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Anniversary of Freeing Khoramshahr
Many countries hold an annual celebratory event for their independence or freedom. Iranians do not have such an annual event. Instead we celebrate the date that, after one and a half years of struggle and loss of life, we enthusiastically freed our border city of Khoramshahr, during the Iran-Iraq war, in 1982, from Saddam Hossein’s aggressive forces. May 2012 was the 30th anniversary of this event, a group of well known writers, war veterans and artists of the Iranian cinema took the initiative and suggested that this celebration to take place at a prison in Lorestan, one of the most deprived parts of Iran.
The prisoners and the prison authorities eagerly welcomed this initiative. Taking into consideration that the Iran-Iraq war was an imposed war and the Iranians had to defend themselves against the aggressor and made great sacrifices, to use this event as an art therapy was particularly relevant in creating the spirit of altruism, cooperation and making better human beings from the prisoners, the prison authorities, their families and judges. The aim of organising this exceptionally celebratory event in a prison was to change the attitudes of the people involved so that they are empowered and to move towards becoming heroic human beings.
Parviz Parastooee, Seyedeh Zahra Hosseini and Noroldin Afie, were among those who participated at this event at Doroud prison. The event was hosted by the prisoners (help-seekers) who have been involved in the book reading competition in recent years. In fact the book reading competition was initiated by one of the prisoners. Books such as “Da, The Drawers Alley, Baba Nazar, The foot which was left behind and Noroldin, the Son of Iran”, (all books about the experiences of those who were involved in the Iran-Iraq war) were read widely by the prisoners and the prison authorities. The main guests were the narrators of these books and a number of artists, prisoners, their families and the prison authorities. The officially signed invitations went to around 300 of the prisoners and others who together formed the composition of the guests.
On the first day, the prisoners and the authorities decorated the prison and spontaneously organised art groups. Music was played and poetry was read in celebration of the anniversary of freeing Khoramshahr. There was also praise for Zahra Hosseini the narrator of the book “Da”. There was a reception for the guests and they were welcomed.
Parviz Parastooee, Hossein Torabi, Massoud Jafari Jozani (The Cinema artists), Zahra Hosseini, the narrator of the book “Da”, Saeed Abolfazle Kazemi, the narrator of the book “The Drawers Alley”, Noroldin Afie, the narrator of the book “Noroldin, the Son of Iran), Kianoush Golzar Ragheb, the narrator of the book “Shenam” and Morteza and Mostafa Nazarnejad, the children of Shahid Baba Nazar, the narrator of the book “Baba Nazar”, Golali Babaee, the writer of the book “Together with Lightening”, Mollah Saleh Ghari, the freedom fighter of the Group 23 (prisoners of war during the Iran-Iraq war), Maki Yaze, the narrator of the book “the Children of Kafisheh” gave friendly talks to the participants and gave presents and prizes to the 144 participants of the book reading competition.
The prisoners and the prison authorities who had participated in the book reading competition were greatly impressed by the impact of the memories of those engaged in the Sacred (Holy) Defence on their way of thinking. They talked about the lessons they learned, their trust in God and the impact of many other positive issues on them, between them and on their families. One of the prison authorities, as the representative of his colleagues, talked about how these books have had such an impact on all of them in the prison. He said, the memoires of the prisoners of war (the foot which was left behind) reminded us that God forbidden, if we behave unjustly, disrespectfully and immorally towards the prisoners, we are no different to the Ba’athist forces who behaved in that manner towards the Iranian prisoners of war in Iraq.
A number of prisoners also said that their role models in the past were wrong people and when they read these books and compared their own life style with the life style of these great war heroes, they respected them so much that they willingly accepted the invitation to this event, because they realised how their way of thinking in the past was wrong. They felt that the impact of these books on them has been like an inner revolution which would stop them to return to their past. At the end of the event, dinner was served. Delfan, the head of the judiciary, Jafari, Doroud’s attorney general, Mohammadi the head of Lorestan province prisons and Nasirian the head of this prison had dinner alongside the prison authorities and the prisoners.
On the second day of the event, the guests participated in the opening of the “Da” bookshop, holding and selling the Sacred (Holy) Defence books. The opening of the bookshop was led by an ex- prisoner. This ex-offender stated that he wanted to demonstrate that the impact of these books on society is so great that they can prevent offenders from wrong doings. And he wanted to compensate for some of his wrong behaviour in the past. At the end of the event, with the help of the guests the authorities promised to reduce a prisoner’s sentence from death penalty to a lower penalty because he has been a good role model for other prisoners and many have attempted to change their behaviour and hoping to return to a healthy life style.
A number of other prisoners who have been in prison for financial reasons were helped by the guests’ financial assistant and it was decided that in a near future they will be released because of the 30th anniversary of freeing of Khoramshahr. Parviz Parastooee, representing all the guests and participants thanked everyone for the warm reception of the prisoners and the prison authorities whose behaviour towards each other in this prison is like a legend. This change has only been possible by realising the life style of the shahids and their way of life and he requested that this valuable experience to be shared with other prisons and also in other parts of the society. Thanks also goes to Mohsen Momeni, the head of the art department, Mojtaba Rahmandoost, Member of Parliament, Mohammad Reza Jafari jelveh, advisor to the head of the Radio and Television, Javad Jabari, the head of Ravayat Art Foundation, Mohammad Reza Sharafoldin, the head of the Sacred (Holy) Defence Cinema, Hamid Akhondi, the director of the Cinema and responsible for the Rouze Sevom Khayrieh Foundation, Hassan Tanha, responsible for the veteran of Abadan Oil Refinery, haj Abbas Najafi, fighter and veteran of the Sacred Defence period and Habib Ahmadzadeh, writer and documentary film maker.
This event was organised by the deputy head of crime preventative of the judiciary and the support of foundations such as Islamic Propaganda Office, the Narratives Art Foundation, the Society of Revolutionary Cinema and the Sacred (Holly) Defence, The Art Department of Soureh Mehr Publishers who supported the prisoners throughout the six months of book reading competition.