“Mohsen, the Japanese” chronicles life of Afghan volunteer fighter in Iran-Iraq war  

December 16, 2020 - 18:39

TEHRAN – Iranian filmmaker Vahid Faraji has made a documentary named “Mohsen, the Japanese”, which chronicles the life story of Mohsen Mirzai, an Afghan migrant who joined Iranian forces as a volunteer during the 1980s to fight against Iraq.

He was one of the divers, who were members of a shock troop squad that crossed the Arvand River to overrun Umm al Rassas, a nearby island on the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, during Operation Karbala-4 on December 25, 1986. However, they were captured by Iraqis.

Mirzai had been injured in his jaw and was not able to speak. Therefore, due to his similarity in appearance to the Japanese people, the Iraqis assumed that he was a Japanese military advisor working for Iran. Consequently, he was known as “Mohsen, the Japanese”.

Due to the fact that the region where the divers had been captured was strategically important, Iraq refused to register them on the list of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or give any information about them. Mohsen was held in captivity for four years. 

“I had read a book named ‘From Leili Desert to Majnun Island’ carrying the memories of the Afghans who volunteered to fight for Iran during the war and the book was really amazing,” Faraji said in a press release on Wednesday.

He criticized Seyyed Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, for the remarks he made in May 2019 saying Iran would consider asking Afghan refugees to leave Iran if the United States continued to put economic pressure on Tehran.

Faraji said, “What percentage of migrants in the countries that accept refugees are ready to fight for or sacrifice themselves if the countries are involved in a war? Therefore, by this film, I want to acknowledge that we owe a debt of gratitude to all foreign people who fought for us during the war.”

He made several trips to the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad, where Mohsen Mirzai lives, to make the documentary, which took over nine months to be completed.

Faraji said that few people in Iran are aware of the contribution that Afghan refugees made to Iran during the war, and added that “Mohsen, the Japanese” also criticized this ignorance “sociologically.”       

This film is competing in the Avini Awards category of the 14th edition of the Cinéma Vérité festival, Iran’s major international festival for documentary films that opened on Tuesday.

Tehran-based Afghan writer Mohammad-Sarvar Rajai is the author of “From Leili Desert to Majnun Island”, which inspired Faraji to make the documentary.

The book published in 2018 contains the memoires of the Afghans who volunteered to fight for Iran during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.

“To achieve unity between our nations, we need to know how the Afghan mujahideen, on their way to find love, crossed the central and northern provinces in Afghanistan, from Leili Desert in the Jawzjan Province and the Dokuheh Garrison in (Iran’s) Andimeshk to reach Majnun Island,” Rajai wrote in the introduction to the book.

Thousands of Afghans volunteered to help Iran in the war, during which over 2,000 of them lost their lives.

Photo: This picture shows several Afghan volunteers who fought for Iran during the Iran-Iraq war.   


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