1 ساعت،12 دقیقه
At 9am on Saturday, September 22, Amir Hossein stood at the center of Quds Boulevard, close to the base of the 92nd Armored Division. A draftee with seven months left before being discharged from the army, he was there to participate in the military parade in Ahvaz. And then his world was turned upside-down, as terrorists attacked the parade.
Like many others in Ahvaz, Amir Hossein is now in mourning, particularly for one of his friends in the ranks. “Khalil Hashemifar was from Behbahan’s Tang-e Tekab village and had only 19 days left before his discharge,” he says. “I think the bullet struck the back of his head, although I cannot be sure. He was a few rows ahead of me and went down. At first I thought he had thrown himself to the ground to protect himself when he heard the shooting, but then I saw the blood on his neck. I was just getting up to run toward him when somebody with a commanding voice shouted: ‘Lie down, soldier! Don’t stand.” He had such a powerful voice that I froze. Now I cannot believe that Khalil’s life ended in those few minutes. He was a regular guy and a simple soldier. I remember his constant and nonstop laughter. There was no end to it when he started laughing.”
Khalil Hashemifar was not the only soldier who died in the Ahvaz terror attack. The number of casualties has still not been finalized, but of the 29 reportedly killed at least 12 were soldiers. It is not clear how many soldiers were among the 57 wounded.
For God’s sake, lie down!
Amir Hossein says when the shooting started they were so shocked that nobody could react for a few moments. Then, when a number of people fell to the ground, they became aware of what was going on. “Since it was a military ceremony and parade, the first thing that unconsciously came to my mind was that it was part of the parade,” he says. “Then somebody with a camera who was standing opposite us shouted ‘Lie down! For God’s sake, lie down!’ and our orderly line broke down. Each of us fled in a different direction, and we threw ourselves down to save ourselves from the bullets.”
In addition to lying on to the ground, the soldiers tried to take cover in the gutters on both sides of the street. Civilians standing nearby either did the same or took cover behind walls. “I saw one of the guys in the military band whose arm was hit and his instrument was on the ground,” Amir Hossein says. “When looked up I saw musical instruments scattered around the gutters.”
Photographs show soldiers at the scene helping civilians find cover. According to Gholamreza Shariati, governor of Khuzestan province, the terrorists were wearing military uniforms and using civilians as their shields. The rifles carried by the soldiers taking part in the parade had no bullets in them.
Amir Hossein said he and the other soldiers had been practicing for the parade for two months. “We do not belong to the war generation,” he says, “so the draftees do their best to turn the time they have to serve from hell into a more tolerable situation. If they participate in such ceremonies they will, perhaps, get a leave of absence.”
For a moment after the shooting started, Amir Hossein thought it was doomsday. “A woman was screaming,” he says. “I don’t know what happened to her child. I only remember that I raised my head slowly and I was not sure I had survived. A large number of security agents had surrounded the viewing stand to shield people there. And soldiers were trying to take people away from the scene.”
Survived the war but not its anniversary
But the bullets kept coming from the distance and the sound of shooting did not let up for a moment. One veteran in a wheelchair, Hossein Manjezi, was also shot dead. Manjezi had survived the Iran-Iran war and had grown used to going around in his wheelchair but, after 30 years, he was shot dead during a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the war he survived.
Amir Hossein says that even though there was mass confusion, a spirit of self-sacrifice prevailed. All the soldiers, he says, were thinking about how they could help women and the spectators, and of how to take terrified civilians to safety although they themselves were under fire.
“We lay on the ground and when we stood up we saw that a few of our friends were still down. The ground was covered with blood,” he says. “They were soldiers, and they died.”
More on the terrorist attack in Ahvaz:
Iranian Arab Groups Who Oppose the Islamic Republic, September 24, 2018
ISIS Claims Responsibility for Ahvaz Terror Attack, September 24, 2018
The Terrorist Attack in Ahvaz, September 22, 2018