Ayatollah Khamenei Visits
The Family of Martyrs: Albert Allah-Dadian
and Vahik Baghdasarian
Visit Date: 27/12/2005
The Photo of
Martyr Albert Allah-Dadian
Martyred in Soumar, Kermanshah
Martyred on 25/7/1987
The Photo of
Martyr Vahik Baghdasarian
Martyred in Dar-Khovein, Khuzestan
Martyred on 4/3/1984
For several years I’ve accompanied the Leader whenever he goes. Describing such a duty is really difficult; after many years our duty has become a normal one; it’s always full of worries and anxieties. I ask myself: You know whom you’re accompanying? Whose safety and security you’re charged with? One of the most influential personalities in the world and an enemy of the world’s arrogant powers. Yet Mr. Khamenei’s patience, coolness and trust in God helps us be calm. He has often told us: You do your job properly; all affairs are in the hand of God Almighty.
From among these duties, perhaps the sweetest and most attractive are the times when Mr. Khamenei visits the families of martyrs begun from the first time he was President, especially while the war was going on. There were numerous visits and I remember that they did not stop even when we were being bombed or missiled. We were worried lest the same area we were visiting could be bombed but the President insisted that we should not fear; while he sat calmly with the families of martyrs and talked to them intimately, we, the companions and guards were absolutely restless.
During all these years, we had the authority to select the families; of course he had previously given us some guidelines and parameters for our selection. During his trips to Iranian provinces, we had to plan the programs in such ways that the President could visit some families of martyrs.
But there is a special time and that is Christmas, when according to Mr. Khamenei’s orders, we must select some Christian families of martyrs; the atmosphere of such visits is completely different from that of the Muslim families we visit during the year. And this evening we are to meet some such Christian families.
The first family to meet is the family of Allah-Dadian. I never imagined that an Armenian family could have a surname with the word Allah in it! I ask a companion, who was in Isfahan when he was young and was friends with many Armenians, whether such surnames existed there among Armenian families and he says: Yes, there I heard family names such as Allah-Dadian and Allah-Verdian and even in Armenia some girls are named ‘Elah’.
Anyway, the car stops, I get out and ring the second floors of a white building, that is, the apartment of the family of martyr Allah-Dadian and the father of the martyr, recognizes my voice and says on the iPhone: You’re most welcome. And I think silently: He’s happy to meet me, but if he knew that the real guest is the President, how would he feel?
We only have 5 minutes to inspect all security conditions and tell the family who their guest really is! As usual, it’s about 2 minutes before Mr. Khamenei’s arrival that we inform them who their guest is.
Before this, we usually tell them that some officials or some people from the television are coming to interview them about their martyrs. We didn’t tell them at all but Mr. Khamenei ordered us to inform them about his visits a few minutes before his arrival so that they know who this guest is and therefore will not be uncomfortably surprised when he comes.
Now four of us enter the house together with a bunch of flowers and a framed photo of Imam Khomeini. The parents of the martyr are at home together with a boy about 14 years of age and a man almost 40; this man could be a brother of the martyr or the family’s son-in-law. Our security team inspects what is necessary and I, after some friendly conversation with the parents, tell them who their guest is. In my whole career, one of the most pleasurable moments has been the time when I inform the families of martyrs about their distinguished guest.
The father says: he’s most welcome, upon on eyes. He then explains that during previous years many groups from the Martyrs Foundation, Mosques, the Council of Armenian Khaliphate and many Muslim neighbors and friends have visited them. And then, as if he had been dreaming, asks me again: Who did you say was coming to meet us?! I answer: The Leader, Mr. Khamenei. He keeps gazing at me and I put my hand on his shoulder and add: He’ll be here any minute, please go and inform your wife about your guest.
Now our photographers and the film-crew arrive and I tell the martyr’s parents: Mr. Khamenei will be here within two minutes. They want to go to the yard to welcome the Leader but I tell them: you’d better be kind and stay here. But he doesn’t pay attention and goes into the yard; I stand next to the mother. The father welcomes the Leader most warmly but as this talking continues, I begin to worry because securitywise, the yard is not a proper place for the Leader to be in.
fortunately, after a minute or so, Mr. Khamenei walks up the stairs, says ‘salaam’ to the mother and enquires after her health. At this moment the young man who was wearing some casual sport jacket jumped into a room to change his clothes. He did this on his own because we, the Leader’s companions, never recommend anything about their clothing. Anyway Mr. Khamenei comes in and sits on an armchair. One thing I have noticed in Armenian houses is that they all, whether rich or poor, have armchairs or couches and a big dining table; it seems to be an inseparable part of their living, they never sit or dine on the floor.
Like in all previous visits the Leader first asks for a photo of the martyr, looks at it intensely and then asks about how and where their son was martyred.
The martyr’s father explains that his son was a ranger in the army and he was martyred in Soumar under the enemy’s cannon fire. He adds: He was an intelligent, clever person; he was also a sportsman, a goal-keeper with the Ararat Football Club. He was a first-rate mechanic too. He loved to help other people in every way. When he was on leave and came to us and we asked him about the conditions at war-fronts, he used to say: Everything is okay, you mustn’t worry about anything. When he finished his training period, he received an offer from the army to become an officer, because he was a most disciplined and hard-working person.
The Leader talks to each member of the family very intimately; he even asks the young man about his schooling and wish him good luck in his studies.
As now Mr. Khamenei knows that the other person is the family’s son-in-law, he asks him: Were you the family’s son-in-law when Albert was martyred?
I was acquainted with the family then but was not married yet, he answers.
ـ Where is your wife?
ـ She went out shopping; she didn’t know you would visit us.
ـ And is this gentle boy your son?
ـ Yes, Haaj-Agha.
Most Armenians address Mr. Khamenei as Haaj-Agha; they all believe this is most respectful; they don’t use it for other people. This behaviour is the reverse of what we Muslims do; we address everybody as Haaj-Agha! The martyr’s father is also a peculiar person because he’s wearing two silver rings on his fingers as is the custom with many Muslims. He now seems to be in a good, happy mood but when we first met him before the visit, he told us that he suffered from some sort nervousness. I could not imagine him to talk so openly and cheerfully with the Leader; he seemed like a young man, smiling and laughing all the time.
Mr. Khamenei asks him: Apart from the martyr do you only have this married daughter?
ـ No, Haaj-Agha, I have another son.
ـ Where is that son now?
He goes to work and comes back home at about 10 in the evening, and he adds, in a half-joking tone: He has to fill up our stomachs!
ـ How about yourself, do you do any job?
ـ No, my weak nerves don’t allow me to do anything.
Mr. Khamenei is surprised and says: What nervous system! But you look so young.
The father says again in a half-serious tone: I try to look young so our children do not feel bad! And he laughs; all people present in the room share his laughter.
Then Mr. Khamenei enquires about the health of the martyr’s mother who has been sitting silently next to her husband. She seems to be a quiet woman and a little shy. Despite this Mr. Khamenei talks to her in a kind manner and asks how she felt about her son’s martyrdom. In almost all such visits, the Leader pays special attention to mothers.
She says: Albert had been at war-fronts for some 6 months when a soldier came to our house; he gave me a telephone-number and asked me to make a phone-call there; at that moment I felt that Albert has martyred.
The mother then goes on to inform Mr. Khamenei about the martyr’s manners and characteristics: before joining the military, he worked in some repair workshops for Benz and BMW. He was the best mechanic at these places. Once he told one of his assistants to take care when repairing a very expensive car. Well, he didn’t and he damaged the car very much. The owner of the workshop was angry but Albert told him it was he who did this and would pay for the damages which came to more than a month salary he earned. The mother continued to talk about her son and Mr. Khamenei listened to what she said attentively.
Then tea is brought to the Leader in a very big glass and he says smiling: is all this tea for me! Please give me a smaller one.
This reminds me of the first times we visited Christian families. When tea was being served, we didn’t know what to do! But Mr. Khamenei would put a small lump of sugar in his mouth, pick up his cup and point at us all to drink our teas. Later some of these families told us: we had heard that, in the case of high official, it was the duty of some companions to drink or eat first, but with Mr. Khamenei, it was different, he started drinking and says to his companion to drink!
Now, because the martyr’s mother told us what a master mechanic Albert was, Mr. Khamenei narrates his memories of the Armenian mechanics in the dangerous days of war and how meticulously and courageously they worked.
Here the martyr’s father comments: May God prevent the repetition of those days.
And Mr. Khamenei says: well, I hope so but all worldly things pass away, so do pleasures and joys are not lasting, if they were, then they would become routine. Such is life; only those people will be salvaged who could put their passing lives into good uses to please God and serve his creatures.
The son-in-law says: the service by the martyrs was their duty to their country.
Mr. Khamenei, while confirming what was said, adds: Of course, some people were conscious of this duty and acted upon it and others did not; it doesn’t matter if they were Muslims or Christians. In this very area you live in, many Muslims never thought of joining the war-efforts but a number of Christians did, we have witnessed all sorts of people. Martyrs had insights and consciousness.
Then the Leader asks some question regarding their attendance in church ceremonies and the father has an interesting thing to say in this regard: Haaj-Agha, let me tell you that in our church we have special programs in all evenings in the month of Ramedan!
I had never heard such a thing and Mr. Khamenei was also surprised, but the martyr’s father goes on: several times I have visited the holy tomb of Hazrat Ma’asoumeh (Imam reza’s sister) in Qum as well as the holy tomb of Hazrat Abdolazim in Rey province; only I haven’t yet managed to go to Mashhad.
The Leader, who is drinking his tea, stops to say: Very good, such visits elevate one’s spiritual relations. It would be interesting that you also go to Karbela!
I am surprised at this recommendation by the Leader; I was aware of Armenians’ love for Imam Hussein but I never imagined the Leader recommend them to go to Karbela.
The father answers: Yes certainly, I will go when travelling to the area is possible.
While Mr. Khamenei is drinking his tea, the father says something to his wife in Armenian which, of course, none of us understands and Mr. Khamenei says: it’s a pity we never learned Armenian! Everybody in the house laughs at comments and the father says: Armenian is an easy language to learn and explains this.
We don’t know when the meeting is going to end. In our visits to the families of Muslim martyrs, when the Leader starts writing a note on their copies of the Quran, we know that we would be leaving soon, but in Christian houses we can’t guess when we will leave until Mr. Khamenei gets up to say good-bye.
Anyway, the son-in-law, after the father’s comment about the Armenian language, says: our script is also ancient; it goes back to some 17 centuries ago.
Yes, I know, says the Leader: one of the ancient scripts going back to the scripts invented by the Phoenicians and other Semitic scripts such as Assyrian and Chaldean.
The father now tells the Leader about a copy of the New Testament in Armenian which was given to him by their bishop.
Do you often read the New Testament and the Bible? The Leader asks.
ـ Yes, but we read them in Persian; it’s easier and more comprehensible; reading old Armenian is difficult for us, uneducated people. Sometimes I compare some sentences in both Persian and Armenian to understand them better.
Mr. Khamenei says: The translations of the Bible in Persian are very old, I don’t know if there are any new translations. For many years, I have kept these translations, both the New and old Testaments in my library.
The martyr’s father says something to his son-in-law in Armenian and then, politely says to the Leader: I told him to bring that copy of the Evangel for you to see.
That’s fine, says the Leader.
The son-in-law brings a book and hands it to Mr. Khamenei.
Mr. Khamenei pages through the book and says: is this the Evangel?
ـ No, it’s not. It’s a different book called “The Breath of God”; it’s in two volumes, the first volume covers events from Adam to the birth of Jesus Christ and the second volume narrates event after the birth of Jesus up to the point he is alive…
Here the Leader interrupts the son-in-law and says: Jesus is alive, we believe that Jesus Christ is still alive.
The son-in-law is confused; he first says: ‘yes, hundred percent’, but then he says: Alive? From what angle?!
The Leader explains: The Quran says they didn’t kill the Messiah but that “Most certainly they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, only there was some likeness to baffle them (Quran: 4, 157); those people who, on the basis of what Judas said, made mistakes, they couldn’t find Jesus, someone else was arrested and “God Almighty raised him to himself” (Quran: 4, 158). The Leader went on: Christians believe that Jesus was crucified and later he was raised to life again but Islamic teachings say that they couldn’t kill Jesus, they couldn’t find him and things were confused in their eyes, Jesus Christ was raised to heavens. That is the difference between Christian and Islamic narrations: and Jews believe that Messiah did not come into the world at all; they say he will come at the end of days.
Next Mr. Khamenei rose and said: It was a pleasant meeting; the father thanks him again and again and the Leader says good-bye to all. I and our companion begin to leave the house.
The Second Visit , the Same Evening
The next family to visit is the family of martyr Bagh-Dasarian. On the way I remember that when the Leader was President, we at first did not have any list of Christian martyrs and we had to go to some districts in Tehran such as Narmak, Majidiyah and Vahidiah where Armenian lived to make enquiries in this respect or ask people whose surname ended with the suffix “-ian” and ask them about families of martyrs and they would tell they know some families whose sons were martyred during the war such as Avanesian, Azourian and Bagh-Dasarian. But I don’t know why Bagh-Dasarian is so familiar to me.
Anyway, we enter the house; the parents and the brother of the martyr are at home. After saying ‘salaam’ and asking after their health, I talk to the brother about the Leader coming to visit them but he is not at all surprised and when he tells his parents about it, they are very happy hearing it but not surprised, as if they were informed beforehand! The father is so happy; he kisses me and asks: Is it really true that the ‘reverent father’ is coming to our house?
Reverent father is how Armenians address their own bishops and priests. When I confirm the Leader’s visit, he kisses me again, he is incredibly happy about this meeting. Then he begins talking about his martyred son’s characteristics:
His name is Vahik, he was big-built as well as chivalrous, whenever he spotted an old man or old woman waiting in the street, he would take them to their home without charging them. He was also very well-mannered and polite. Whenever he came home on leave, the atmosphere in our house would completely change. Once he came at about two in the morning and went to his elder brother Robert who was in deep sleep, he made a lot of noise, woke him up and said to him: why are you sleeping, get up and eat some pomegranates! He had bought a box of the famous pomegranates in Saaveh. I think we all ate pomegranates till morning and laughed at the jokes and funny anecdotes that Vahik told concerning the goings-on in the war-fronts.
The father was continuing his narration of Vahik when he suddenly stopped and tears came into eyes. After a few moments he went on: The very last time he went back to the fronts, he said goodbye to all of us and went out of the house but he stopped in the street, came back and kissed my hands and his mother’s hands again as though he was sure that this was the last time he could see us! And a few weeks after this he, while driving a jeep, went over an anti-tank mine and all was over.
I put my hands on the father’s shoulders and spoke some words of consolation. I’m still thinking why the father and brother were not surprised when I told them about Mr. Khamenei visiting them. I say to myself: Maybe we’ve been here before, but I am certain we never came to this district and this house.
While I look around for further security checks, I see a big, framed photo of Imam Khomeini, the kind of photo that the Department for People’s Communications at the Leaders Office gives out. I take the photo, go to them and ask: Has Mr. Khamenei ever visited you before?
And the answer is: Yes, but that was in our old house.
ـ Why didn’t you tell us this?
ـ You never asked.
ـ Okay, I didn’t ask but shouldn’t you have told us?
ـ Be honest, if you were in our place, would you have revealed it!
I see that the brother is right, honestly if I knew that Mr. Khamenei was coming to see me, I wouldn’t reveal that I have already met him.
I inform the accompanying team about this through my wireless and they say they’ll be here in a minute and then, before I see Mr. Khamenei, I hear his voice: Salaam, may we come in?
After some friendly talk, the Leader says: well, this is the second time we came to you!
The martyr’s father who really seems delighted says: last time I was not in Tehran and I was really upset about this and now I thank God that you came again.
He then explains that he had once seen Mr. Khamenei for a minute: I was invited to a ceremony at the Officers College and I received a present from President Khamenei as a martyr’s father.
He then adds: You’re really welcome, may God always protect you, you’re the apple of our eyes, you always remember the families of martyrs.
The martyr’s mother, who’s just looking at Mr. Khamenei in admiration, seems to be not fluent in Persian and answers the Leader’s enquiries after her health in broken Persian. Then the Leader asks about the age of their martyred son.
and she says: He was twenty-two, and adds: May the souls of all martyrs be content with your government’s efforts. The Leader asks: was he married?
ـ No, he wasn’t.
Then the father says what a wonderful battery-maker he was; he managed to buy an old car, repaired it through his technical know-how and he gave this car to his brother saying: This is for you, I don’t know if I’ll be able to drive it. At the fronts he was always asked to engage in technical works rather than taking part in armed operations.
But Vahik was a man of war too. As an example, once his garrison’s loud-speaker announces that our soldiers facing the enemy are under heavy fire and we need to give them quick support. Hearing this Vahik, without asking his commander, takes up his weapon, starts a car which did not have a switch and drives to the spot; he manages to save the lives of 8 soldiers and brings them back safely.
His commander grants him a 20-day leave for his fearless act, but he doesn’t accept it saying: in these circumstances, we should all stay put, we’ll have leave when the war is over, now it’s time to fight.
The Leader, after hearing what the father said and praising the martyr, asks: What’s your occupation?
The father replies: First I was a farmer in Khomein, but after the Shah’s destructive land-reform program, I had to come to Tehran; I worked with some meat distribution organization and now I am a card-bearing, first class butcher.
I see, says the Leader
ـ But now I am retired.
The Leader says: Butchery and retirement? You can always do the butcher’s job and there are always plenty of customers!
ـ No, sir, I didn’t have a shop of my own, I was a first-class butcher with some sausage-producing firm.
Well, what do you do, young gentleman? The Leader asks the elder brother of the martyr.
ـ I am now selling what my father used to prepare! Sausages, minced and stuffed meat and the like; previously I used to repair generators, install equipment in factories but the circumstances led me to my present job.
Mr. Khamenei wishes the brother success in his occupation and then says to him: You must value and revere the presence of your parents all the time.
The father puts his hand on his chest and thanks the Leader and says: I am really content and happy with all my daughters, sons, son-in-law and daughter-in-law; I have 17 grandchildren, one better than the other! I always remember God in every affair, even now when you’ve come to our humble house, I believe it’s a sign of God, God has sent you to tell me how grateful I am that He remember me too.
It has been my duty, says the Leader.
As this is the last visit this evening, the Leader could stay a little longer. The martyr’s brother explains how good and friendly the relation between Armenians and Muslim Shi’ites are, and how the Armenian community is respected in the Islamic Republic.
He adds: I have witnessed how our requests have been fulfilled earlier than others!
ـ Thank God you are pleased.
ـ Yes we are pleased.
Then Mr. Khamenei asks one of his companions to bring the gifts and hands one to each parent and adds: these are some small keep-sakes for remembering our meeting this evening.
the parents both kiss the gifts and thank the Leader again.
When Mr. Khamenei gets up to go, he asks: will you allow me to leave you?
The martyr’s father says smiling: What shall I say truthfully, I don’t want you to leave!
The Leader says the same question to the mother: with your permission, lady.
The martyr’s mother smiles and thanks him in Armenian.
The Leader then says: May God Almighty keep you all under his protection.
And thus the second meeting with the family of martyr Vahik Bagh-Dasarian comes to end.