Iran - Reflections of a generation raised in wartime: ‘I Could Not Imagine What Peace Looked Like’
No big news in this piece, just an interesting reflective piece.
Three decades after the beginning of an eight-year-long war that altered the very fabric of Iran’s society and political system, many Iranians, particularly the young, struggle with how it should be remembered. Although many are respectful of the sacrifices made during that period, few consider the political establishment’s emphasis on its commemoration to be sincere.
This past week marked the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the Iran-Iraq War in September 1980. When Saddam Hussein’s army crossed the international border, revolutionary fever was at its peak in Iran. The Islamic Republic was only in its second year and had already experienced the downfall of its liberal provisional government. The hostage crisis was in full swing and there was an ongoing power struggle in a country where revolutionary cleansing had just begun.
Ironically, the day the war began coincided with the very first day of the Iranian school year. Millions of six- and seven-year-olds were about to start the first grade on the eve of the conflict. Violence loomed over the lives of many Iranian youngsters through most of their school years. Today they are in their 20s and 30s and they remember the days of war all too vividly.
Sanaz, a 34-year-old woman who works as an engineer and lives in central Tehran, is one. I shared a cup of coffee with her last week. As the TV in the coffee shop showed footage of the war’s first phase, she suddenly exclaimed, “I miss those days!” Startled, I asked why. “It was horrible, I know, but people were different,” she explained. “They cared more then. They helped each other. The society had not become this ugly. I miss that and I miss the songs.”
People Sanaz’s age hardly had anything else to listen to. The only music that Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) was allowed to share with its audience was either marching tunes or war songs. Almost everything else was banned, from folkloric to pop. In the absence of alternatives, war songs became popular hits. One of the most popular in the early days of the conflict, according to Amir, a 38-year-old shopkeeper, was “Pilots, Heroes.”
He told me, “In those days, when they would sound the air attack alarm, we ran for the shelters. I always believed there was a fighter pilot somewhere who was going to shoot down those damned MiGs.” He sighed. “To me, an eight-year-old kid, they were the ultimate heroes.”