Vol. 13


Grandfather, the Swimmer

1983; near Abadan, Khuzestan Province, Iran

It isn’t until someone is faced with adversity that he or she begins to realize their full potential. The human body is capable of amazing feats when pushed to its limits. My grandfather knows this personally from his experience in 1983.

It was during the Iran-Iraq War, and my grandfather was part of the Iraqi Army. My grandfather was sent to capture Abadan, a city in Iran. The attack was a failure and many lost their lives, but luckily my grandfather made it.

After the attack, the Iranians chased the surviving Iraqis of the battalion back toward Iraq. The Iraqis were chased from midnight to noon. There was no time to rest. Being caught could result in torture or death! After being chased, they reached a river called “Shatt al-Arab.”1

The Iranian Army chasing them was yet to arrive, as my grandfather and others were resting and contemplating on what to do next. Then they heard many footsteps. They looked around in confusion. Before my grandfather’s battalion could find their bearings, they heard shouting, and shots began to be fired. They quickly realized it was the Iranians.

Many men were falling, and my grandfather realized his only hope was to swim across the river. The river was around 450 meters across (which is the same as swimming nine laps in an Olympic-size swimming pool). Although the distance wasn’t that far, many people with assault rifles and bazookas were shooting at them. Swimming across the river would be an unbelievable feat to achieve.

Luckily for those who swam, there were small sandbars that would help them rest, but they could get shot if they rested. The Iranians continued chasing them on the shore to intercept them.

Much to Grandfather’s dismay, he heard another Iraqi Army on the far side of the river. As he approached, he heard them berating those who ran, calling them “coward” and forcing them to return to battle. My grandfather recognized the group as Jaysh al Sha’bi. They had been stationed at this location to stop those who retreated from battle.

My grandfather was almost at the shore. He was close enough to hear Jaysh al Sha’bi yelling. The Iranian Army had caught up to both of the Iraqi battalions and started shooting at them. Even though Jaysh al Sha’bi’s job was to stop soldiers from retreating, they ran away!

My grandfather and some of his friends found refuge in the reeds at the edge of the river. They slowly walked off, making sure not to make any noise, as they knew their lives depended on that. They marched until they reached a border post. That took most of the night. There they rested, regrouped, and lived to battle another day.

Ameer Jawad; Missouri, USA.


1. Where this story takes place, Shatt al-Arab is the boundary between Iraq and Iran.



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