Ayatollah Khamenei Visits
The Family of Martyr Richard Ebrahimi
Visit Date: 1/1/1987
The Photo of
Martyr Richard Ebrahimi
Martyred on 19/8/1986
My mother who has faced hardships bravely for the last 20 years since my father left her, who never complained and stood firm like a mountain against all odds in our life, is now opening her heart to me, her only daughter:
You see, during these 5 months since the martyrdom of your brother Richard, I often visit his grave but I never saw any flowers or anything showing that your father has visited the grave of his martyred son, oh, I can’t believe it.
She sighs deeply and stops talking; she doesn’t want tears to accompany her words. I embrace my mother tightly. I think to myself: it’s good for mother to weep and pour down tears but she, as always, silently sighs.
Well, twenty years ago we were a five member family living in Urumia: My parents, my elder brother Robert, my younger brother Richard and I, the only daughter in the middle.
Everything was going fine in our life when suddenly my father left us for no reason. He married someone and started a different life; Richard then was only three months old! So father left us and mother was alone; we had no income, no place to live, not enough food and we faced all sorts of difficulties. She managed, however, to bring up three children through her tireless efforts.
When she comes home, I kiss her hands and say: Mum, it’s very cold outside, let me bring you a hot cup of tea.
She says: that’s fine and then she asks me about Robert and Alem. I tell her they’ve gone out to buy some cakes and sweets.
That’s right, it’s for the guests, she explains.
I am surprised and ask her: Do we have guests? I thought they’ve gone out to buy something for Christmas!
She takes a sip at her tea and says: what Christmas, we’re still mourning for our martyr, not only for him but for all martyrs.
At this moment the door-bell rings. I open the door. Robert and Alem come in. Alem, seeing his grandma, rushes towards her and says: Happy New Year, grandma. She embraces him tightly; since Richard was martyred, mother embraces her grandson more emotionally.
I want to ask Robert about our guests this evening but suddenly we hear a loud siren and the radio announces: this is an emergency siren and it means that aerial attacks are soon to happen. Please go into underground shelters.
Robert quickly switches off all the lights in the house and we hear voices of some people shouting: put your lights off! It’s because such lights may guide Iraqi aircraft to bomb residential areas.
We sit down again. Mother is busy playing with Alem and I ask Robert: you didn’t tell me we have guests this evening?
Nothing important, a few of Richard’s friends will come to visit us, a few from among those hundreds who took part in his burial and mourning ceremonies.
I feel uneasy, not because I don’t like guests, no, because I feel bad to receive guests in this damp, old basement place; especially because they are non-Armenian friends and comrades of Richard.
Robert who spots my unease tries to comfort me saying: Oh, my little sister, don’t worry, they’re ordinary people not the President of the Republic!
Of course after hearing the Red Alert siren, I felt better because I thought that under such conditions there will be no guests.
Now almost an hour has passed since we heard the siren when the door-bell rings. Robert jumps up; he had almost forgotten that we were supposed to have guests. While going to open the door, he says: Our guests, most probably. Meanwhile, I wear my head-scarf and go to the kitchen to prepare things.
From the kitchen I hear the voices of two guests. After a few minutes, I enter the room and say ‘salaam’ to our guests. The two young men, without looking at my face, get up out of respect and ask me to pardon them for having troubled us on Christmas Eve.
I separate Alem from mother and take him in my own arms. I’m about to go back to the kitchen when we hear the door-bell ringing again. I hear Robert saying in a stammering voice: Oh, please, co,co-, come in. I look towards the entrance-door to see who this new guest is. First I see a black walking-stick and then the person. Oh, my God, it’s really Mr. Khamenei, the President!
I am really shocked for I cannot believe that the President has come to our poor house to meet us in such a simple manner, especially because it was only two hours ago after the radio warning not to go out! I again look at Robert; he seems to be shocked too.
The President, before sitting down, greets us all and even says ‘salaam’ to my little boy Alem. Mr. Khamenei has such a friendly, warm attitude that I, who used to take refuge in the kitchen, see myself sitting not far from him without being shy or anything.
Then Mr. Khamenei looks at Richard’s painting and asks: Is this the picture of your martyr? And my mother replies: Yes, it’s drawn by one of his friends.
After a few moments, he says: You must be the martyr’s mother.
Yes I am, answers mother.
Then he looks at me and asks: How about you, lady?
I reply in a proud voice: I am the martyr’s sister. I felt I had never been so proud of being a martyr’s sister as now.
I look at Robert who is sitting in a corner. He still looks surprised and confused; perhaps his memories of Richard are revived in his mind. Richard was 6 years older than Robert but they had very close relations with each other; they often went out together and helped each other in every respect.
I look at him, wave my hand and try to tell him that there is nothing on the table for our guest. I want him to take care of Alem so I can go to the kitchen.
Mr. Khamenei now asks mother about the date of her son’s martyrdom and mother says: A month ago.
Well, that is very recent then, says the President.
Mother, who has now found out how kind and friendly Mr. Khamenei is, begins to talk of her expectations: I expected that Richard’s friends and some officials from the Defence Ministry or from the Martyrs Foundation would visit us on the occasion of Christmas as they did in his mourning ceremonies.
Mr. Khamenei says in a kind, fatherly voice: I apologize to you on this part. I am really touched; this President is such a simple, ordinary and humble person.
He goes on: Perhaps they were not informed but I ask you to accept my apology on their behalf.
Mother who is impressed by Mr. Khamenei’s words says: I’m sorry I complained, you’re my lord and I am nobody, but we mothers who have lost their dear children are hadly in need of consolations; they help warm our hearts again.
Mr. Khamenei looks at Robert, smiles at him and exchanges a few word with him and then tells mother: Well, may God Almighty protect these two young son and daughter for you and God willing, may this Christmas bring you blessing and happiness, I pray that your New Year will be a sweet, pleasant year for you.
Mother interrupts him and says: Excuse me but this year we are not celebrating Christmas.
She adds: We Christians believe that as long as this war continues, with bombings and killing of people, we should not be celebrating Christmas. Celebrations are for times when people could fearlessly get together, without the sufferings of the war and without wearing black clothes; then we should celebrate Christmas to be happy again at the birth of Jesus. But now many people suffer from the attacks by Saddam regime. The houses of some of our friends, who migrated to Kermanshah, were bombed and devastated. Of course even under such conditions we do have a symbolic celebration but not a real one, that is, we do decorate a Christmas tree and give friends some gifts so that the enemy would not think that we’ve given up all hope.
Mr. Khamenei carefully listens to mother’s words with a smile; he lets her go on talking as if he just likes to hear our mother. This is apparent in what he says after mother stops:
ـ well, I thank you very much for your good and wise words. You are a cultured, thoughtful lady and this is a great source of happiness for us to see that the mothers of our martyrs are such well-educated, cultured ladies.
He adds: what you expressed was right and solemn, but on occasions such as the birth-anniversary of Christ and other religious or non-religious occasions, there are memorable moments to gladden the hearts. In my opinion there is no problem with such celebrations. As you know, dear lady, incidents such as losing one’s children, sisters or brothers have always happened; these events have always been witnessed by humanity on a daily basis. We must find ways to dust off such sorrows from our hearts so that an ordinary life full of hope and happiness could go on. Ways must be found that the members of the martyrs’ family could live as pleasantly as possible. As you said, real celebration of such occasions are when there are no wars, no devastation, no pains and no sorrow. Despite all this, such occasions as celebrating the birth of Jesus or remembering great men and women who served humanity are good events that make people happy. For this, I am myself very happy to have come to your house and visit you.
In my turn, I wish Richard was here and could participate in such a warm, intimate meeting but his memory is everywhere around us and Mr. Khamenei asks mother to tell him more about her martyr.
She then thus explains:
ـ My son’s faith was very strong; all people in our district would testify to this. He had never raised his head to look at girls. The day we went to the station when he was travelling to Kerman to start his military service, I told my family: this boy is so innocent, I’m sure he will be martyred! I was inspired that such a person has to be martyred; this was visible in all his movements, his behaviour with other people and his haste to perform what he thought was his duty. Whenever he was on a short leave from war-front, he seemed to want to go back as soon as possible. The last time he was on leave, I begged him to stay one more day because his sister was coming to Tehran the following day. I even suggested that I would get a sick certificate from a doctor I knew! But he said: mother, my job together with a comrade is to look for mines, if I don’t go, this other soldier will have to carry out the job alone, mother, don’t let me be so unfair. I swear to God he insisted so much that I finally let him go; I always felt he would be martyred.
When mother says that she knew he would be martyred, I remember that his military comrades said the same thing about him. They also said: He was working from 5 in the morning till 12 midnight, God knows that he didn’t know the meaning of tiredness and days before his martyrdom he had volunteered to drive a truck loaded with tar and he did smear tens of kilometers of dusty roads with tar so that the enemy would not see the dust going up. They added: we often told him to rest a while and he replied that as long this Baathist-Zionist enemy breathes, I can’t rest!
Another soldier told us: Once one of his Muslim comrades was martyred and his body lay in the enemy zone on the Iraqi side of the border. Richard went to the other side at night without informing his commander. He did carry the body back. And when his commander reproached him for this, he said: I am ready to be punished, but the body of Hussein was left in the enemy zone, I couldn’t bear that, because I know that the mothers of martyrs would like to see the bodies of their sons. At his mourning ceremony, one of our neighbours took the loud-speaker, showed us a big picture of Richard and said: 10 days before his martyrdom, he came to me, gave me this picture and begged me to take care of his mother and sister if he was martyred.
The evening before his martyrdom, he telephoned mother and said: I owe Taghi some 50 Tumans; Taghi was the name of the owner of our nearest grocery. Mother had asked him: why don’t you do it yourself when you come here on leave, and he had answered: Maybe it will be a long time before I come, so please pay him the money, he has a large family, and he needs it. Richard was only 20 years of age when he was martyred.
Wasn’t he married? Mr. Khamenei asks and mother says: No, he wasn’t married yet.
Then the President talks to Robert who’s sitting next to me: How about you, you were older than the martyr, weren’t you?
Robert says: Yes
And what are you doing now? Asks Mr. Khamenei.
I’m doing some metal work and a few days ago, I took part in an exam in computer efficiency and I was successful, I’ve already given them my document, we’ll see what happens next.
ـ What’s your education level?
High school diploma, sir, he says.
ـ Why didn’t you continue your studies?
ـ Well, sir, I had to provide for the family’s expenses and now I’m 25 years of age.
ـ How about you, lady, are you engaged in some sort of profession?
ـ Not in an office; I do some weaving work, some tailoring and teaching different things, that’s how I brought up these children.
How about their father, did he die before all this? Asks Mr. Khamenei.
And my mother says painfully: I wish he’d have died. No, 20 years ago he left us. This so-called father has not even come to visit his martyred son’s grave. He’s never cared how his children were being brought up. He’s never once visited the grave of his martyred son, though he lives not very far from us in this district. For some 20 years he has never cared how we live in this basement, where Your Excellency is now visiting us.
Mother is silent for a few moments while, with the corner of her head-scarf, she wipes her tears and then she changes the subject, as if she feels that the narration of what she’s has gone through, gives Mr. Khamenei a heart-ache and she doesn’t want that.
She then adds: it’s interesting for you to know that when Richard was joining the military, his older brother was supposed to come back after his military service in a month’s time and we could all be together for Easter and the Iranian New Year. My daughter had also married. I told him: if you go, I’ll be absolutely lonely. But he said: Mother, you could tolerate being lonely for a short while, but in the war-fronts those soldiers are also lonely, we must go and help and he did go away. So the two brothers never met each other again.
I look at Mr. Khamenei’s face; he seems to be full of admiration for mother and then he says:
ـ You’re a brave mother; you’re a selfless, tolerant mother. May God Almighty grant you His rewards. God willing, in exchange for the deep pain you suffer on the path of holy aims and ideals, He will enlighten your heart with great, spiritual happiness and that your life from now on will be a blessed life.
I also feel like talking to this kind President, so I say: You know my mother has brought us up in the face of numerous hardships and shortage of income. I remember that Richard liked to have a new wrist-watch, and mother, with difficulty, saved some 150 Tumans to buy it for him; she gave it to him the last time he came back on leave and he was truly happy to receive it. Richard said to mother: I want you to tie it around my wrist yourself. She did and she said: I hope I may do it again when you’re about to marry. Well, mother’s wish did not realize.
Mr. Khamenei consoled me with some warm, fatherly words and then he asked mother: How old was your martyr?
Twenty years, four months and four days, replied mother.
Mr. Khamenei is surprised by mother’s exact figures and he says:
ـ wonderful, how meticulous, this kind of memory belongs to mothers only.
My mother then said: you know, men usually make grand claims but it is really us mothers who go through every damn thick and thin!
The President and all of us laugh at mother’s tough statement; the mother also laughs and tries to explain: Excuse me, sir, for my impolite way of talking; you are like a father to all of us. I don’t want to exaggerate but I brought up two sons. They went out early morning and came back about 7 in the evening; no one ever saw them wasting time in the streets. They went to school to study and worked in the afternoons. Everybody in our district respected them. Yet many men claim that it was they who brought up good children!
Mr. Khamenei listened to mother while drinking his tea, and then he siad: There is no doubt about the influence of mothers on children’s behaviour and characteristics; mothers do influence the moral and social values of their children. Those so-called intrinsic characteristics of children are undoubtedly the products created by mothers. This is also true in educational tendencies of children. And this is truer in your case because you played the roles of both the mother and the father.
This phrase ‘both the mother and the father’ uttered by Mr. Khamenei impressed mother very much.
Anyway my mother, having found an attentive kind listener, went on talking to the President more about her life and her children: I always wanted my children to grow up to be properly useful persons. Whenever I saw a guilty person with a policeman, I said: Richard, it’s much better to be a policeman than a person engaged in vice. I advised my children to become useful people for the society, and serve their country.
Certainly, says Mr. Khamenei and adds: Your enlightened way of thinking and your own character and personality have surely had positive effects on your children.
He then looks at Alem and asks me in a sweet voice: Is this little one your kid?
ـ What’s his name?
He repeats the name Alem a few times and tells Alem: you dear little kid, come here.
Alem, who has a bottle of milk in his right hand, goes towards him and Mr. Khamenei takes his left hand kindly and asks: How do such children learn Persian?
They learn it fast through television programs, says my mother. She adds: And this child has learned Turkish too!
You know Turkish? Asks the President.
Yes, we do. So whenever I wanted to say something to my daughter and I didn’t want the kid to understand, I spoke Turkish, and as we frequently did this, he learned it too!
Mr. Khamenei then embraces Alem and kisses him a few times and then he gets up and says:
ـ Well, we mustn’t take more of your time. Our purpose was to meet you in person and express our gratefulness to a martyr family and stress our debt to our valuable martyr. I hope our meeting will have some, even a little, effect in lessening your pains.
Mother says: It is definitely so; she repeats this three times.
Robert and I, in our turn, thank Mr. Khamenei for visiting us.
Then Mr. Khamenei gives two gifts to mother and says: These are only tokens to remember our meeting on the occasion of Christmas.
Mother says: Your coming here is much more valuable than any gifts; you have already illuminated our humble house.
Mr. Khamenei thanks mother smiling and says: Farewell, may God always protect you in life.
Now the President is gone and I don’t know why I remember a line of poetry that Richard often sang loud:
Life is so nice and sweet,
You may give up your life for it!