WAR AND MARTYRDOM IN THE EYES OF SEYED MORTEZA AVINI
Within the Islamic context, the theme of martyrdom (shehadat) was central to both the Iranian Revolution of 1978 and to the subsequent war between Iran and Iraq from 1980 to 1988, referred to by Iranians as “the Sacred Defense and Imposed War” (Defa‛e Moqadas va Jang-e Tahmili). Even 37 years after the Revolution in Iran and more than 26 years after the Iran-Iraq war, the socio-cultural and religious aspects of the war (jang), martyrs (shahid) and martyrdom in view point of visual anthropology have never been the subject of serious research either in Iran or elsewhere. Since 1980, the commencement of 2920 days of imposed war inflicted on Iran by Iraq, this devastating human disaster has still been ignored by the world as a whole. This war began with Iraq’s attack on Iran on 22 September 1980 and ended eight years later on 20 August 1988. When images of war form shocking reminders of what actually occurred, they become references for the future generations. Carefully preserved in folklore and enthroned as tradition, these images can be invoked for political purposes that transcend party and class factionalism, and serve to unite the nation in a supreme sacrifice in the national interest. The inception of Iranian war cinema occurred after the beginning of the war in Iran. However, it took many years - and can still be considered to be trying today - to find its own language, manner, and identity. Iranian war films, like most war films in the world, mainly concentrate on the home fronts, rather than on the conflict at the military war-fronts, and are often paired with other genres such as tragedy, epic, and comedy. Their subject matter includes the effects of war on society, the heartbreak of war, the situation of Iranian society during the post-war period and profound explorations of moral and human issues. However, few of them provide decisive criticism of senseless warfare, with frequently acknowledged and explored themes including the bravery of soldiers and tales of heroic sacrifice and struggle. In the voluntary absence of the international media at the Iranian war-fronts, a few Iranians tried to capture the real images of the fronts. The most important work in this regard was carried out by Seyed Morteza Avini and his crew, not only during the war but also after its end.