Delhi-based Hindi writer and journalist, Nasira Sharma, was the only woman from South Asia to interview Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s Islamic republic’s founder, after he came into power.
She was also among the very few world journalists to report on Iran’s Child Soldiers captured during the Gulf War in the early 1980s.
As Iranians celebrate the 40th anniversary of Islamic revolution, Cine Ink’s Achala Sharma talks to Nasira Sharma in detail how the meeting with Khomeini unfolded as just before her Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci’s interview with Imam Khomeini in 1979 had made world headlines.
Nasira Sharma also reveals how she found herself in the middle of an international controversy as she visited the Ramadi Prisoners of War Camp near Baghdad where she met Iranian children who had been captured during the Iran-Iraq War. However, Iran denied that the captured children belonged to its army.
And, then came another historic moment for her when she met some of those ‘child soldiers’ on her visit to Iran in 2017 – after more than 35 years.
Backgrounder: The Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979 after the fall of Shah Muhammad Pahlavi. An eight-year war with Iraq began in September 1980, fought initially on Iranian soil and then taken into Iraqi territory.
After the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini created a standing fighting force, known as the Pasdaran, or Revolutionary Guards, to check the power of counter-revolutionary elements within the Imperial Army.
In November 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini also created the Basij, a voluntary, auxiliary military unit of the Revolutionary Guards. It was a popular, emergency, mobilisation army, consisting mostly of those too young (under 18) or too old (usually age 45 and older) for regular conscription.
During the Iran-Iraq War, the Basij included approximately one million volunteers, and it was through this force that many children came to participate in armed combat.
Source: A report published by Child Soldiers International (formerly the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers) on UNHCR’s Refworld site.
From New York Times: September 6, 1983 – U.N. ASKS IRAN TO STOP RECRUITING CHILDREN
The United Nations sub-commission on human rights called on Iran today to conform to international conventions and stop recruiting child soldiers for its Persian Gulf war against Iraq.
After visits to prisoner-of-war camps in Iraq, Swiss-based humanitarian organizations have said some 240 Iranian prisoners between the ages of 12 and 18 are being held. Iraqi officials say 99 Iranian child soldiers are killed for each one captured.
Camera: Pervaiz Alam
Editing & Online Production: Dhyan Akshat