Ayatollah Khamenei Visits
The families of Martyrs Zhermen Pargurgis,
Her Husband Agha-Jan Odishu, And Her Daughter, Ramina Odishu
Visit Date: 25/12/1991
The Photo of
Martyr Agha-Jan Odishu
Martyred During an Air- Raid
Martyred on 11/3/1988
The Photo of
Martyr Zhermen Pargurgis
Martyred During an Air- Raid
Martyred on 11/3/1988
The Photo of
Martyr Ramina Odishu
Martyred During an Air- Raid
Martyred on 11/3/1988
I am the daughter of a mother who lost her eldest daughter, her son-in-law and her grand-daughter in an air-raid. I write these lines to describe events addressed to my mother.
It was the evening of our festival of Easter, the day when all believing Christian were fasting; some only fast the last few days but you did observe all the 49 days of fasting, that is, you didn’t touch meat or dairy products and only ate vegetables. Everything was prepared for the festivities; the house was tidied up and cakes, sweets and fruits were bought. Since this morning your daughter Zhermen and her daughter Ramina came here to help you and your son-in-law went out shopping. They were so tired that they slept in our house: Zhermen, his husband and their daughter Ramina. I wish they hadn’t stayed with us!
Zhermen was your eldest daughter and you loved her so dearly; her husband Agha-Jan was a real gentleman. You really loved both of them. This was, of course, before your grand-daughter Ramina was born, then she became your most beloved! Now, Ramina is a 16 year-old girl. I know you have been hard of hearing for some time and that night you were very tired and fell into a deep sleep. That’s why you didn’t hear the explosion and the people in the street who were shouting on top of their voices. When you woke up, you could hardly breathe for there was smoke and dust everywhere and you started coughing badly. In the dark you called out Zhermen to come and help you but there was no reply. Then you noticed the abundance of dust, smoke and fire all around, you began to tremble and again shouted: Zhermen, Zhermen, Ramina, Ramina… no one was around you inside the house but there was an awful amount of cries and shouts outside. Then you wrapped yourself by a bed-cloth and went out of your house: It was doomsday outside and you cried: Oh, Jesus Christ.
The missile had destroyed your neighbour’s house and half of your own house; you were gazing helplessly at the rubble that used to be your house. Solmaz, our neighbor on the right side brought you a manteaux and a head-scarf, she put them on you herself and next she came back with a pair of shippers and a glass of sugared water. You had your head down, your legs were showing. After drinking the sugared water, I think you realized what had happened. You ran towards the rubble where Zhemen, her husband and her daughter, your grand-daughter, were sleeping. You stood on the heaps of rubble and screamed: Zhermen, Zhermen. Two people in military uniforms approached you and you asked them in desperation: Where are my daughter, my son-in-law and my grand-daughter?!
They said if they were injured, they have already been taken to hospital. You only heard the word ‘hospital’ and asked them to take you there; one of the men looked at his comrade and said: Okay, mother, let’s go.
The hospital was full of injured people; you had not the courage to pull the sheets aside from over them but Solmaz asked one of the doctors there about it.
What’s her name? The doctor asked.
ـ Zhermen Purgurgis.
ـ Was she injured by the bomb from a missile?
ـ Yes, I was told they’re brought here.
ـ Was she accompanied by others?
ـ Yes, her husband and her daughter.
The doctor looked at the ground, then looked at Solmaz who was biting the lap of her ‘chador’ and then whispered: La ilaha ellal-lah, no, they are not taken here, you must go and look for them at your ruined house!
Solmaz wept and then she embraced you but you were still in a horrible shock, you didn’t want to believe what had actually happened; you didn’t utter a word on the way back, but we saw the rubble of your house again, then you began to believe that the hellish missile has taken away everything you had. Then you moved the rubble with your bare hands in search of your daughter; blood was pouring down from your nail and, after a few minutes you fainted.
At home when you opened your eyes you saw Solmaz who was consoling you in Turkish. You got up to again search for Zhermen but you saw your son, Ebrahim at the door with dust and filth all over his clothes. His presence was really necessary for you; he fell down on his knees and said in Assyrian: Oh, yemma, yemma (mother).
They were in tight embrace for a few minutes with tears running down their face; one couldn’t tell who’s consoling who! Ebrahim managed to gradually overcome his grief but you remained in your grief-stricken mood for months.
Anyway when you came out of Solmaz’s house, you saw dozens of people weeping and shouting and sifting through the rubble by spades; they didn’t allow bulldozers to do the job because they could harm the body of the dead or injure those possibly alive. Also a bulldozer had been used in the bombed house of our Jewish neighbours, Mr. Yaqoub, his wife and two children who had all been killed, but the bulldozer had damaged the bodies. In the other street near us, things were worse; two young men, as soon as they hear the siren, they rush out of their house but their mother, who was moving slowly had not reached the street when a missile fell in the middle of the street killing her both sons; they both were tennis champions. When mother opened her eyes after this raid, she noticed that not much was left of her two sons.
Yes, mother, the same night we faced several such heart-breaking, bitter events. I should further say that the bodies of our martyrs were digged out from the rubble but then and even before their funeral, we did let mother see them. At the funeral some Assyrian families of martyrs had joined us and mother said to them: My wounded heart is worse than yours because your sons were soldiers and when they joined the military, you could think that their martyrdom was probable, also they fought for their country and fought courageously against the aggressive enemy and lost their lives in this honourable path, but my -16year old Ramina, with fasting lips went to sleep in our house for Easter Eve….and she perished!
You’re right mother, your sorrow was unbearable, those days you were just like drunken people, you couldn’t walk properly, you kept talking to yourself all the time, you kept swearing at Saddam Hussein, you asked God to bring him to his eternal damnation, him and all his foreign supporters.
What shall I say about the so-called international organizations, the United Nations and other human-rights advocates? They never paid attention to Saddam’s using chemical weapons, bombing civilians in populated cities, no voices even from those who call themselves the followers of Jesus Christ! No, no protests, no condemnations, political considerations against Islamic Iran suffocated them into deadly silence, no, your Ramina and Zhermen were not parts of their human rights!
But here in Iran, everything was different: All residents of our district, who are mostly Muslims and the prayers-leader of the district’s mosque took part in our mourning ceremonies and wept for our martyrs because here is the land of Imam Ali who never discriminated against the followers of other religions. Once the army chiefs asked permission from Imam Khomeini to retaliate Saddam’s raids and to launch missiles into Iraqi cities but Imam Khomeini, who was really an advocate of human rights, declared: only if such attacks would not harm civilians and ordinary residents of the cities and towns.
Now some three years have passed since those tragic events. Imam Khomeini passed away two years ago and his successor, Ayatollah Khamenei, is as just as he was.
This evening the honorable Leader has decided to pay a visit to our family. Ebrahim is unfortunately not in Tehran but Karin, his wife and Ramsi, his son are at home to help mother prepare for this meeting. Fortunately it is our Christmas Eve and everything is almost ready for receiving guests.
Well, the popular Leader arrives, says salaam with a smile on his face and first of all asks about the martyrs’ mother.
Mother sits on a chair and Ramsi sits on a couch next to Mr. Khamenei. I can’t believe that our young Ramsi is sitting next to the Leader.
The Leader, after finding out that mother comes from Urumia, asks her about Assyrians living there and the languages she speaks.
She answers the Leader’s question and the Leader comments:
ـ Wonderful, so you speak Turkish, Assyrian and Persian!
ـ Yes, sir.
And her daughter-in-law adds: she also speaks Armenian.
Where did you learn Armenian? The Leader asks.
ـ In school, when I was a child.
ـ In Urumia or here?
ـ No, in Tabriz.
I’m thinking about mother’s tumultuous life: born in Urumia, schooling in Tabriz and then living in Tehran. In fact, the Leader doesn’t know that mother’s daughter-in-law is Armenian.
The Leader says: Yes, there are many Armenian living in Tabriz as well as in Tehran, but in Urumia, I don’t think many Armenians live there.
Karin says: there are Armenians there too, these days, there are lots of them.
The Leader says: there are numerous Assyrians in Urumia and West-Azarbijan because they are natives of the region but Armenians are everywhere, in Tehran, Tabriz, Isfahan and other places. Then the Leader asks Ramsi if he speaks Assyrian.
Here Karin jumps in and says: Yes, my son speaks both Assyrian and Armenian because I am Armenian.
ـ I see, you are Armenian yourself.
Here Ramsi explains: My father is Assyrian and my mother, as she just said, is Armenian, that’s why I speak both languages.
I notice that it was interesting for the Leader to see that Armenians and Assyrians have married and formed a family.
Then we talk about the Assyrian and Armenian churches near us and that our Assyrian church is located on Qavam-al-Saltaneh Street.
The Leader says: Qavam-al-Saltaneh perished a long time ago!
At this we all laugh and Karin quickly adds:
ـ I know, its new name is ‘30th of Teer’ Street. The Leader then narrates an account about this important name-change for our further knowledge: You must know why this new name 30th of the month of Teer is associated with Qavam. Dr. Musaddegh resigned a few days later and people came out into the streets in his support to reinstate Musaddegh but the Shah had already appointed Qavam-al-Saltaneh as prime-minister to stop people’s demonstrations. Qavam-al-Saltaneh then declared in a tough message: Everything has changed, I will deal with you violently, I arrest you, I kill you; warnings like these. But the people, despite many being killed and injured, continued their mass demonstrations and his premiership lasted only for some 36 hours. Ayatollah Kashani, the then religious leader had also threatened the Shah’s regime and supported Musaddegh and he was reinstated in his position. That’s why people changed the name of the street from Qavam-al-Saltaneh into ‘30th of Teer’; they showed good taste in this choice.
And we, young people who didn’t know the story, think: what historical facts lay behind the street where our church is located.
Then the Leader, who seems to be interested in our languages, says: So you all know both Armenian and Assyrian, well, tell me what is the word for ‘mother’ in Assyrian?
ـ We say it’s ‘yemma’.
ـ And in Armenian?
Karin answers: Mayri or mama. And mother who’s elder than all of us says: Mayri is better, mama is foreign!
The Leader says: well, many people use mama also and in Arabic the world for mother is ‘umma’ which is similar to Assyrian.
The atmosphere in the house has become so intimate that now mother could recount what she went through that night. In fact the Leader gives this chance to mother to pour out her heart by asking her about that night.
So she narrates everything: her being sleep, the explosion in that Easter Eve, their fasting, running to the street bare-footed, the torn bodies of her Jewish neighbours, the whole story, and she concludes: I swear to God, Mr. Khamenei, that no one knows what I went through that horrible night.
The Leader says: yes, it’s tough, very hard to bear, may God give you proper rewards, these worldly events are really tough, lady.
ـ Yes, sir, but it was awful, if one goes to sleep and never wakes up, it would be better, but in my case my dearest ones never woke up but I’m still alive.
ـ Yes, yes, may God Almighty protect your other children and keep this young boy, this daughter-in-law and your grand-children in good health for you, May God damn Saddam Hussein eternally for he did bring about all these sufferings.
Now Karin brings tea and puts a cup in front of Mr. Khamenei and he says in a humourous tone: If you give us a sugar-lump, it would be better!
Karin gets up to bring sugar from the kitchen while saying: you must excuse us, sir, but your surprised visit really made us confused!
The Leader says: Well, you had everything prepared for your Christian festivity, you shouldn’t have done anything more for our sake!
These remarks bring smiles to everybody’s face but mother is still remembering that night: You know, sir, I was going here and there just like the drunk, like mad people.
The Leader tries again to console her in his kind, affectionate way: Well, yes, you have to be patient, life is hard indeed, you must thank God, life is not always absolute happiness or joy and such events also take place.
Mother says: I used to be as strong as many men, sir.
ـ God willing you’re fine now, you seem to be a strong, determined lady.
Mother then goes on narrating how active and spirited she was during the days of the Islamic Revolution, how she helped the demonstrators by taking water, fruits and ice to them and how she joined their ranks, and how, when she saw people being beaten, wounded or shot, she hated the Shah’s brutal regime.
After this, the Leader talks to Ramsi in a friendly and humourous tone: Well, your mother is Armenian and your father Assyrian, after all, which one are you? Ramsi says: it doesn’t make any difference.
But mother comments: well, he’s more Assyrian because his father is Assyrian, the father is more important!
Mr. Khamenei does not agree and says: both are important, both are principal causes. Ramsi who’s sitting next to the Leader says: I’m half Armenian and half Assyrian.
The Leader talks a little more with Ramsi in a man-to-man matter and we really enjoy watching this scene.
The Leader says: After all, if you grow up to be a gentleman, an educated person, useful to the society in your job and your way of thinking, to be kind to people and humble in the presence of God, then it matters not at all whether you’re Armenian, Assyrian or else.
Karin, the daughter-in-law, encouraged by Mr. Khamenei’s fatherly advice, says: Fortunately, sir, we’ve been married for some 25 years and, whole our married life, we’ve never had any differences because our mother tongues were different; ethnic origins are of course something else, Armenians belong to the Arian race and Assyrians are Semitic but we get along well.
The Leader says: the nationality of both of you is Iranian.
You’re right, we’re Iranian, says Karin. The Leader further explains: Both are Iranians, in Iran we have Arab Iranians, Turkish Iranians, Kurdish Iranians, Persian Iranians as well as Armenian Iranians, it doesn’t matter if people are from different racial origins.
Karin comments: we’re surly proud to be Iranian.
ـ Yes, that is the principal fact.
ـ We Christians are extremely happy with the Islamic Republic.
ـ Certainly, because the Republic is yours too.
ـ I mean Muslims in this Republic are most kind to us.
ـ Yes, the Islamic Republic belongs to all.
Then I say: Excuse me for taking your time but I must tell you about another incident that night. That night we found out that my mother’s hand bag was missing, she used to keep her gold ornaments, rings and coins there. The hand bag was taken to the governor’s office. There we were asked: what do you have in that bag? But mother, in her dizziness, couldn’t remember anything! There were other things belonging to others as well. The officer there said that they couldn’t then give everything to us. At this time, the deputy-governor came and asked the official: What are you doing? And then he ordered the official: throw down everything before them, they’ll then pick up what’s theirs, these are honest people, trust them. I can’t really be more thankful to this kind approach.
Then the Leader said: It should be so in the Islamic system, all people are under one flag, no one should be discriminated against, and we, as responsible authorities have to defend and protect them all in equal manners; when you defend the right of citizens, we should not ask them about their religion; all citizens are sons and daughters of this country, as one family, we should protect everybody’s rights.
While the Leader spoke, I remembered how the western governments that always claim to guard human rights, have dealt with Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Palestine and many other spots and how they have closed their eyes to numerous crimes committed against Muslims and other minorities in their own countries!
Anyway, now our dear guest has had his tea and gets up to say goodbye: Once again I congratulate you on the occasion of Christmas and the holy birth of Jesus, please convey my salaam to your father when he comes back. We all thank him for his kind visit and he adds: Our intention was to really express our appreciation to a family of martyrs who lost their lives for this country, for our Revolution and the war-efforts, this was our purpose. The Leader then offers mother a precious gift and says: Goodbye, may God protect you all.