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Abadan
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Abadan
Author: The Hub of Resistance Litterature & History
Publisher: Sarir Publication
Translated by: Khosrow Soltani

Edited by: Parviz Mosalla Nejad
Prepared by: International Affairs Committee of Foundation for Preservation of Monuments and Dissemination of Values of the Holy Defense.
First Edition: September 2006
Iranian National Library Card Cataloge
ISBN: 964-6661-38-6

 


Preface

After the victory of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, the Baathist Iraqi regime led by Saddam Hossein, coveted Iran’s territory. The Iranian army had been weakened due to the change in government ¸ fleeing of the some of their commanders while others had been arrested and executed by the revolutionaries. Saddam Hossein sought an opportunity through Western and Arab countries' support to attack Iran.
In addition to the border clashes, Iraqi mercenaries distributed arms among people in southern Iran, planted bombs and blew up oil pipelines.
Saddam was also attentive to the situation inside Iraq. In addition, considering economic status of his people, he was preparing them to fight Iran psychologically.
Immediately after the air attacks launched on September 22, Saddam, with a triumphant smile on his face, said, “We will crush the Iranians in half an hour.” He and the other leaders of the Baath party had concluded that they could overrun Iran in three days.
 Saddam had focused on Khuzestan province as the 1st goal. Occupation of this region was important to the Iraqis from various viewpoints:
1- Iraq could have extended its sea borders.
2- The influence of Iraq in the Persian Gulf would considerably increase.
 3-Khuzestan was a fertile plain; In addition, it enjoyed huge oil and gas reserves and could greatly increase Iraq’s clout in the oil market.
The Baathist regime was so sure that even before attacking Iran, had renamed some Iranian cities to bring local people in line with their wishes. Khorramshahr was called "Mohammara", Abadan was renamed Ebbadan and Susangerd was named Khafajiyeh!!
But: what happened was quite different from their wishes …


Darya Qoli wanted to pour a cup of tea for himself when he heard a humming sound from a distance. He first thought it was wind in the palm orchard. However, when he heard something fell into the Bahmanshir River followed by cries of several people who were speaking Arabic, he was shocked. He turned off his small radio and went out of his small chamber. It was late October and Zolfaqari neighborhood of Abadan was still feeling the summer’s warmth.
Darya Qoli stained his ears. He heard footsteps. He climbed the wrecked body of cars around and looked toward Bahmanshir. He saw illuminators flying over Abadan. Their number was more in Khorramshahr and Shalamcheh regions. He could also see the flashing light of explosions.
He looked carefully to Bahmanshir and saw the silhouette of several people who were crossing the floating bridge. He could hardly breathe. He almost fell down with fear, but managed to control himself. He held his head between his hands.
Five days earlier, Khorramshahr had fallen into the hands of the Iraqis and it was now Abadan’s turn. He didn’t know what to do. What would happen if the Iraqis reached Abadan? No, this should not happen.
He stood up and went toward his bicycle at the corner of the scrap yard. He passed along the palm trees while panting. He should have informed people that the Iraqis were coming. His body was soaked in sweat. If the Iraqis had advanced only 4 km and took control of Khosrow Abad road, they would have reached Abadan just 9 km after that. He was panting and remembered his children; his brothers and sisters. He should have informed the people. He should have reached Hassan Banaderi, the commander of the revolutionary guards in Abadan.
During that difficult night, nobody knew what enabled Darya Qoli to go 9 km on his bike to reach Hassan Banaderi.
When Darya Qoli reached the headquarters, he dismounted from his bike and said, “I have got to see brother Banaderi. Take me to him. Pronto!”
The guard who was surprised to see Darya Qoli at that time of the night did not ask what he wanted to tell the commander and went to fetch him. Darya Qoli cried: “The Iraqis are advancing toward Abadan from Zolfaqari neighborhood.”
Hassan Banaderi was awe-stricken. The headquarters was disturbed in a jig. Their forces were few. Hassan Banaderi contacted other headquarters through wireless and informed them about the progress of the Iraqis. Then he took six people with him, led by Darya Qoli, they went toward Zolfaqari neighborhood. They only had a single RPG launcher and a few G-3 submachine guns. However, defending Abadan took precedence over everything else.

Abadan is limited to Khorramshahr and the Karoun River from north, to the Bahmanshir River and flat marshlands from east, and to the Arvand River from south and west. Since Abadan is located between the Karoun and Bahmanshir rivers, it forms an island whose temperature goes as high as 58 degrees centigrade in summer and reaches to a minimum of 8 degrees centigrade in February. The island is 64 km long and between 2 until 30 km wide.
In 1900, there was nothing on the island except for a few huts, some palm orchards and few houses worked out of mat where lived Arab people. After an oil refinery was established there in 1909-1910, Abadan found economic and political importance in the world.
Oil discovery in Masjed Soleiman and Abadan refinery transformed the city from a shanty town to a big, prospering city, which attracted people from all parts of Iran.
People with different cultures immigrated there. Fars, Arabs, Kurds, Lors, Turks as well as people from Gilan and Mazandaran provinces.
Abadan refinery needed manpower and people flocked there from every corner of Iran. The old people of Abadan recall days when Arabs, Turkmens, Turks, Esfahanis, Rashtis and Dashtestani people lived together at a big house where joy and happiness was a permanent feature.
After the victory of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, Abadan, like other cities of Khuzestan province, experienced changes due to intrigues of the “Arab People” grouplet (an illegal political group which carried out orders coming from Iraq). There were many instances of bombing and sabotage across the city and along the oil pipes. Counterrevolutionary forces took advantage of the open atmosphere and political arguments among top officials and were active throughout the city. The Arab People grouplet was backed by Iraq both militarily and financially. Most bombings were carried out by Iraq’s spies and mercenaries who were trained at a garrison in Basra. Most of them were members of the Arab People grouplet or Jibha al-Tahrir al-Arabia who dreamt of annexing Iran’s Khuzestan province to Iraq.
Since the early 1980 and after Saddam Hussein snatched power in Iraq, the country showed a hostile attitude toward the Islamic Republic of Iran, which aimed at preparing the Iraqis for a full-blown war against Iran. They supported counterrevolutionary forces in various parts of Iran including Khuzestan and Kordestan provinces. The Iraqi government paid special attention to the expansion of relations with chieftains of various Arab tribes of Khuzestan to pave the way for the separation of that province.
As time went by, Saddam’s hostile position toward Iran became more pronounced. For the first time, on April 7, 1980; that is, simultaneous with severance of ties between Iran and the United States, he said that Iran should withdraw from Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Mousa islands. A few days later, he reiterated in another speech that Iraq is ready to resolve its dispute with Iran by force. After signing the 1975 Algiers Treaty, they always claimed that the treaty is in Iran’s favor and Iraq had signed it under pressure. Finally, after months of disputes and small-scale attacks against border posts as well as violating Iran’s air space, the Iraqi forces attacked Iran through land and air on September 22, 1980.
In Abadan region, the Iraqis destroyed some oil tanks, docks and other installations through heavy artillery and mortar fire and killed a number of civilians. Abadan refinery came under heavy Iraqi fire. Iraq had special plans for the southern part of Iran and, for this reason, sent its elite forces to operate in south of Iran.
The 3rd Armored Division and the 33rd Brigade of Special Forces of Iraq launched their offensives along Shalamcheh-Khorramshahr-Abadan axes. They had predicted that it would only take 2-3 days to conquer Khorramshahr and reach Abadan. Staunch resistance of Khorramshahr’s defenders, however, paralyzed them one kilometer from the city after eight days and they had to send other units to the region. The epic resistance of people who were defending Khorramshahr contrasted with the fact that they did not have any of the needed weapons.
During the first day of the war in Abadan, the enemy killed a number of people with heavy weapons and mortar fire and destroyed a number of oil tanks, docks and other installations. Abadan refinery came under heavy enemy fire and was burning. The distance between the refinery and the Arvand River was so short that even light Iraqi fire reached it.
After mobilization of the revolutionary guards, reserve forces and people, went toward revolutionary guards bases. On the other hand, even Abadani girls were active in hospitals. During the second day of the war, the road connecting Abadan to Khorramshahr was cut off. Abadan’s docks were under enemy fire and various parts of the refinery and a number of oil tanks caught fire. A thick smoke covered Abadan. Violent clashes broke out between Abadan’s coast guards and enemy forces.
On the third day of the conflicts, Iraqi tanks approached Ahwaz road and were deployed behind general warehouses. From 11:00 onward, the revolutionary guards and army forces, backed by heavy support fire and air attacks, destroyed many enemy tanks and the rest of them were forced to retreat.
However, Abadan refinery was still under heavy fire of the Iraqi artillery and planes. The refinery and its oil tanks were still burning and a thick smoke darkened Abadan’s sky. At 6:45 the next morning, an Iraqi fighter plane fell over Abadan and half an hour later, several enemy planes, bombarded a hospital belonging to the National Iran Oil Company. In the afternoon, a lot of people lost their lives due to enemy bombardments and oil pipelines caught fire. An hour later, another enemy plane was downed in Abadan.
In Abadan, defenseless people had to leave their homes. Although most of them were immigrants who had came to Abadan, they considered Abadan their real home and were not willing to leave the city. However, the vehemence with which the enemy fire hit the city made them leave their homes.
Meanwhile, the youth had made fortifications along the dock and the Arvand River to protect that region. Abadani women were cooking food at mosques and their homes and sent it to the combatants. Hassan Banaderi, who was in charge of the revolutionary guards’ operations in Abadan region, sent 110-member groups of Abadani youth to Khorramshahr during the day and they patrolled Abadan at night.
Another problem facing Abadan was bombardment of the city prison, which led to the escape of many prisoners. Now a new problem was facing the defending forces of Abadan; they had to chase and arrest the prisoners.
The fifth column or enemy spies played a great role in bombarding Abadan by giving coordinates of the city to the enemy artillery. Each day, the defenders of Abadan arrested spies who were contacting the enemy through wireless, giving them information. Another job for the spies was to roam along the roads on motorbikes and take forces who came to help the people of Khorramshahr and Abadan toward enemy, thus, paving the way for their captivity by the enemy forces.
The enemy had planned to enter Khorramshahr through Shalamcheh and then, using Abadan’s bridge over the Karoun River, proceed toward Abadan. However, the adamant resistance of the defending forces of Khorramshahr paralyzed them. The Iraqi forces, who had failed to enter Khorramshahr after 17 days of intense warfare, were seeking new ways to realize least goals; that is to conquer Abadan Island. The Iraqis had two choices: either to cross the Arvand River, or cross bridges built over the Karoun and Bahmanshir rivers. They knew that building a bridge over the Arvand River was very risky due to severe tides of the river. Then, they decided to move their forces over the Karoun and Bahmanshir. To cross the Karoun River, they selected a region between Maared and Salmaniyeh villages. On October 11, Iraq’s reconnaissance forces easily crossed the Karoun River which was not defended in any way to make sure that there were no Iranian forces in Maared village. Commander of the 6th Armored Brigade, who was in charge of operations for crossing the Karoun River, sent the 33rd Special Forces Brigade commandos to the region. Presence of the commandos on the east of Karoun, secured that region for entry of a part of the 6th Armored Brigade.
On October 11, early morning, the Iraqis installed a bridge over the Karoun River and took their combat units to the east of river where they fanned out. At 7:00 the same day, Ahwaz-Abadan road was blocked and a number of passenger buses which were moving over that road were seized by the Iraqis. They took the passengers to the western side of the Karoun River; men were imprisoned and women were released.
After the revolutionary guards in Abadan knew about the presence of the Iraqi forces on the east of the Karoun, they immediately sent a battalion to Maared village. The 6th Iraqi Brigade first installed a PMP bridge over the Karoun River and bolstered its forces on the eastern side of Karoun. After three days, Maared village fell into the hands of the Iraqis. Next day, the Iraqis moved toward Abadan-Mahshahr road. When the road was conquered, Abadan Island was actually occupied by the Iraqis.
This development barred Abadan’s forces to help others defending Khorramshahr and they were forced to get out of the city’s limits and take positions against the enemy in the wilderness.
Although the siege of Abadan Island posed a serious threat to Abadan and Khorramshahr, the main goal of the Iraqi army, taking full control of the island and the Arvand River, was not realized. Iraqi commanders came to the conclusion that they should cross the Bahmanshir River.

On October 26, 1980, the Iraqis conquered Khorramshahr. On that day, few remaining defenders of Khorramshahr left the city with weeping eyes and wounded bodies. After the occupation of Khorramshahr, the Iraqis intensified efforts to close in on Abadan. Now all eyes were focused on Abadan, which was the most important objective of the Iraqi forces.
The Iraqis had decided to cross Bahmanshir in Zolfaqari region and lay a complete siege on Khorramshahr before entering the city. To do this, the 6th Brigade of the 3rd Armored Division along with units from the 33rd Special Forces Brigade was chosen. Operations designed for crossing Bahmanshir were similar to operations carried out when crossing Karoun. Taking advantage of the dark, they identified Zolfaqari region with the help of a spy. On October 31, 1980, five days after the Khorramshahr fall, the Iraqis built a floating bridge over Bahmanshir and went toward Zolfaqari.
The Iraqis could have used two bridges built over stations 7 and 12 to enter Abadan, but they opted for Zolfaqari neighborhood. The reason was their bitter experience during the capture of Khorramshahr. They knew that if they wanted to enter Abadan directly, they should have fought its defenders. Apart from taking a lot of time, that war would have entailed heavy material and human losses for them. However, from a military viewpoint, by crossing Bahmanshir, they could have conquered Khosrow Abad road as the last road connecting Abadan to the southern coasts of Iran and have access to the Arvand River. For this reason, Zolfaqari neighborhood was the best place for entering Abadan.
They built a bridge over Bahmanshir in the dead of night. Afterwards, their forces, tanks and bulldozers started to cross the bridge. The Iraqis had taken everything into account save for the sharp eyes of a man called Darya Qoli.
When Darya Qoli, reached the revolutionary guards’ headquarters and informed Hassan Banaderi about the Iraqi intrusion, he went back to Zolfaqari along with the revolutionary guards. Hassan Banaderi informed other forces in the city about the intrusion of the Iraqi forces. When the defending forces reached Zolfaqari, the Iraqis had progressed as far as a border post along Abadan-Khosrow Abad road. An unequal war began. Hassan Banaderi and his forces formed a defensive line right there and prevented further advancement of the Iraqi forces.
The region came under heavy fire from the Iraqis and Iranian defenders were divided into 12- and 13-member groups and started to fight the Iraqis. Enemy forces were in a palm orchard, which was full of blast sounds, wheezing of bullets and heart-rending cries of the wounded. Every few minutes, a blast rose to the sky from here and there. Many palms were burning in the fire and the orchards were covered with smoke resulting from explosions and fire.
When reinforcement arrived, the Iraqis had to withdraw. The army forces and gendarmes started to surround the Iraqis with the help of revolutionary guards and Basij forces. Iranians did not exactly know where the Iraqi troops were stationed, but attacked them from left and right.
When the sky cleared, the Iranians were aware of the magnitude of the war they had been engaged in. Commanders ordered them to prevent the Iraqi forces from being dispersed. If the Iraqis regained their aplomb, it would have been very difficult to push them back and Abadan would have certainly fallen.
Clashes continued until dark and the Iranians fought bravely and reached dikes which had been built earlier to prevent floods from the Bahmanshir River. The Iraqis were in a bad situation. A number of volunteer Iranian forces had faced them with almost empty hands and they took up the arms and weapons of those who were martyred or wounded.
Finally, the Iranian combatants reached a floating bridge made by the Iraqis. Due to darkness and the ebb tide in Bahmanshir, both sides of the bridge were muddy. An Iraqi bulldozer which attempted to enter the shores of Bahmanshir was destroyed by an Iranian rocket propelled grenade and was caught on the bridge. Therefore, other tanks and bulldozers and vehicles which were trying to cross the bridge were caught behind it.
In this way, the bridge was closed. Due to that situation, the Iraqi forces embarked on sporadic resistance. Some of them surrendered and others, whose minds were paralyzed due to sheer panic, threw themselves into Bahmanshir.
The Iraqis had been besieged. The Iranian combatants, who were delighted due to their triumph, pursued them. They started to purge the palm orchard in Zolfaqari neighborhood. The Iranians collected weapons left by the enemy and took Iraqi war prisoners to Abadan.
The resistance of Abadan’s defenders was echoed internationally. Many military experts believed that Saddam was ready to capture Abadan at any cost to use it as leverage in possible peace talks to impose its viewpoints on Iran from a victorious position. However, those dreams were undone through the valiant resistance of the Iranian combatants in Khorramshahr and Abadan.
After the events in Zolfaqari neighborhood, the Iraqis gave up their hope for the full control of Abadan Island. After the Iraqi forces' withdrawal from the south of Bahmanshir, the city defenders crossed Bahmanshir, engaged with the enemy and inflicted heavy blows on them. This caused the Iraqis to distance from Abadan and embark on early defensive maneuvers.
From that time up to October 1980, Abadan was surrounded by the Iraqis. During that period, the city defenders fought the enemy in several fronts. The city was under the direct fire. Many families stayed in Abadan and did not leave. Even lack of electricity and water rationing did not influence their determination. Presence of civilians boosted the morale of military forces that came from other cities to defend Abadan.
Deposing Bani Sadr (the first Iranian president) in 1980 was like fresh blood in the exhausted bodies of the Iranian combatants. At that time, the late Imam Khomeini issued a message about the siege of Abadan, saying: “I warn the revolutionary guards, military forces and commanders that this siege be broken”. In that message, Imam was referring to the siege of Abadan.
On June 10, 1980, Rahim Safavi, the then commander of the revolutionary guards’ operations in the southern regions went to the atomic energy department of Ahwaz and told the Iranian combatants that they will attack the Baathist mercenaries on the eastern side of the Karoun River the next morning. The Iranian combatants were beyond themselves with joy. Some of them sang revolutionary songs. Others went to a corner and started to write their last will and testament. It was almost evening when all of them were ready to go to the frontline.
A few hours before the offensive, Rahim Safavi and Hassan Baqeri were informed that Bani Sadr has been deposed as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Hassan Baqeri immediately proposed that the operation should be called “Ruhollah Khomeini, the Commander-in-Chief.”
The name was adopted and the operation started at 4:00 on the east of Karoun. The Operation Commander-in-Chief had great impact on the planning of Operation Thamen-ol-A’emmeh. Firstly, it made the Iranian forces, especially military commanders, believe that they could break the siege of Abadan by relying on infantry forces. Secondly, annihilation of a large part of Iraq’s defensive forces and approaching Qasabeh Bridge was harbinger of a great victory because the Iranian forces could have attacked Qasabeh Bridge through a shorter distance during the operation which was planned to break the Abadan siege. The Iranian forces gained a lot of experience through resisting massive enemy fire and continued counterattacks staged by the Iraqi army to recapture the lost land, which could have endangered the position of their bridges.
Planners of the operation for breaking the Abadan siege were all present there and felt with all their hearts that they should attack the enemy simultaneously from various regions so that enemy’s power would be divided among those regions. The reason was that enemy reserve forces were a great threat to the victory of the Iranian forces.
The Operation Commander-in-Chief was a first step toward an all-out operation aimed at breaking the siege of Abadan.


 
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