Visiting Behesht Zahra, Martyr’s Cemetery. War is savage. Brutal. The aftermath of this savageness is displayed in full at the Behesht Zahra cemetery outside of Tehran. These losses are the results of a nearly 8 year war between neighbors Iran and Iraq. Over 200,000 martyrs are laid to rest in this sprawling cemetery. Another one million Iranians are buried here in the largest graveyard in Iran.
As the Shah fled Iran during the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and the Ayatollah Khomeini assumed leadership, fear and opportunity spread throughout the Middle East. Saddam Hussein of Iraq struck first when his army invaded Iran. Iraq wished to become the dominant power in the Middle East as well as to dampen spirits of Iraq’s Shiite population who might be embolden by the Ayatollahs ascent in Iran.
Iraq despite being militarily superior and being supported from everyone from the Soviet Union to the United States fought to a draw with Iran. The borders remained the same. The leaders of both countries remained the same. The outcome was estimates of over 1,000,000 dead and over $1 trillion squandered.
Today, one may visit the martyrs at Behesht Zahra. Row after row. Column after column. The graves seem endless. It is an incredibly sobering feeling witnessing the death and destruction of war.
Each grave is accompanied by a glass cabinet, similar to one you might find at your home. Contained in each cabinet is a photo or photos of the deceased. Mingled in the cabinet are other keepsakes, personal items, and flowers. I am struck by the near child ages of those who perished in war. Children volunteered to clear landmines during this futile war. Farsi inscribed gravestones are etched with everything from doves to AK-47s.
I depart, moved and saddened by this loss of life. Regardless of what side one supported, too many perished.
Adjacent to this cemetery is the Shrine of the Ayatollah which you can also visit.
The shrine of the Ayatollah can be seen behind the tank with the large Iranian flag.
And here is my advice on entering Iran.
Visiting Behesht Zahra, Martyr’s Cemetery