Abdolsamad Rajabi Dehkordi

Abdolsamad Rajabi Dehkordi: We Must Get Rid of Chemical Weapons


“I want people around the world to know about chemical weapons survivors in Iran. We veterans defended our homeland and we have no regrets, but the world needs to know about our suffering.”


dehkordi-fuAbdolsamad Rajabi Dehkordi is a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) and is a survivor of a chemical weapons attack during the conflict. In sharing his experiences, he urges the world to understand what happened to Iranians under attack and pleads for a global ban on all chemical weapons.


Abdolsamad volunteered as a Basij soldier as soon as hostilities broke out in 1980 and served until he was the victim of a chemical attack in 1984.


“It was the 9th of March 1984 and I was in the Majnoon Islands,” said Abdolsamad. “I was involved in Operation Kheibar, which was part of the Battle of the Marshes. My comrades and I had been there for 5 days and after a shift rotation of new soldiers, we were waiting on the side of the Arvand Rud to return to the Iranian side to rest.”


The only mode of transport at that time was by hovercraft and Abdolsamad and his friends had no choice but to wait for the hovercraft to arrive to take them across the river to safety.


Unfortunately, transport did not arrive in time and Abdolsamad and his fellow soldiers fell victim to a brutal chemical weapons attack by Iraqi fighter jets.


“We had been waiting for hours,” said Abdolsamad, “and decided to go and wash ourselves in the river. Our bodies were still wet when Iraqi planes flew overhead and dropped bombs right next to us.”


Mustard gas bombs have no detonator like conventional bombs, and so on impact the sound they make equates to a dull thud. There is no loud explosive sound.


“At first,” remembered Abdolsamad, “we thought the bombs had not exploded. But then, we saw thick clouds of gas and we knew that these were chemical agents.”


“There was nothing we could do,” he continued, “and there was nowhere for us to go.”


Exposed to heavy doses of sulphur mustard, Abdolsamad had to wait for almost four hours for relief when helicopters finally arrived and flew the injured soldiers to Ahvaz.


Abdolsamad (in right) with his comrade, 1983
“We were taken to the big sports stadium in Ahvaz,” said Abdolsamad, “but this was early in the war and I was among the first groups of victims of chemical weapons. The doctors were still learning to cope and were not entirely ready to deal with us.”


Having completely lost his vision and lapsing in and out of consciousness, Abdolsamad was transferred to Tehran. He was admitted initially to the Shari’ati Hospital and later – due to the bleeding in his lungs – was moved to the Labbafi-Nejad Hospital in the city.


And, although Abdolsamad was released from hospital within two months, he has spent the rest of his life in and out of hospitals to help him cope with the consequences of chemical weapons exposure. He was also sent on several occasions to Germany for medical care for his injuries.


Abdolsamad went back to live with his family in the city of Shahrekord in the Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province of central Iran.


However, the dry climate there was to prove to be too difficult for him with such severe lung injuries. In time, Abdolsamad moved his family to the more humid climate of northern Iran for two years, but his family felt isolated and lonely and the frequent travelling to Tehran for medical visits proved too difficult for them. They finally relocated to Isfahan where Abdolsamad and his family continue to live.


“I worked as a teacher,” he said, “but unfortunately, due to my health condition, I had to retire much earlier than most people.”


Although now retired, Abdolsamad speaks out about the need to abolish chemical weapons and to share the stories of the Iranian chemical weapons survivors.


“We veterans defended our homeland,” Abdolsamad said, “and we have no regrets, but the world needs to know about our suffering.”


“But,” he continued, “I don’t want anybody else in the world to suffer from the effects of chemical weapons. It is my wish that all chemical weapons be abolished.”


However, Abdolsamad has more to say than the fact that chemical weapons must be abolished. He feels there is an important role for all survivors in sharing their experiences to tell others that there is no place in this world for weapons of mass destruction.


“I believe that all chemical weapons survivors have a lot of abilities,” Abdolsamad concluded. “We are not healthy physically, but our experience and our mental and spiritual capacities are valuable.”


“We should all play our part in society to make sure chemical weapons are abolished.”


Written by Elizabeth Lewis



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