It is not a well-known fact, but during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, many Iranian women actively participated in the war effort. They worked not only as doctors, nurses and aid workers, but also went on surveillance missions, guarded military installations and munition depots, organized food drives and even took up arms to fight the Iraqi invaders. Nearly 6,500 of them were killed and some 5,000 were injured and maimed.

But, unlike their male counterparts, these women’s bravery and their patriotism have not been widely acknowledged and many of them do not receive the benefits normally due to injured and disabled veterans — sometimes because they have been too shy to ask for it and sometimes because men in their families would not allow it out of a sense of “honor.” Members of the medical committee of the state-run Foundation of Veteran and Martyrs Affairs, which is responsible for approving benefits, are all men. But, perhaps, things are changing.

An article entitled "Iran Begins To Acknowledge Its Forgotten Women Of War" published on Radio Farda on September 28, 2019, explains further:

In many war images promoted by Iran’s conservative clerical establishment, women have been projected in traditional roles — cooking or knitting for soldiers, saying farewell to male relatives dispatched to battle, or appearing on state TV to express content over “the martyrdom” of their sons and husbands.

But now, in a rare acknowledgment, the head of Iran’s state Foundation for the Preservation of Sacred Defense Works and Values has admitted that the role of women during the war has been “ignored.”

Brigadier General Bahman Kargar said on September 22 that some women had made “great achievements” during the war.

“We are ready to pursue naming sites after female martyrs because we believe the role of women in the Sacred Defense [a name Iranian officials often use for the Iran-Iraq war] has been ignored,” Kargar said in remarks quoted by the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency on the 39th anniversary of the start of the war.

Numerous squares, highways, streets, bridges, murals, and other public sites have been named after the estimated 200,000 Iranian soldiers killed during the war. But the number of sites devoted to female war victims is negligible.

 

These photographs show the faces of a few of the thousands of Iranian women who were maimed while defending their country.

 

Photographs by Mehdi Monaem

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