“Shiite Martyrdom and Its Definition During Iran-Iraq War”, In: Mortality: Special Issue on ‘Martyrs and Martyrdom’

Pedram Khosronejad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


On the Path of Love Will Shall Never Renege on our Pact
Should it Demand Sacrifice, We Shall Never Deny Giving up our Life

National bereavement and the commemoration of martyrs were common due to
state policy and social demands during and immediately after the
Iran-Iraq War (1980–88), and today modern war memorials and monuments
appear throughout the Iranian urban and rural landscape.

The Iran-Iraq War, referred to by Iranians as "the Sacred Defense and
Imposed War" (Defa‛e Moqadas va Jang-e Tahmili), began with Iraq's
September 22, 1980, attack on Iran and ended eight years later, on August
20, 1988, leaving at least 300,000 martyrs and more than 500,000 injured
out of a total population that, by the war's end, numbered
approximately 60 million. Today, some Iranian military institutions claim
that more than 50,000 bodies of Iranian volunteer soldiers (razmandeh)
remain in the former battlefields of Iran and Iraq. Yet despite 2,920
days of war, this devastating human disaster has been ignored by the West.

In Iran-Iraq war, the definition of a martyr and martyrdom is not merely
a title or a simple religious term that is only used for those who died
during war; there are sacred positions (maqams) and celestial (qodsi)
wishes and desires that simply cannot be reached by everyone. Only when
one arrives at that state of sincerity (kholus) and perfection of the
soul and the spiritual (kamal-e ruhi va ma'anavi) can one be named a
martyr. Terms such as endeavour (mojahedat), victory (nasr), and triumph
(piruzi) had special and non-materialistic meanings, and mostly were used
in cases of volunteer soldiers fighting with the soul (nafs) and an
exalted spirit (ta'aliyeh ruhiyeh). Therefore, formal (zaheri)
activities, such as fighting on the fronts, were considered a religious
duty (aday-e taklif) and not simply a war (jangidan). Behind all of their
activities on the fronts (fighting and enduring hardship), volunteers who
could attain the real state of a basiji were seeking to fight the
temptations of their own soul (khod) and exalting their spirit. In this
chapter author will present a new research on "Shrines and Memorials of
Unknown Martyrs" of Iran-Iraq war which is based on his recent field
works in Iran. Author will show how and why remains of body of unknown
martyrs are so important for actual Shiite regime in Iran..

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 14 Dec 2013


  • Iran-Iraq War
  • martyrdom
  • Shiism


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