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Persian Studies

Dr. Asghar Seyed Gohrab

Evils of war

Mystic concepts not only served to mobilise people to war, they also served people's personal experience of the evils of war.  The war determined the lives of a whole generation of Iranians. Seyed-Gohrab: ‘This is the story of my whole generation. Many fled because of the war; there was no other way to build a normal life. You would go into military service for at least two years, but it was questionable whether you could come back in one piece. Sadam Hussein invaded Iran, but after a year and a half he wanted peace.  Khomeini, however, did not and the war went on and on, eventually lasting eight years.' martyrdom During the war, Khomeini managed to convince people to regard the war as a manifestation of love.  Metaphysical love of God and self-sacrifice in the name of love were interpreted as patriotic love and a willingness for self-sacrifice. ‘In the world of mysticism there is the image of the candle and the moth.  The moth is attracted to the candle, particularly to the flame. It ends up by being consumed by the flame,  becoming one with its 'lover'.  This was a metaphor for becoming one with God.  During the war the candle was seen as the Shiite holy places in Iraq, in Najaf and Kerbala, in the name of which the soldiers destroyed themselves like moths.  In fact, they even went beyond this metaphor.

"Our leader is that young boy of 12 who threw himself with a grenade under the enemy's tank, destroying it and drinking the sweet draft of martyrdom.'  (Ayatollah Khomeini) 

Source: C.J. Gruber, "The Message on the Wall: Mural Arts in Post-Revolutionary Iran" in Persica, 22, 2008, p. 31.