Human beings are members of a whole
In creation of one essence and soul
If one member is afflicted with pain
Other members uneasy will remain
If you have no sympathy for human pain
The name of human you cannot retain


800 years ago, the renowned Iranian poet Sa’di already formulated his concern for and his commitment to the ideal of a shared humanity. This concern cannot be limited to certain ages, lands, or times. Neither can it be confined to ethnic groups, religions, or political inclinations. But it must become a constituent part of the mental and ethical identity of humanity to care for fellow human beings.


Your Excellency Dr Kholivand, President of the Iranian Red Crescent Society

Respected General Kargar,

Venerable Ayatollah Moezzi,

Dear colleagues from the Iranian Red Crescent Society and the ICRC,

Distinguished guests and participants,

I would like to thank and congratulate you Dr Kholivand and the IRCS to organize this ceremony at the end of the Holy Defence Week and the occasion of the exhibition about the repatriation flights that took place during and after the war between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iraq.


Since the beginning of this war in 1980 till its termination in 1988, the International Committee of the Red Cross, accompanied by its partners from the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, was involved in 17 phases of the repatriation of Iraqi prisoners of war and 18 phases of repatriation of Iranian prisoners of war. At the end a total of 717 Iraqi PoWs and 718 Iranian PoWs were repatriated.

The first operation of this type took place in 16/6/1981 of which we have a touching documentary. From the termination of the hostilities in August 1988 until August 1990, further 696 Iraqi PoWs and 356 Iranian PoWs were repatriated under the auspices of the ICRC. But the ICRC was not only involved in repatriation of those PoW who were seriously wounded or sick prisoners, or civilians. It also continued to be engaged in the repatriations of Iranian and Iraqi PoWs that took place in 1990s.

From 17 August to 14 September 1990, over 70’000 Iranian and Iraqi PoWs returned home. A total of 77 delegates from the ICRC together with their local colleagues in Iran and Iraq were involved in these large-scale repatriations.

During the period from the 17 to 31 August 1990, more than 2’000 prisoners of war were released daily overland via the border post at Qasr-e-Shirin, and air shuttles were organized as from 22 August in the same year.

Subsequently, a total of 798 Iranian PoWs and 1’193 Iraqi PoWs were flown back home on three flights by an Iran-Air jumbo jet, while the ICRC chartered an aircraft to repatriate on four flights 221 Iranians and 257 Iraqis. Two more flights under ICRC auspices were made on 13 September 1990 to repatriate another 210 wounded and sick Iranian PoWs.


To be noted, that it would not have been possible to carry these humanitarian operations without the existence of a specific and internationally accepted legal framework, the Geneva Conventions, of which will we celebrate the 75th anniversary next year.

But even after the repatriations were completed, long-term humanitarian consequences remain part of the individual and collective conscience of the affected nations and communities. It is thus not surprising that His Excellency, President Raisi, referred to the same long-term consequences in his speech last week to the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.

It is precisely in response to this kind of human suffering that the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement was created; to alleviate human suffering and safe lives as well as to assure a minimal respect for the human dignity.

Based on the principles of Neutrality, Impartiality, and Independence, along with Unity, Humanity, Universality, and Voluntary service, the members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement have always been assisting and protecting the lives and dignity of humans in the past 160 years, and they have created a noticeable history of humanitarian services.


Hence, on the 35th anniversary of termination of Iraq-Iran war, the Iranian Red Crescent Society and the ICRC decided to carry out a joint activity to commemorate a part of this 160-year long history of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s and its joint humanitarian activity.

Both, the IRCS and the ICRC have an extensive history of humanitarian services to the population affected by Iran-Iraq war in 1980s. And both organisations can be proud of their specific services that they provided in accordance with their distinct mandates and peculiar fields of expertise.

This exhibition is certainly a good opportunity to commemorate these humanitarian activities of the IRCS and the ICRC and to underscore our shared principles.


I am also very happy to see that our colleagues from the IRCS invited artists to provide their narration and view of these humanitarian services, too. The arts are also a transformative field which brings humans together and remind us of our shared humanity.

Hence, the exhibition we are about to open is now a conceptual arts and photo exhibition which includes photos of the first repatriation operations through Cyprus in 1981. There are also photos of some other repatriation operations, including the global repatriation of 1990s.

Again, I would like to reiterate my appreciation to all the dedicated staff and volunteers of the IRCS and the to the inspiring leadership of Dr Kholivand for the organisation of this event.


And now, I invite all of you to visit the exhibition. Thank you.