Millions of Iranians Honor War Martyrs Every Year

Millions of Iranians Honor  War Martyrs Every Year Millions of Iranians Honor  War Martyrs Every Year

Although it has been months that Iran is assisting its neighbor in combat with the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq, 35 years ago the previous regime of the Arab neighbor invaded the country by land, sea and air, giving rise to the beginning of a bloody war that lasted eight years and caused about a million deaths on both sides.

The trauma that the war generated in Iranian society was devastating and even today remains intact reverence for the fallen in battle, defenders considered martyrs of the Islamic homeland, according to a report by the Spanish newspaper, El Mundo.

Since the conflict ended, every year at this time, Iran holds several religious ceremonies in major cities bordering Iraq that suffered major attacks from Baghdad.

One of these cities, considered holy by the Iranians, is Shalamcheh. Situated on the border with Iraq, this small town is today a symbol of devotion with which millions of young men and teenagers voluntarily surrendered to the “Holy Defense”, a term used to refer to the 1980-88 military conflict.

“The war came and we had to defend ourselves the late Imam Khomeini called on all men and women to join in defense of Iran and, thanks to the massive response throughout the country, we fought for our country and we forced back Iraq,” said a commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard  at the front throughout the race.

At the gates of the mosque, in Shalamcheh, where prayers for the dead fighters are held, a group of young university students descend from a bus. They form a black spot that moves to walk the pilgrimage as done each year by many Iranians here. In just three months, more than four million people have visited these areas hit by the Iran-Iraq war.

“We have come to pray for those who gave their lives to defend Iran. We owe it to them. My wish is to someday serve my country as they did. They fought bravely,” says Ameneh, a law student.

Beside her, a volunteer Basiji explains that he has come to Shalamcheh from Isfahan to show his respect to their ancestors, who “struggled to make Iran a safe country”.

“Today Iran is a totally safe country, able to defend itself,” asserted the militia.

A few kilometers from Shalamcheh is Abadan, another place, hit by the war, that during the days leading to Nowruz, Iranian New Year (started March 21), also holds special ceremonies to remember the martyrs. Both cities belong to the province of Khuzestan, rich in oil and gas reserves.

The uniqueness of this place lies in the Arvand Rud River, which crosses the two countries. The two sides are separated by only 900 meters.

Near the Iranian border, a war veteran was explaining to a small audience the drama of war. It tells how 3,000 Iranian divers worked tirelessly to build the Bethat Bridge, which connected the two shores and to make sending troops to the other side possible. “The cruelest chemical attacks took place here,” he says.

The physical consequences of the nerve gas and mustard gas attacks, plus other poison chemicals, are still very much alive in many people affected during the war, keeping the memory of a bloody battle alive that claimed many lives but joined a nation.