An Account on Role of Afghan Mujahedeen in Iran-Iraq War

Friday, May 23, 2014

Mohammad Sorour Rajaei
Adapted from Shahidan Mohajer (Emigrant Martyrs) magazine
27th Tehran International Book Fair, May 2014

The Islamic country of Afghanistan was witness to a military coup d’état on April 27, 1978, which led to the overthrow of the government of the country’s former ruler, Sardar Mohammed Daoud Khan. During the first few days after the coup, the name of Abdul Qadir Dagarwal was heard everywhere. Being unaware of the main goals of those behind the coup, my father and uncles were at first very happy and hopeful. As a result, we were also happy for their happiness. However, that air of joviality faded very soon and was replaced with a general atmosphere of anxiety and fear. Before long, everybody knew about the communist nature of the coup protagonists. Following the coup, the life became more difficult for people as many were arrested by the coup government. In parallel, many influential clerics, intellectuals, investors and other persons with high influence in the Afghan society were arrested during nocturnal raids by security forces. Before a year had passed from the establishment of the communist regime, the Islamic Revolution in Iran became victorious under the leadership of Imam Khomeini. Following the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, new hope started to bud in the hearts of the Muslim people of Afghanistan.

The officials of the communist regime of Afghanistan could not put up with the happiness of people and started to suppress and prosecute Afghans on various grounds. On the other hand, the communist regime of Afghanistan organized frequent demonstrations against the Islamic Revolution in Iran in the Afghan capital city of Kabul, thus revealing its explicit hostility toward the Islamic Republic of Iran. Since most people refrained from taking part in those demonstrations, children studying at schools were forced to take to the streets and chant slogans against the Islamic Republic of Iran. The organizers of those demonstrations told the students that if anyone of them ran away in the course of the demonstrations, they would be severely punished. Despite those threats, many students openly ignored them, accepted to be punished, and ran away in the course of the demonstrations. By and by, persecution and suppression increased, especially against Shias who loved the Islamic Revolution of Iran and its leader from the bottom of their hearts. Under these conditions, the Islamic nation of Afghanistan was occupied by the military forces of its northern neighbor, namely, the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). At that time, the Islamic Republic of Iran was the first country in the world to vehemently condemn the military occupation of Afghanistan and declare support for Afghan Mujahedeen who fought against both the coup government of Afghanistan and the occupying military forces of the former USSR. As a result of the occupation and in order to protect their lives and religious faith, the Muslim people of Afghanistan were forced to flee to neighboring countries, especially to Iran and Pakistan. Iran was a destination for mostly Shia Afghans while Sunni Afghans preferred to go to the neighboring Pakistan. After their arrival in Iran, Shia Afghans settled in different cities across the country and were gradually assimilated into the Iranian society.

The historical background, culture, language and religious beliefs, which were common between Afghan emigrants and their Iranian hosts, helped them to achieve a certain sort of cultural unity with the Iranians in a relatively short period of time. At the same time, the Islamic Republic of Iran was grappling with an unequal war with its western neighbor, Iraq. Nobody exactly knows who was the first Afghan combatant who volunteered to take part in Iran-Iraq war and was sent to the Iranian war fronts and nobody also knows from what Afghan province he had hailed. This is an issue, which for certain expediencies, has been largely ignored during the past three decades and has been actually erased from memories. However, now, after the lapse of 26 years from the end of the war, almost everybody knows that many of the emigrants who came to Iran from Afghanistan have been playing their role in various parts of Iran's war fronts with Iraq, both in logistics and in combat. The high number of graves one can find in numerous cemeteries across Iran where war martyrs have been buried will easily prove this fact. Such graves can be found in many places from martyrs’ graveyard in the metropolitan Tehran to the small cemetery of war martyrs in the port city of Khorramshahr. Afghan combatants were present in all ranks and all parts of Iranian war fronts doing various tasks from manual workers filling gunny sacks with sand and pebble to build entrenchments, all the way to cooks serving at military kitchens behind the frontline, specialized doctors working at Shahid Baqaei Hospital of [the southwestern Iranian city of] Ahvaz, to soldiers engaged in military operations at the heights of the rugged mountains of the Iraqi Kurdistan.

Of course, most wars are usually described on the basis of the specific geographical expanse of the people who belong to their own country and those who take part in war are usually the people who live within the geographical borders of the warring nation. However, this general rule did not hold water about the war between Iran and Iraq. Today, we all know that many combatants went to Iran and fought for a country other than their own country and even lost a limb or, in many other instances, laid down their very lives for this purpose.

In terms of political geography of the present-day world, the Islamic countries of Iran and Afghanistan are considered as two independent and neighboring countries separated by their common border. However, in no-so-far past, these two countries and their people shared a common fate and territory and lived in the vast expanse of Greater Khorasan in accordance to their own indigenous and ideological characteristics. Even today, there are clear signs attesting to the common cultural, historical and ideological heritage of Greater Khorasan, which can be seen in many of the Iranian and Afghan cities. The signs of this common heritage have been evident during the past 30 years more than any time before and the main theme within which these signs have become manifest is martyrdom that is among the highest of human values. Today, many Mujahedeen commanders in Afghanistan, who talk about their memories of Jihad against the USSR forces, also talk about the struggles of combatants who joined them from Iran. Those Iranian combatants fought alongside their Afghan peers during those years; some of them laid down their lives during the war in Afghanistan and have been buried in that country. Today, nobody remembers their names or commemorates their endeavors. On the other hand and on the Iranian side of the border, there were many Afghan immigrants who went to the war fronts with Iraq and took part in Iran's Sacred Defense. Many of them were wounded, suffered serious injuries as a result of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, and were martyred. They asked for nothing in return because in their viewpoint, the commands of their religious leader and source of emulation [the late Imam Khomeini] were binding and complying with them was considered a religious obligation. Today, the graves of Afghan martyrs of the imposed war can be found anywhere across Iran from the easternmost cities of Zahedan and Bajestan all the way to Urmia (Urumiyeh) and Kordestan in the westernmost parts of the Islamic Iran.

Of course, there are no official figures to show the extent to which Afghan Mujahedeen attended the Iranian war fronts, and subsequently, there are no accurate statistics on the number of Afghan martyrs and prisoners of war as well as those with physical disabilities as a result of war. The only figures provided so far were released by Sobh (Morning) website in December 2007. The report, which was entitled Martyrs as Seen through Statistics, provided the website’s users with information on the number of those martyred during the Sacred Defense, those missing in action, and those with physical disabilities. According to that report, a total of 314 Afghans were martyred throughout the war between Iran and Iraq with four Afghans reported as missing in action.

However, in view of religious and cultural commonalties between the countries of Iran and Afghanistan and given the volunteer presence of Afghan Mujahedeen in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, these figures cannot be complete and accurate because the report has made no mention of Afghan prisoners of war and those who suffered physical disabilities as a result of war. There is, therefore, no doubt that the exact number of Afghans who were martyred during eight years of the Sacred Defense is much higher than those figures.

طراحی و توسعه آگاه‌سیستم