Roxanne, Varzi. Warring Souls: Youth, Media and Martyrdom In Post-Revolution Iran. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006. 290 pp.
Iran is demographically speaking a very young country. Fewer and fewer Iranians can remember the reign of the Shah or the 1979 Revolution. The Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, encouraged Iranians to have many children and thirty years later we are beginning to see the its unintended consequences The Islamic Republic required youthful supporters to fill the military, the Basij militia and Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). War and repression cannot be achieved solely by clerics and old men. For the Revolution to succeed, youth must be willing to sacrifice and die for its advancement.
Roxanne Varzi's study is an anthropological work based on interviews and fieldwork done in Iran. It presents real insights into the subject of Iranian preoccupation with martyrdom. The regime fosters this via traditional venues, such as Persian poetry, and also via film and propaganda. The Ayatollah Khomeini was deeply interested in Islamic mysticism and wrote and lectured about it at length when he was a professor in Qom. Varzi demonstrates how Iranian youth can thus be utilized to serve the Revolution.
Veterans of the Iran-Iraq War are a key constituency in Iran today and include many national leaders such as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Basij militia, which is a pillar of the regime, seeks...