The first hatred – By Sara H
It was one of those nights again when everyone was praying for the beautiful full moon to be hidden by clouds. But the clouds were too dormant to be revived by the silent prayers of helpless people and the moonlight was spreading rapidly and brightly over the vulnerable city – exposing it to people who saw the hospitals, schools, shops and parks as targets and nothing else.
I was looking out of the brown-taped window from my bed and waiting for the familiar sounds and inevitable chaos to begin – the luminous light of the moon ensured that it was going to be another night when we won’t get a sound sleep but will have plenty to talk about in the morning.
I looked over to see my younger brother’s form snuggled in his quilt on the bed on the other side of the room near the wall. My bed faced the window, which despite having brown tape all over it was covered with thick curtains – which I sneakily put away a little after bidding everyone goodnight. I loved to look at the sky from the small exposed parts of the window and let my mind wander.
We were on the ninth floor in a building in the heart of the city.
It was almost a month now when most nights had the same pattern. The sudden blackout of the entire city followed by a loud, shrieking sound that made my parents rush us out of the flat towards the stairs in the pitch dark. Initially, we went down the nine floors to the basement room everyone in the building rushed to but after a couple of nights, we soon realised, it was a fatal attempt, especially for my dad, who had acute asthma.
So from then onwards, we would only go out of the flat and stand under the stairs going to the roof. Huddled together in the cold, hand-in-hand we would stand there and talk of random things. We would hear the neighbours rushing down the flight of stairs – some screaming at others, some reciting prayers loudly and others cursing the country and the war! I always had Tina with me, clutched to my heart. Tina was my favourite doll.
As expected, everything went dark and the red siren started blasting. My mom rushed into our door and got us up immediately. Everything was proceeding as if on cue. My mom holding my sleepy brother, my dad wrapping me in a blanket, I grabbing Tina and we were out in barely five minutes. It felt like a much rehearsed play.
It was the darkness that I didn’t like during these nights. It was forbidden to even light a match. A tiny light, they said, could be detected in the sky and can turn you into the next target. But today the moon treacherously exposed us.
The red siren, as it was called was soon followed by sounds of fighter jets and then the explosions. After that the repeated sounds of anti-aircraft guns resounded in the sky. A strange feeling crept up from my heart to the rest of my body, making my hands cold and sweaty. After 15 minutes or so, we heard another shrieking sound, slightly different from the first one – called the white siren and then as we waited, came on the lights and we went slowly back inside to our warm beds.
But sleep didn’t return immediately as we could hear the ambulances rushing to the blast sites from far away. I could hear my mom reciting a loud prayer for all the victims. Probably that’s the reason whenever I hear an ambulance siren, I automatically say a silent prayer for the patients. Some things you pick up unconsciously.
The sound of the patriotic songs eulogizing the “brave war martyrs” and the courage of the military penetrated our room as my father put on the radio for updates. The only update we heard after such incidents was how the brave men of the nation had made the “enemy” turn away and run back.
It was the year 1986. 11 pm local time, Tehran. I was 7 and my brother was 6.
The first person we learnt to hate was Saddam Husain and the second was a country called America.