FROM TICKETS TO PARADISE TO COUPONS FOR SOCIAL SECURITY: THE SACRED AND THE MUNDANE IN THE TALES OF IRANIAN VETERANS OF THE IRAQ WAR
The 1980-88 war between Iran and Iraq war claimed close to one million lives on both sides of the conflict. In Iran, the war displaced four to five million people and left a legacy of collective trauma that has directly affected more than fifteen percent of the country's population. Professor Ghamari-Tabrizi plans to examine how Iran's veterans have expressed, maintained, and transformed their war-time experiences as they cope with the war's residual trauma. His project follows a three-part research scheme:
The Disowned Veteran. After hostilities terminated in 1988, the Iranian government tried to reframe the war as an anomalous event best left behind. But veterans, increasingly marginalized, demanded that the war and its social costs be revisited. As a voting bloc, they contributed significantly to the election of the current president, Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad.
The Burdensome Veteran. Sixteen years after the war, more than 48,000 men and women still suffer from the effects of chemical weapons used by Iraqi forces; 3,800 veterans need intensive care; and 36,000 require home care and treatment with maintenance drugs. While extensive inpatient medical facilities are available to veterans, outpatient assistance remains perfunctory.
The Sick Veteran. Significantly, discussion of the war's pervasive mental trauma remains taboo. This is partly explained by cultural norms, where mental health is held to be the responsibility of family and friends. Language used to describe war trauma is usually symbolic, and the fine arts have become one of the main outlets for veterans' expressions of war memories and their struggles with reintegration.
Professor Ghamari-Tabrizi will review dozens of memoirs and biographies of veterans to develop these themes, conducting archival research in the Netherlands and, if possible, at the Center for War Publicity in Tehran. By the end of his Center appointment, he plans to develop a book proposal.