Framing of War: State, Gender, Ideology and the Archive of Iran-Iraq War

The Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88 was the longest military conflict of the 20th century. The war was an important stepping ground in the consolidation of Iran’s theocratic state, which had assumed power less than two years before the war broke out. The Islamization of the old monarchical state was, thus, anchored in the war effort. In order to sustain and (re)produce the Islamic identity of the state, the Iranian regime launched, soon after the end of the war, a wide-ranging process of creating and supporting cultural entities ranging from museums, galleries, films, music, to annual commemorative events, or building monuments throughout the country to memorialize the “Sacred Defense.” State-sponsored websites, publications, charity organizations, and bureaucratic structures are the ideological pillars on which the state is reconstituting its national-religious project. Women were assigned a special role in the war during which the idea and model of “Muslim woman” was constructed and propagated. There is a proliferation of women’s narrations of war, speaking to their suffering, displacement, and resistance. Through the analysis of extensive empirical data from government archives, this paper will explicate the state’s approach to archiving and framing of this war as the continuation of the religious-national project of Islamization. The paper aims at unpacking the cultural form and the ideological content of the archives of the Iran‐Iraq War and will argue that the state project is more than “keeping alive” the memory of war. The act of archiving and creating a repertoire of memorization serves the purpose of state control and exercise of power.