Martyrdom

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.

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3 thoughts on “Martyrdom

  1. I’ll admit that when I started reading this book I also had a stereotype of the Iranian terrorist martyr. The way Satrapi depicts the revolution and the religious influences in the country of Iran surprised me when she discussed how small of a minority that Islamic extremism comprised. I agree that the title of a martyr is one that can be handed out flippantly and I think Satrapi does a good job at poking fun at that (she wrote about that one instance of the man who had died of natural causes during the war but was exalted as a martyr just because he died during the right time). Trying times throughout a country will produce a level of anxiety that everyone is forced to deal with in a different way. People in Iran were getting so caught up in the tides of revolution that when people were dying for different reasons, their loved ones didn’t want to miss the opportunity both to venerate them as well as provide further justification for the violent revolution. In a sense, when someone would declare a person a martyr, that person would in fact become a martyr if his death is able to influence the opinions of others to fight for the cause that he or she is presumably dead for. It may not have been right for people to bestow a fake sense of honor, but it was an effective means of persuasion when it came to influencing others to join their revolution.

  2. I definitely know what you mean about not understanding the revolution and war. I was in eighth grade when the twin tower went down; however, I felt mostly sadness for those extremists who thought they were doing right for their country. Now that I have read Persepolis, I have a full grasp on the war and why certain events took place. Even though I was in not effected that way that Marji was, I have an elementary understanding of what she went through. I also have a greater understanding of the reason I’ve heard so many oppressing stories about the people in Iran. You mentioned the way you thought about martyrs and I agree; it has tainted the idea for me as well. Martyrs are usually great leaders such as those you have already mentioned and the way Marji describes them in the book, is abusing the importance of who true martyrs are.

  3. The life of Marjane Satrapi in the Persepolis. Really opened my eyes on how cruel some people can be at times. Killing people for what they believe in is never acceptable under any circumstances. Marjane was a very shattered child growing up in Iran, all she knew was what she was taught by her family members. She did not know what true freedom was until she was sent to a catholic school where is became friends with her roommate. Although she ended up leaving the institution earlier then was expected, she had a chance to live at her friend house with her parents. Her friend Julie was not necessarily the best influence on her, since Julie was already expose to a lot of things that wasn’t good for her at such an early age.
    Marjane like so many people living in the east, are so fearful of what their life will turn out to be. To be free sometimes, means that a person will have to break the norm, to find freedom, or they will have to leave the country of origin in order to be safe.

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