The horrific injuries of Iranian soldiers shocked the foreign physicians, particularly when they faced with their dogged determination to be dispatched to the war zone after treatment.
TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00
Narration: Twenty eight years have passed since the first group of chemically injured veterans came to Vienna and I’m still looking for answers to my questions. I’ve returned to Vienna and once more I’m going to make films in these streets. Once Vienna was witnessing World Wars but now the Viennese people are totally unfamiliar with such events. I was burning with curiosity to know more about the Iranian injured. I can remember that once I went to an Islamic Institute to know more about their situation.
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Unknown man: “They’re those Iranian youths who made the Iraqi troops escape from their garrisons and took their weapons just with stones. So don’t you think that they’re so powerful that they have managed to fight against an army, armed to the teeth for five years; an army with veterans who have been trained for years. In other words, they have been working with weapons, canons etc. day in day out, spending their lives in the army. On the other hand, you see people with no military experience. What they have is just faith: Allah’s great; there’s no worth of worship except Allah. They took arms just because of their faith and they’re winning the war.”
TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00
Narration: I went to the Iranian Embassy in Vienna and declared my willingness to help the injured. At that time, the injured had been accommodated in Purkersdorf, a region 15 kilometers away from Vienna. For me, it was difficult to imagine them.
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mohsen Pestehi, Injured Veteran in Vienna: “My name’s Mohsen Pestehi, a basiji member from Isfahan. I was shot in the pelvis in Marivan.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Dadashi, Injured Veteran in Vienna: “In the name of God. I’m Dadashi.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Ali Sayyah, Injured Veteran in Vienna: “I’m Ali Sayyah, a basiji member from Bushehr. I was injured in Operation Valfajr II.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Davoud Afreshgari, Injured Veteran in Vienna: “In the name of God. My name’s Davoud Afreshgari. I was injured in the Persian Gulf Front.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Ali Nowrouzi, Injured Veteran in Vienna: “In the name of God. My name’s Ali Nowrouzi, a basiji member from Astaneh Ashrafieh. I was shot in the larynx in the Karkheh Kour Front.”
SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Javad Matroudi, Injured Veteran in Vienna: “In the name of God. I’m Javad Matroudi. I was arrested … I mean injured in the Abadan Front on October 29, 1980. Speak in Arabic. Let me say it again. Speak in Arabic. All right. In the name of God. And never think of those who have been killed in the cause of Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, receiving provision. My name’s Javad Matroudi. I was injured in the Abadan Front on October 29, 1980. And After five years I was transferred to Austria. And thank God, I’m getting better. God bless you.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mohammad Reza Owlaee, Injured Veteran in Vienna: “My name’s Mohammad Reza Owlaee. I was injured in the Sumar Front on October 2, 1982.”
Narration: They earned my admiration from the very beginning. They were in a mood I had never seen before. But they ignored me and talked little to me.
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Gholam Hassan Enayati, Injured Veteran in Vienna: “I can remember that they used to bombard the injured with questions. The injured had no time to think about the questions. Once they asked me, “Did you go to the front line by force?” and I said “No”. They said, “You were neither conscripts nor servicemen. So why did you went to the front line?” I told them, “I went as a volunteer.” I ask them, “If someone attacks your house, won’t you defend your house?””
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mohammad Gholam Hosseini, Pilot & Injured Veteran in Vienna: “At that time, they looked at us with astonishment. They saw, for example, a teenage boy had lost his arms or eyes. They couldn’t understand why he had gone to the front line.”
Narration: When I saw them, my criteria for measuring pain turned to be ineffective.
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Gholam Hassan Enayati, Injured Veteran in Vienna: “We got used to pain. We didn’t scream out of pain. They wondered why we didn’t scream. It didn’t relieve our pain. So we never screamed. Later on, I heard that they couldn’t believe we could endure pain that way. They thought we were drug addicts.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mohammad Gholam Hosseini, Pilot & Injured Veteran in Vienna: “The rumors spread that the Iranian veterans took drugs before going to the front.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mohammad Kiarashi, Chargé D'affaires to Vienna: “It was to my astonishment to see those injured veterans who had fought against the enemy, taking their lives in their hands and then how they spoke there in Vienna. I can remember once a physician asked a young injured, “Why did you go to the front? You’re too young.” And the young injured answered, “Treat me to come back to the front. After the treatment, I’ll go to the front directly.””
TIME CODE: 09:40_15:00
Narration: I could understand why Professor Bouhler was so angry. When he was stretching an injured veteran’s foot he insisted that the patient might cry out. But the patient was silent. I was acting as a translator there. Bouhler told me, “Tell him to cry out. What I’m doing is very painful and he has to shout.” But the injured man was still silent. Bouhler got angry and yelled in German: “Cry out!” Hossein, the injured boy, answered: “Tell the Dr., if I wanted to cry out I would do so when the shell dropped.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Dr. Mohammad Mohsen Moghari, Volunteer Surgeon for the Injured in Vienna: “I can remember an injured veteran whose knees had been damaged completely. I can remember that his knees were fixed so that he couldn’t move them. I can remember that he insisted to return to the front line after the operation and before the surgeons let him go.”
SOUNDBITE [German], Manfred Kouhler, Ancient Buildings Restoration Engineer: “It took me a long time to overcome the problems of growing up in wartime. On the other hand, I had to grin and bear it; to see my mother had to deal with such huge amount of problems. I just could remain beside her and let time pass by till I find my own life. Willy-nilly, this is a human characteristic and it cannot be helped. Maybe just after one generation we can talk about such issues. Those whose lives have been ruined in war may not know the philosophy of their existence.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Dr. Houshang Allah Yari, Psychologist in Vienna: “War can ruin human beings physically and psychologically. And nothing is comparable to psychological problems and disorders, because they’re not comprehensible.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mohammad Reza Daqiqi, Injured Veteran in Vienna: “My name’s Mohammad Reza Daqiqi. I fix flat tires. I’ve been here in Austria for six months
Where did you get injured?
Sad to say, I’m not injured.
Oh, you have come with your brother.
But It’s difficult for me to be here.
During his stay here he has fixed some flat tires.
During my stay I’ve just fixed my friends’ flat tires.
Let us see you smile.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Hossein Asheq, Volunteer Physician for the Injured in Vienna: “The injured talked to their doctors to see how much they could improve. Any unsatisfactory answer would drive them to despair.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Gholam Hassan Enayati, Injured Veteran in Vienna: “The doctors were very frank. They told me, “If you have an operation, you’ll most likely die but we do our best.” And I said, “No problem. I’ve come here for treatment. I’m not afraid of death as I was not when I went to the front line. But if I die during the operation, stop the operation.””
TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mohammad Gholam Hosseini, Pilot & Injured Veteran in Vienna: “I’m flying officer Mohammad Gholam Hoseini. I had to throw myself out of the plane as it was hit by Iraqi missiles and then I was arrested by the Kurdish Democrats.
Which part of the plane was hit by the missiles?
The front part of it. This part.
Did the plane get fired when hit by the missiles?
There were two of us. My dear friend was killed. His name was Saeed Hadi. I was injured severely.
Imagine you’re in a foreign country to have an operation. And you feel lonely.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mohammad Palizban, Injured Veteran in Vienna: “It was 1985 when we were taken to Vienna for treatment. If I’m not mistaken the hospital belonged to church. The nurses were nuns, attentive to our needs.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Gholam Hassan Enayati, Injured Veteran in Vienna: “During the operation I presumably died. The medical team stopped the operation and left the operating room. The only one remained in the room was a cleaner. Meanwhile I saw something amazing. I’ll never forgive it. For a moment I saw my funeral procession. Suddenly I felt that I came back to my body in the coffin. Then I suddenly got up. I was in bed in the operating room. The poor cleaner dropped his stuff on the floor shouting, “Come. He’s alive”. The whole medical team rushed into the room. I can remember that the doctor came into the room in suit.”
Narration: Rudolfstiftung Hospital has accommodated many memories from those days; memories that come to life in the silence of these corridors. But my cottage of memories was called Purkersdorf; a place that accommodated my moments I had with the injured; of joy and sorrow; hope and laughs; pains and solitude. It reminded me of the plane that had brought them to Vienna.
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mohammad Palizban, Injured Veteran in Vienna: “Snow was falling heavily that winter. According to the locals, it was the heaviest snow they could remember. The building the injured veterans were living in was located in the suburbs.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Dr. Mohammad Baradar, Orthopedist inVienna: “The injured were taken to Purkersdorf after the operation not to remain in hospital for weeks.
Can you remember Purkersdorf?
A bed in the hospital cost 2 or 3 thousand schillings per day. So the injured were sent to a building in Purkersdorf. I would go there to check the situation.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mohammad Kiarashi, Chargé D'affaires to Vienna: “At first, we had to accommodate them in the Embassy. We had evacuated a number of rooms for the injured. But as the number of the injured increased we had to hire a big building in Purkersdorf. Only there, there were 40 injured veterans at the same time. They were Muslims and we had to provide them with halal food. At that time it was very difficult to find halal meat in the city. So we had to do butchery according to Islamic laws. We need cooks. There was just one cook who was working in the Embassy. Then you came and said that you could cook too. And you said you knew German. We used everybody with every kind of ability. We had to do so.”
TIME CODE: 20:00_27:00
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mr. Hushangi, Teacher: “Second-person plural is “Ihr”. Third-person plural for “they” is “sie” or “Sie” to show respect.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Injured Person, Student: “Brother Houshangi, is the verb “sie” regular or irregular?”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mr. Hushangi, Teacher: “It’s irregular.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Injured Person, Student: “To conjugate “to be” in German we say “Ich bin, du bist, Er sie, Es ist, . Is that right?”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mohammad Palizban, Injured Veteran in Vienna: “It was too cold. One night the heating broke down and the injured had to walk all the night. I just had an operation and had to rest. My friends gave me their blankets and walked upstairs and downstairs all night long.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Gholam Hassan Enayati, Injured Veteran in Vienna: “We were in Austria for ten months. I had eleven operations in nine months. It’s interesting to know that doctors both in Iran and Austria gave up on me. But it was my destiny to survive for one reason or another.”
SOUNDBITE [German], Manfred Kouhler, Ancient Buildings Restoration Engineer: “Children and young people are eager to know more about what happened at those days and in which conditions their parents were living because they’ve been influenced greatly by those events and their lives have been over shadowed by them. They want to know how their fathers came back from the war and what they experienced. They want to know what physical and psychological injuries and wounds they underwent.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mohammad Gholam Hosseini, Pilot & Injured Veteran in Vienna: “Perhaps, the most difficult moments of my life were those in Kurdestan. I had broken different parts of my body without any treatment and no one knew where I was; neither the organization nor your family. I was bleeding and suffering from many fractures. I was alone in mountain, with no food, water, electricity or telephone. Six months later when I was exchanged with the enemy’s prisoners I was taken to hospital. All my broken bones had been fused badly and I had several operations to make them right.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Hossein Asheq, Volunteer Physician for the Injured in Vienna: “I cannot imagine how they could bear all those physical and psychological pressures. Even at those days, it was difficult for me to put myself in their places.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Gholam Hassan Enayati, Injured Veteran in Vienna: “There are many pains in life. If you take them seriously they’ll knock you out.”
SOUNDBITE [Persian], Mohammad Kiarashi, Chargé D'affaires to Vienna: “I really adored those injured veterans who had come to Vienna. In front of those colossal mountains I felt humiliated.”