by Zahed Haftlang, Najah Aboud As told by Meredith May

Purchase book:

Simon and Schuster

Regan Arts




A sweeping story of loss, redemption, and fate that begins in 1982 during the bloody war between Iraq and Iran, when an Iranian child-soldier finds a young Iraqi soldier dying in a bunker and commits an astonishing act of bravery and kindness that changes the course of both their lives.

An epic story of war, redemption, and hope. I, who did not die tells the incredible story of two men—one from Iraq, the other from Iran—who were destined to be mortal enemies, but instead found in each other mercy, kindness, and hope.

Najah Aboud was conscripted in Iraq, in 1980, shortly after Saddam Hussein sent troops sweeping across the border—a disastrous attempt to overthrow Tehran’s new government, led by Ayatollah Khomeini. In 1982, at age thirteen, Zahed Haftlang joined Iran’s Basij paramilitary in Tehran’s fight against neighbouring Iraq. The two young men found themselves fighting in one of the twentieth century’s most brutal wars, a conflict that left 1.5 million dead.

Zahed was among the first Iranian troops in Khorramshahr after Saddam’s invasion. He was ordered to clear the bunkers and execute any surviving Iraqis. Zahed prayed he would not find anyone alive, but, in the third bunker, he heard a sound. In the beam of his flashlight he saw six dead Iraqis and among them, was Najah. Zahed could not kill him, instead he kept him alive, bringing him water, morphine, and blood. He hung an IV drip from a knife jammed into a wall and eventually brought him to a field hospital.

Nearly twenty years later—after surviving war, torture, being held as a prisoner of war, and heartbreaking loss—on the other side of the world, the two men found themselves sitting beside each other in the waiting room of the Vancouver Association for the Survivors of Torture. And, as the two men told one another the story of how they’d come to this country and found their way to this waiting room, they realized that their paths had crossed before.

This profound story of survival, resilience, humanity, and friendship will stay with you long after reading.