A look at “Unknowns of Aras River” by Mohsen Hejry

A secret among the waves of the Aras River

January 17, 2022 - 18:46

Have you ever heard about that ironsmith who hadn’t driven a nail correctly into the horseshoe, then the horse fell in battle and threw its rider to the ground and, this caused the whole army to be defeated and a country to be wasted?

So now that we know each of our decision and behavior is that important, let’s talk about a soldier who decided to resist all alone when everybody else’s surrendered and retreated. We shouldn’t call him a soldier; we all know he is a hero!

In military affairs, the principle and basis are the commander's orders. Whatever he said must be done without a question, but what if all of a sudden, we realized that the commander was about to destroy the country with his command? What if foreigners entered the country and looted it by his order? 

When the whole world was at war and our country declared neutrality, things were happening in the north of our country. The 47th Division of the Red Army tried to enter our country to receive British and American aid in order to free itself from the crisis. 

No one would care that we had declared neutrality. The Soviets knew that their only way out was to reach the cargo they were supposed to receive through Iran, If Iran had kept its borders closed to the Soviets, it would be recognized as a Soviet enemy and a supporter of Germany, so neutrality meant nothing.

The Soviet army allowed itself to cross the bridge it had built over the Aras River years ago. All the soldiers and troops of the Jolfa border checkpoint have escaped and the government has ordered them to surrender but things were not about to end that easily.

In those critical moments, three soldiers and a commander decided to do what they believe was right. They wanted to stay and defend the border. Four men against one army might seem a little strange and even funny, but the story of these four proves everything we need.

The fact I keep saying they were only four men is not wrong. Although the martyrs of the Julfa incident were three but when you read the story, you will understand why I include Arsalan among those heroes, however, he was not on the bridge to fight alongside his friends in the end. Who is Arsalan? He is one of the heroes we will read about in this book.

The “Unknowns Of Aras River” by Mohsen Hjari has been published by Mehrak Publications. The book is about the historical event we just talked about. Hejry isn’t going to tell us history; instead, he has written a perfect story to help us remember the name of heroes who would remain unnamed.

On this side of the bridge, in Iran, are Musayyib, Muhammad, Abdullah, and Arsalan with a few rifles and a machine gun, on the other side of the bridge in Soviet territory, there is an army with tanks, artillery, and equipment. Musayyib's messages to commanders remained unanswered. He told the Soviet army envoy that he must get permission from the commanders to retreat but, the truth was that him buying some times was not for receiving the surrender order or retreating to find auxiliary force. Musayyib and his soldiers do not doubt that they must stay and defend, and no order is needed to protect your homeland.

The story of this conflict is not one-sided. The writer has also written about the other side of the bridge to introduce the rest, especially Yuri, an engineer who served in the army. The same engineer who built this bridge years ago with his master and now he worries whether the bridge will be damaged or not.

The name of the fifth chapter of the book is Metal Heritage. The characters in Hejri's story have a legacy. Arsalan has inherited a massive body and strong arms from his father and Muhammad, a gun.  A gun that his father carried in the constitutional revolution and the son, on the side of the Aras River.

The metal legacy that is supposed to be left by Yuri Malenkov is the bridge he built. It’s like his existence depends on this bridge; he can not imagine that it would get destroyed one day.

In front of the bridge, Muhammad's gun can also be considered a metal legacy. Yuri and Muhammad are supposed to achieve something further than this cold metal: human heritage!

Muhammad achieves patriotism and resistance from the gun and Yuri from the bridge to hatred of war and then the mysterious feeling after seeing the Iranian soldiers on the other side of the bridge.

The book’s title, The unknowns, comes from a conversation between two officers of the 47th Russian Division. They are looking for a name for Iranian soldiers who have disobeyed their superior's order to surrender but also, they are not rebels because no money or deal can pursue them. They are unknowns and, if we don’t tell everyone their story, they will remain unknown.  

In short sections, Mohsen Hijri first introduces each character in this book with simple but catchy language. What does Abdullah, a poet and once in love, want in the middle of this battle? What about Musayyib that can’t get his children out of his mind?

Every one of them came from a city with a story they went through, but all four come together at some point, and that is where they all decide to stay and fight. Musayyib, Muhammad, Abdullah, and Arsalan decided to stay even though they knew they would die in the end.

After reading this book, think more about what you would do if you were in that situation.

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