Leader’s Speech to Former Iranian Prisoners of War

The following is the full text of the speech delivered on August 15, 2012 by Ayatollah Khamenei the Leader of the Islamic Revolution in a meeting with former Iranian prisoners of war.

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

I would like to welcome you dear brothers, the pearls of spiritual provisions in the Islamic Republic. Over the course of many centuries, an object that is not valuable can turn into diamond only if it has the potential. The years of captivity were like compressed centuries that have turned talented human beings into shining diamonds, into liberated prisoners of war. Today's meeting makes me happy and at the same time I feel sorry that there have been few opportunities to meet you former prisoners of war in such meetings. Through you dear people who have attended this spiritual, friendly and brotherly meeting, I salute all our former prisoners of war - around forty thousand valuable and long-suffering people who have been trained through hardships.

The issue of captivity can be considered from various aspects. One of these aspects is the valuable memories some of which were recounted by the friends. Of course, I have read a number of books related to the memories of our former prisoners of war and I have also read everything that is related to our honorable and great war veteran the late Mr. Abutorabi, the prince of our former prisoners of war. It can be guessed that what has been said and written about the years of captivity is only a small portion of a long story. We need to hear this long story.

I would like to take this opportunity to say that there has been negligence over the past 22 years, since our honorable former prisoners of war were liberated. We should have published books in this regard several times more than we have. We should have produced outstanding artistic films on the conditions of those who were imprisoned in the Iraqi prisons and POW camps. Notice how many films westerners and big film companies have produced regarding the years of captivity during the first or second world wars. They have produced good films, outstanding films. This is while what is shown in those films is the material aspects of the lives of those prisoners, which can be witnessed in their lives, their comments and interactions. According to what I have heard, a member of the Red Cross had told our former prisoners of war that when they go to POW camps in other countries, they witness desperation, self-inflicted wounds, suicide and other such things. He had asked, "How come there are no such things among you?" It was a reasonable question and the answer is clear: when one's heart is not familiar with spirituality and God, those are the results that should be expected. According to the statements by the dear people who have attended this meeting and the memories that have been published, when one's heart is familiar with God, when there is a bond between one's heart and God, when there is a sense of trust, when one does not feel that one is alone, when one witnesses paradise inside small torturous prison cells, there is no longer any room for depression, there is no longer any room for desperation, suicide becomes meaningless. This is one aspect of the issue and we should become more familiar with every bit of this deep and vast sea, the lives of our former prisoners of war.

It is necessary to produce good films in this regard. It is necessary to publish good books in this regard. It is necessary to recount the memories. For example, the memories which were recounted today contain a world of lessons. It would be very good if these memories were aired. I believe that the memories which were recounted in today's meeting should be aired by the IRIB so that our people can hear them. These memories are our assets. It was such assets that preserved Islam, Shia Islam. It was such assets that brought about power and honor for the Islamic Republic and made the Iranian nation feel proud in the world. This is one aspect of the issue.

Another aspect is the issue of divine lessons and laws. After all, we are constantly faced with challenges throughout our short lives on earth. Challenges are not always caused by America and the arrogant powers. There are different kinds of challenges. The Islamic Revolution is faced with inner challenges - such as challenges with Satan and challenges with the inner self - as well as challenges with the hegemons, monopolists, greedy people and the arrogant powers. We need to reflect on this divine law and learn lessons from it. It might appear that there was no ray of hope for Iranian prisoners of war who had been captured during the imposed war, for faithful Iranian youth were living under those conditions in Iraqi POW camps, for Iranian prisoners who were being tortured like that in their prison cells. Maybe Iranian prisoners thought that their sufferings would continue for many more years or that nothing but death was awaiting them. Take a look at the realities today and notice what has happened. Notice where they are and where you are. This is a lesson. This is a proof of the truthfulness of divine promises.

We must have faith in divine promises. We must develop deep faith in divine promises. We should understand the meaning of what Allah the Exalted says, "And surely Allah will help him who helps His cause. Most surely Allah is Strong, Mighty." [The Holy Quran 22: 40] At that time, you were faced with torturers, wardens and Ba'ath agents, and today the Iranian nation is faced with challenges against America. The issue is the same in essence. "And surely Allah will help him who helps His cause. Most surely Allah is Strong, Mighty." Divine promises are true. Those who do not have faith in divine promises are rejected by Allah the Exalted. Allah the Exalted curses them and deprives them of His grace. Divine promises are true. And today the Iranian nation is faced with the same issue. If we act according to the conditions that have been determined by Allah the Exalted - and you observed His conditions during your captivity - the Iranian nation will definitely achieve victory. This is a lesson.

Those who were saying that you would stay in those prison cells forever or that they would execute you, have been thrown into the garbage bin of history. It was they themselves who were executed. It was they themselves who were annihilated. Thankfully today you are living in the Islamic Republic with pride and honor. This is a lesson. We had been taught this lesson previously as well. Some of us did not have faith in this lesson. There was a lot of pressure during the era of suppression, during the time of taghut. There were some people who were saying, "You are faced with fists and bayonets. Your resistance is pointless." But there were others who were saying, "Of the believers are men who are true to the covenant which they made with Allah, so of them is he who accomplished his vow, and of them is he who yet waits, and they have not changed in the least." [The Holy Quran, 33: 23] Allah the Exalted gave rise to an event that nobody in the world could believe. It was not just that nobody in Iran could believe what had happened. No, nobody in the world could believe it. Nobody could believe that what the Americans considered the island of stability would be struck by such a storm, a storm that would result in the isolation of America, the arrogant powers, England and their agents and mercenaries. The conditions are the same today.

Take a look at current conditions of the world. Certain signs are visible. I have repeatedly said that the world is going through a stage and entering a new situation, a new state. Our behavior, our intentions and our actions play a determining role in shaping this new situation. In order to make our hearts firm, in order not to lose sight of our path, the lives of you former prisoners of war can be a guiding star for us.

I believe and I stress that memories from the time of your captivity should be recounted verbally, published in the form of books and turned into films. Valuable artistic works should be produced on the basis of your memories. This does not mean supporting a certain group of people. It does not mean safeguarding a certain event. It just means sealing and finalizing the document of the Iranian nation's victory. And this should be done. I ask our artists and the officials in charge of our media to do this, and you should help. Fortunately from what I understand from the statements of the friends who spoke today and from what I know, there are many documents in this regard. Moreover, you yourselves are living documents. Utilize the memory of our former prisoners of war. Recount whatever that has happened, without adding or removing anything, without going to extremes. When this is accompanied by artistic language, it transforms hearts and souls. And this is one aspect of your captivity and your freedom.

Another aspect is divine reward. The day when the first group of our prisoners of war entered the country and a large number of them - maybe around several thousand people - met with me in this Hussayniyyah, I was very excited to see our youth, the embodiments of our great values, who had returned to the country. At that meeting, our great war veteran the late Mr. Abutorabi delivered a speech. I said at the meeting, "Know that every moment of your lives is recorded by God." I still have the same belief. Every moment is recorded by Allah the Exalted, moments that cannot be described and their depth cannot be revealed in words. And you lived through such moments for years. Not even one single selfless effort will be ignored. Not even one single moment of the hardships you went through will be ignored by Allah the Exalted. We forget and you forget too, but God's angels who are tasked with recording our lives do not forget. The selfless efforts you made have been recorded. However, try to preserve these things. This is a piece of advice both for ourselves and for you honorable people.

God will reward both our former prisoners of war and their families - their wives, their children, their fathers, their mothers and their close relatives. Whenever I found the opportunity to meet the parents and close relatives of one of our prisoners of war in their own homes, I would realize how they felt. What the families our prisoners of war went through was more difficult and bitter than what the families our martyrs went through. The brother of one of our missing soldiers told me, "Have you noticed how the families of the youth who go to the battlefield feel on the night of operations?" He was right. When it was announced that there would be an operation during the coming night, the hearts of the families whose young children were going to fight in the front line would be filled with anxiety. The brother of the missing soldier told me, "For us, every night is the night of an operation. Every night our hearts are filled with anxiety about his conditions and what will happen to him." This is the kind of hardships that families of prisoners of war go through. Therefore, the reward they will receive from God is very big.

The Iranian nation went through this stage of its life and benefitted from it. The glory, power and prominence of a people in history depend on the selfless efforts of their children. These selfless efforts may be made in the battlefield or in captivity - through heroic actions during captivity, through steadfastness, through resistance. Some people were martyred during captivity. Shahid Tondguyan and many others were never released. The majority of Iranian prisoners of war returned with honor and pride. I hope Allah the Exalted rewards you and all those who played a role, rendered services and guided people - particularly, our great and honorable war veteran the late Mr. Abutorabi. May God raise their positions in the hereafter.

Today we have a fundamental issue in the world of Islam: the issue of Quds. Why do we say the issue of Quds is a fundamental issue? Because the Middle East - the region in which we live - was divided up in the wrong way, on the basis of a plot to let the Zionists settle in this region. If this plot had not been hatched, the conditions of the region would be different today. The divisions, the wars that took place in this region, the interference by the domineering and bullying powers - all of these things were due to this issue and this is a long story. They have focused their efforts on sidelining this issue. The world of Islam must not allow them to do so. Over the course of many years, they tried to erase the issue of Palestine from the minds of people and they were successful to a certain extent. The purpose of the Camp David Accords and what followed - which are one of the dark spots in our contemporary history - was to make the people of the region forget that there was a country called Palestine. The Islamic Revolution and our magnanimous Imam (r.a.) kicked them in the mouth. Since the first day after the victory of this Revolution and even since the beginning of the movement which led to the Islamic Revolution, the issue of Palestine has been one of the essential issues for our Revolution and this was one of the reasons why the world of Islam focused its attention on our Revolution. Of course, there were other reasons as well. Today they are trying to undermine the issue of Quds and the world of Islam must not let them do so.

They kept the world of Islam busy with side issues. Certain people bring up the Shia-Sunni issue, while the Zionists have been pressuring several million Palestinians for 60 years. They ignore what the Zionists have been doing and they say that the real danger is the Islamic Republic, a government that has raised this flag and started this epic movement in the world. Is there any treachery that is worse than this? The Iranian nation has stopped them so far and it will stop them in the future as well. By Allah's grace, the Iranian nation will have such a massive presence in this year's Quds Day rallies that the enemies of Islam and Palestine will be kicked in the mouth.

Highlighting the issue of Palestine is not a tactical matter for the Islamic Republic. It is a fundamental issue which originates from Islamic beliefs. It is our responsibility to liberate that Islamic country from the hegemony and clutches of that usurping power and its international supporters. It is our responsibility to return that Islamic country to the people of Palestine. This is a religious obligation, one that lies on the shoulders of all Muslims. All Muslim nations and governments have a responsibility in this regard. This is an Islamic responsibility. This is how we view the issue of Palestine and others should view the issue of Palestine from the same perspective. They should not involve this issue in political games, in political transactions, in political - and sometimes treacherous - dealings. The issue is a religious issue. It is an ideological issue and it is necessary to pursue it.

I would say that just as our hope was revived by the Islamic Revolution, by the imposed war and by your liberation from captivity, our hope will be revived in this issue as well and Palestine will definitely be returned to the people of Palestine. And this bogus and fake outgrowth will be wiped off the geopolitical scene. There is no doubt in this regard.

These days the earthquake [in northwestern Iran] is our tragic issue and I deem it necessary to highlight this issue. The people of Iran have definitely been grieved by this issue because a group of our dear countrymen have been afflicted by a tragedy, a bitter event that took place in the month of Ramadan. I hope Allah the Exalted helps our government officials and our honorable people to reduce the sufferings of the quake-stricken people of East Azerbaijan and help them with their affairs. May God give them patience. May God bestow peace on their hearts. I hope Allah the Exalted bestows his blessings on our honorable nation and makes this month of Ramadan truly auspicious for our nation and for the Islamic Republic.

Dear God, bestow Your mercy and blessings on the people who have suffered on Your path. Dear God, reward all those who took even one single step to promote truth. Dear God, associate the soul of our magnanimous Imam - who opened up this path in front of us - with Your saints. Dear God, associate the souls of our soldiers who passed away or were martyred during captivity with Your saints. Dear God, associate the soul the late Mr. Abutorabi - the competent, steadfast and mujahid scholar and Your righteous servant - with Your saints. Associate the soul of his honorable father with Your saints. Dear God, make us successful in serving those who deserve our sincere services.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings