When you visit Iran there's one thing you can't fail to spot - it is a country with a fixation on death and martyrdom; a country where no matter where you go, you are never very far from reminders of the Iran-Iraq war - or as the Iranians call it, 'the Imposed War'. The war ran for just short of eight years - from September 1980 to August 1988 and is recognised as the longest 'conventional' war of the 20th Century. Nearly twenty years after it ended, the memories are still very fresh in Iran.I'll admit I was a little taken aback after an overnight flight to Tehran that the 'highlights' of day one were to be a tad fixated on death and destruction - a trip firstly to the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini before we popped round the corner to the Behesht-e-Zahra Cemetery to see the memorials to the martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war as well as those killed during the 1979 revolution.
I started to think about how different my life in England
I checked out Wikipedia for the highlights of 1980 and I found that lots of other things I remembered had happened that year; Robin Cousins skated to gold in Lake Placid; Johnny Logan won the Eurovision for the first time; the Iranian Embassy siege ended with spectacular SAS activity; IRA prisoners went on hunger strikes in the Maze prison; strikes in the Gdansk shipyards led to the formation of Solidarity; Ronald Reagan became President and John Lennon was shot. Those are the things I remembered - not the Iraqi invasion of Iran. I would have been hard pushed to tell you who invaded whom.The more I read up about the Iran-Iraq War the more I realised I couldn't write a review of the Martyrs Cemetery without giving some background to the conflict that killed so many Iranians (and Iraqis) in the 1980s. To discuss the cemetery without putting the conflict into context would be difficult so please, bear with me, I'm going to have a crack at explaining some of the background.
~Background to Conflict~Iran and Iraq - or more precisely their ancient predecessors such as Persia and Mesopotamia - have been fighting each other for millennia, making it quite hard to put your finger on what particular issue or issues caused the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. One of the basic issues is the on-going theological dispute between Sunni and Shi'a Moslem groups but in the 20th Century access to oil and mineral resources has always been a good reason for a dust-up.
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