Before reading Persepolis, I don’t think I ever fully understood what the Iranian Revolution was all about. Growing up in the United States, I knew that we were fighting a distant war in the Middle East although I never knew its purpose. This all changed with 9/11 and the bombings of the World Trade Center. All eyes turned all of a sudden back to the Middle East, and they were all branded as terrorists. I, like most other people I knew, became frightened of Middle Eastern people and feared that anyone we met could be terrorists.
Persepolis and Marjane Satrapi’s story opened my eyes about how those in the Middle East were actually like. They aren’t terrorists; they are simply just normal people trying to adjust to laws set by their increasingly oppressive government. Instead, those that tried to dictate their people’s every action in the name of the martyrs who died, God, and their country were usually the ones that were terrorists and committed acts of terrorism.
The concept of martyrs, in particular, interested me. A martyr is someone who is killed because of his or her religious or other beliefs. Before reading this book, I considered martyrs as people who fought for equality and their rights such as Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., and died as a result of it. Martyrs, as described in the book, however, left me with a horrible connotation of the word. The quote that struck me regarding this topic was that “to die a martyr is to inject blood into the veins of society,” which inferred that anyone who died supporting the revolution is considered a hero. I didn’t understand why they consider martyrs in such a high degree of regard, bordering on worshipping them, in the comic. Martyrs have long been a part of the Islamic religion but to take the concept as far as to label everyone who died in a martyr is excessive in my opinion. Even long after the revolution was over and peace had finally been won, the idea of martyrs remained, becoming deeply ingrained in Iranian society; street names were renamed to honor martyrs and the topic was frequently spoken of among bearded men and other Guardians of the Revolution. I understand the significance their sacrifice had to furthering the revolution’s cause, but I believe the way those in charge promoted it to the people such as giving young boys a golden key into heaven is immoral.
As Satrapi mentioned, “freedom has a price,” which is something I believe to be true after reading this comic. In return for winning the revolution, those who were now in power forced their Islamic views on the population and continued to oppress the people just as their predecessors who they won their “freedom” from did.