Iran-Iraq War Literature (1980-1988)

A new aspect was added to the rich Persian literary tradition after the Islamic Revolution (1979), and especially when the Iran-Iraq war began in September 1980. The effects of the war were overwhelming, shaping the lives of several generations of Iranians. Literature, and mystic poetry in particular, were used to mobilize volunteers and support for the front. Medieval mystic concepts such as love and martyrdom were treated in such a way that they justified Iranian soldiers´ participation in the war. This panel will treat various genres and aspect of this war literature. Various war novels will be included, with the focus on Esmail Fasih´s Zemestan-e `62. The emergence of committed Islamic poets and their idealization of war and martyrdom will be another focus of this panel. In addition, a large corpus of haikus and other short poems were composed during and after the war, depicting its devastating effects and the personal experiences of war veterans.

Personal Information (Panel Organizer)

Asghar Seyed-Gohrab
Leiden University


Rebecca Gould
University of Bristol


Room 30
Wed, 2016-08-03 16:00 - 17:30


by Alireza Korangy / University of Virginia

The Iran-Iraq war was much more than just a political machine that helped to delineate Iran’s national, religious, and cultural identities on the world stage. It also highlighted a literary dichotomy in Iran. Iran is helplessly rooted in Classical understanding of death and dying, embedded in a literature that memorializes it. It is a nation whose religious and mystical notions of existence are inextricably bound. A certain number of images and topos impressed on the minds of Iranians for centuries mutated into newer understandings of these same images with the events of the Iran-Iraq War. We can see examples of these phenomena in the writings of the Iranian martyrs who wrote poetry during the Iran-Iraq war and those who wrote poems about their (martyrs) sacrifices and death. This talk aims to address one of these distinct changes that occur in portrayal of one of the classical images in the poetry of Iran-Iraq war—in its broader sense: landscape. It asks what scenery did the martyr place him/herself in this world in relation to his milieu and where was s/he placed in the world by the poets that portrayed him? What happens to the traditional images of the rose garden and prairie with the addition of the martyr and the historical and thematic proto-type of self-sacrifice and death in mystical poetry of Iran? It will be shown that landscape in Persian verse responds directly to its time and place. By bringing in examples from other times of upheaval in the Persian-speaking world, we see that gardens, fields, desert mirage, mountains, etc. take the identity of their surroundings, and their time and place, no matter how far-fetched the idea may seem. Sometimes time and place is conveyed as a metaphor and sometimes it isn’t, but the identifying marks are well documented within the philological pores of the poem. We will see that the cognitive notion of a poetic image finds its structural constituents in myriad human conditions and modus vivendi and the consequent modus operandi.

by Saeedeh Shahnahpur / Leiden University

When the Iran-Iraq War broke out in 1980, Esmāʻil Fasih (1935-2009) was one of the first Iranian novelists to write about the conflict. During the war, he published two novels, Sorayyā dar Eghmā (Sorayyā in a Coma, 1984) and Zemestān-e 62 (The Winter of 1983, 1985) describing how the war affected the lives of the Iranians. Following the ceasefire in August 1988, Fasih continued writing about the conflict. Although, many Iranian post-war novels chiefly describe the active role of Iranian men in participation at the war, and their martyrdom, Fasih’s post-war novels, such as Kosht-e ye Eshq (Killed for Love, 1997) and Nāme’i be Donyā (A Letter to the World, 2000) take a step further to portray martyrdom of women, which is an oft-neglected theme in Persian war novels. In these novels, females are the main characters, who meet their martyrdom in different situations and they are characterized as martyrs. This paper will examine the representation of the female martyrs in Fasih’s post-war novels, by emphasizing their experience and outlook on the war. Studying the war novels from this perspective will illustrate how Iranian women contributed to the war.

by Mahnia Nematollahi Mahani / Binesh Institute for Persian Studies

The majority of Iranians are receptive to the poetry. In various historical periods, poetry is used to motivate Iranians to participate in political movements. For instance, during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), war poets used poetry to inspire the Iranians to fight against the Iraqi soldiers. In my presentation, I will examine how classical mystical themes and motifs were applied to a modern political context to encourage the youth to participate in the fight against the Iraqi forces. I will particularly focus on the theme of love. Persian poets drew parallels between the journey to the battlefield and the spiritual path of perfection, comparing the fight in the battlefield to the fight against the lower soul (nafs). Such comparisons made some Iranians to believe that self-sacrifice on the front-line will end to the ultimate union with the Beloved and will guarantee their eternal salvation in the hereafter.