Hoping to take advantage of the revolutionary chaos in Iran to grab disputed terrain in southwestern Iran, Iraq invaded Iran in September, 1980, sparking a bloody conflict that lasted for eight years, until August 1988. The Iran-Iraq War featured the full gamut of horrors of 20th Century warfare less the use of nuclear weapons. Before it ended, Iraq used mustard gas and other chemical weapons against Iranian and Kurdish military units and civilians. Casualty estimates for Iran run from 300,000 to 900,000 lives lost, and for Iraq, somewhere between 175,000 and 300,000.
The end result of the eight year bloodbath was a UN-supervised return to the status quo ante bellum — a return to the status quo that had existed prior to the war.
The village of Elika that I posted about a few days ago measures the magnitude of the trauma Iran suffered in the conflict. Elika lost 13 sons in the war, and losses of that scale are reflected throughout the country. Billboards celebrating the martyrs lost in the war loom over cityscapes and countrysides. The martyrs cemeteries near Khomeni’s shrine outside Tehran stretch for kilometers, reminiscent of the First World War cemeteries in France and Belgium.
Here’s Stephen Alvarez’s extraordinary image of photos of local martyrs hanging on a wall in the truck stop in Tellmadarreh, Iran. The seated man owns the truckstop. The men on either side of the Khamenei/Khomeni picture above the owner’s head are his uncles. Both died in the Iran-Iraq War. Here’s Stephen’s closeup of the photos.
One of my Persian friends speaks of a “lost soul” of an uncle, which her family thinks is a result of his wartime experiences.
And my photo of a poster of Ali and Hussein (crying the blood tear), the first two martyrs of Shia Islam, taken in the hilltop shrine of Emam Zadeh Ghasem above the village of Ali Mastam.
On a more current political note, The New York Review of Books (one of America’s great publications) just released this informative article by Haleh Esfandiari about “Iran’s Man in the Middle,” President-elect Hassan Rouhani.