Skip to main content

Iran-Iraq War off-limits to historians in Iran

Many questions remain about the era of the Iran-Iraq War, which changed Iran's political and cultural landscape, but independent historians cannot yet research the subject to examine the government's official narrative and untold stories of the war.
EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to film or take pictures in Tehran.
Iranian-made Fateh 110 (Conqueror) (L) and Persian Gulf (R) missiles are seen next to a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at a war exhibition held by Iran's revolutionary guard to mark the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), also known in Iran as the "Holy Defence", at Baharestan square near the Iranian Parliament in southern Tehran September

Sept. 22 marked the 34th anniversary of Iraq attacking Iran across its western border, starting a bloody war between the two countries. The occasion, as always, received a great deal of attention from Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting and other conservative media outlets. The costly and devastating war is rarely, however, examined with the nuance it deserves. Criticism of the events of that era only comes up when top leaders reveal details about it in attacking one another in the media over personal differences.

The eight-year war (1980-1988) was in many ways a unique event in Iranian history. One of its most important aspects was probably the massive participation of the Iranian people, from all the different regions of the country and levels of society. This year, the Organization for Safe-keeping and Publishing the Values of the Holy Defense, created after the war and operating under the supervision of the Iranian armed forces, reported, “During the war, 217,000 military personnel, 2,130,000 members of the Basij and 200,000 members of the Sepah [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] and police forces defended the country against the enemy.”

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.