way that would shape the rest of his life.

 

“It was the day that Khorramshahr had been reclaimed from the Iraqis,” said MohammadReza, “and my comrades and I were in our bunker near the front line, when we were hit by a mortar shell.”

 

MohammadReza and his friends were cleaning up the mess from the first shell attack, when a second shell exploded and he was wounded in his lower back. And, it was while seated in an ambulance waiting to be transferred away from the front line to the back, that MohammadReza fell victim to a life-changing injury.

 

“An Iraqi tank aimed a shell directly at the stationary ambulance,” MohammadReza recalled, “and I was sent flying from the back into the front seat.”

 

Fellow soldiers had to cut MohammadReza out of the mangled wreck of the ambulance. When he was finally free, MohammadReza remembered feeling some pressure in his legs, completely unaware that they had been damaged beyond repair.

 

“I was a young 15 year old,” said MohammadReza, “I lost a couple of my fingers in the blast and I was so focused on that, that despite the pain, Ididn’t know that my legs had gone. My friends took out my boot laces and tied them tightly around my upper legs to stop the bleeding.”

 

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MohammadReza (first in right) with his comrades, before being injured in 1982
“The funny thing is,” added MohammadReza, “I didn’t feel scared.”

 

MohammadReza was transferred from the front to a field hospital near Ahvaz, called the Babaei Hospital. And, with only local anesthetic being administered, doctors proceeded to amputate both legs above the knee.

 

After the operation, MohammadReza was transferred by a C130 military aircraft to the Chamran Hospital in Shiraz to begin the recovery process – which was to prove to be long and painful.

 

“There was so much dust and dirt at the time of the explosion,” said MohammadReza, “and the dirt got into my wounds. It wasn’t cleaned properly in the Shiraz hospital, so I got very bad infections.”

 

MohammadReza was transferred from Shiraz to Tehran, where he was admitted to the Bank-e Melli Hospital. It was there that MohammadReza was to undergo another four operations on his legs. Each time, to save his life, more and more of MohammadReza’s remaining legs were amputated.

 

As if losing his legs wasn’t bad enough, MohammadReza also had to cope with a shrapnel injury in his bottom.

 

“I was in the hospital bed in Tehran,” he said, “when I used the triangle handle above my head to help me move around. Suddenly, I smelt and felt the sensation of warm blood from my bottom. I didn’t even know it but there was a piece of shrapnel stuck in there. It was only when I moved my position that the shrapnel dislodged and caused more trouble.”

 

After a year of treatment in Tehran, MohammadReza returned to his hometown of Arak to start life anew aided with a set of prosthetic legs. He was soon married to the sister of his brother in law and continued his education until he graduated with a high school diploma.

 

United Nations Resolution 598 brought an end to the war in July of 1988, although the war did not officially end until August 20 of that year. From 1983 until the Resolution, MohammadReza, as a member of Sepah – the Revolutionary Guards – was in charge of the casualties’ affairs bureau.

 

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Mohammadreza while in London for Treatment, 1991
In 1990, MohammadReza travelled to London to be fitted with a new set of prosthetic legs and underwent several months of rehabilitation and physiotherapy. However, he was not to continue with the use of artificial limbs finding it far too uncomfortable and unstable.

 

“My wheelchair is part of my body,” proclaimed MohammadReza.

 

MohammadReza would soon turn his mind to learning about computers and particularly about computer software. Rapidly, he became the go-to man with his work colleagues and family to sort their computer software problems. And, in the year 2000, MohammadReza was accepted by the University of Tehran to study law.

 

However, after three semesters, MohammadReza was forced to give up his university studies due to complications arising from his war wounds. MohammadReza drove the long journey from home to the university every day and this began to exhaust him so much that it was difficult to study. And, as a result of the long-term use of his hands and upper body for his mobility, MohammadReza contracted a disease known at Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS). To ease the discomfort, MohammadReza went through a painful procedure to have his two upper ribs removed. Consequently, due tothe discomfort and pain, MohammadReza eventually dropped out of university.


It was shortly after this that MohammadReza began to turn towards helping his fellow war veterans. In 2005, he was introduced to the Society for Chemical Weapons Victims Support group (SCWVS) by his friend Dr. Hamid Salehi and worked with them closely until 2007, when MohammadReza started his work with the Tehran Peace Museum.

 

The ethos of the Tehran Peace Museum and the SCWVS is to support both military and civilian survivors of chemical weapons used during the Iran-Iraq War. And although MohammadReza was not himself a victim of these heinous weapons, he feels it is his duty to raise awareness about weapons of mass destruction and the need for all of us to build a culture of peace.

 

“As Executive Director of the Tehran Peace Museum,” said MohammadReza, “I am involved in the day to day running of things but for me – as a victim of aggression – it is rewarding to be working for other survivors.”

 

“War is bad and it happens all the time. Death, injury and imprisonment are all a part of war. But the use of chemical weapons is inhumane and against all the rules that govern wars.”

 

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Mohammadreza in TPM's children's drawing exhibition, 2014
MohammadReza is now actively involved in not only raising awareness about chemical weapons, but also about the necessity for everyone – but especially the younger generation – to be talking about peace and more importantly, doing something about it.

 

“One of the special things about the Tehran Peace Museum,” said MohammadReza, “is that we connect with the younger generation. We talk about the future. Peace will not become historical and it is so critical now to be talking about it.”

 

It is clear from listening to MohammadReza that he loves his work and is inspired to keep going.

 

“I sacrificed the loss of my legs in the war,” concluded MohammadReza, “but I am happy that I can help other war heroes to share their stories, to campaign against chemical weapons and to talk of peace.”

 

Written by Elizabeth Lewis

 

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