Khorramshahr (خرمشهر) is a port city in Khuzestan province in southwestern Iran. It is approximately north of Abadan. The city extends to the right bank of the Shatt al-Arab(Arvand rod in Persian) waterway near its confluence with the Karun river.
In ancient times it had been known as Piyan, and later Bayan. The modern city was founded in (1812) AD by Sheikh Yusuf bin Mardo, when steam navigation began on the Karun.
As the Iraqis drew near at the beginning of the war, the Iranian Army evacuated much of the city. In the defense of Khorramshahr, the Iranians prepared a series of dykes on the outskirts of the city, the first dyke holding regular soldiers and the second dyke holding tanks, artillery, and anti-tank weapons. Personnel wise, the Iranian Regular Army was responsible for the city’s external defenses and the Pasdaran were responsible for the center.
The Iraqi objectives were to occupy the city outskirts, the Dej Barracks in the north, and the port in the south. In the first days of the fighting, beginning on September 30th, the Iraqis cleared the dykes and captured the area around the city, cutting it off from both Abadan and the rest of the Khuzestan province. The first two attempts to enter the city, launched by an armored division and Special Forces, were met with heavy losses for the Iraqi forces. In response, the Iraqis planned on sending in additional commando units with armor providing backup. Iraqi Special Forces and Commando units took the port whilst Iraqi armored brigades took Dej, both before moving into the suburbs.
It was in the suburbs that the Iraqi attack stalled when they encountered Iranian Pasdaran and Chieftain tanks. Local counterattacks by tank-infantry teams turned back the Iraqi forces at several points. The sheer weight of the Iraqi tank force settled the issue in their favor, but when Iranian armor was encountered on the defense, it stopped attacks cold. Only repeated combined arms assaults broke the ability of the Chieftains to dominate the open areas within the suburban battle space.
As the fighting moved toward the city center, armor operations were reduced to a supporting role, since the tanks couldn’t fire as effectively through the tight and narrow streets. The Iraqis tended to attack at night to advance troops and gain surprise, and place observation points on tall buildings. The Iranians would often move in snipers at night, which also bogged the battle down for the invading Iraqis. Due to the heroism of Pasdaran and Basij, battles were often fought house-to-house, floor-to-floor, and room-to-room. Reports indicate that Iraqis would at times encounter Pasdaran who were armed with anything from assault rifles all the way down to sticks and knives.
The final objectives towards the end of the battle were the Government building where the Iranian headquarters was located, as well as the nearby bridge connecting the road from Khorramshahr to Abadan. Fighting for possession of the bridge took 48 hours. The last Iraqi attack started at dawn on 24 October and lasted five hours. The city was cleared by 26 October.
The city practically became a ghost town afterward with the exception of the Iraqi army occupants. During the occupation, soldiers looted goods from the Iranian ports and had them transferred to Basra. According to other claims, soldiers raped several Iranian women in the city as well. Due to both the strategically high loss of men and the harsh weather following the battle, the Iraqis were unable to conduct any further offensives against Iran.
The city remained in Iraqi hands until April 1982, when the Iranians launched Operation Beit ol-Moqaddas (persian: بیت المقدس) to recapture the Khuzestan province. The first attack (April 24 to May 12) consisted of 70,000 Pasdaran and succeeded in pushing the Iraqis out of the Ahvaz-Susangerd area. The Iraqis withdrew back to Khorramshahr and, on May 20th, launched a counter attack against the Iranians, which was repulsed. The Iranians then launched an all out assault on Khorramshahr, capturing two of the defense lines in the Pol-e No and Shalamcheh region. The Iranians gathered around the Shatt al-Arab waterway, surrounding the city and, thus, beginning the second siege. The Iranians finally recaptured the city on May 24th after two days of bitter fighting, capturing 19,000 soldiers from a demoralized Iraqi Army after the fighting was over. Over 2,000 of these prisoners were executed to retaliate for the rape of several Iranian women in the city at the beginning of the war. As a result, the Iraqis now know May 24th as “Martyr’s Day”, although the Iranians celebrate this day as the Liberation of Khorramshahr.
By the end of the war, Khorramshahr had been completely devastated by Saddam Hussein's forces, with very few buildings left intact. Other major urban centres such as Abadan and Ahvaz were also left in ruins, though nowhere nearly as bad as Khorramshahr. The city of Khorramshahr was one of the primary and most important frontlines of the war and has thus achieved mythic status amongst the Iranian population.
The economy of Khorramshahr is still largely affected by the destruction and depopulation of the city's residents in the 1980s during the first years of the Iran–Iraq War. The main activities are, however, essentially the same as before the war, petroleum production and exports and imports through the city port, though on a much smaller scale as restoration is not yet totally complete, even though almost two decades have passed since the end of the war. Residents originally from Khorramshahr have also slowly been returning to the city, rebuilding their houses and businesses.