Images and Martyrdom: The Iranian Revolution of 1979 & Green Movement of 2009

In response to the readings on the Iranian Revolution of 1979, including Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, I have created a diptych that pits a propaganda poster from the Iranian Revolution against a poster resulting from the Green Movement, as a kind of failed Iranian revolution, of 2009. As class reading on Shiism has asserted, the phrase “every day is Ashura, every land is Karbala” speaks to the idea that Shiism’s self-identification is largely that of an underdog fighting for good against evil.

The Battle of Karbala of 680 A.D. underscores the longstanding conflict between the Sunni caliphate and the Shii Imamate, and gestures toward larger issues of succession from the Prophet and sectarianism in Islam. Ayatollah Khomeini and others appropriated the imagery from this narrative so as to play to common tropes familiar to Shiites and galvanize support for his coup. As we learned from studying the Iranian taziyeh, or passion play, Husayn, grandson of the Prophet, is depicting wearing green – the color of Islam – and Yazid, his murderer and an evil Caliph, is depicted wearing red. In much of the propaganda leading up to 1979, the West is depicted in red and the Ayatollah, or Iran more generally, is depicted in green. The picture on the left depicts the Ayatollah draped in green and holding up the Qur’an triumphantly, with a flag with the shahadeh flying in the background, while the West and the Shah are portrayed as downtrodden.

The picture on the right is from the Iranian Green Movement of 2009 that followed the presidential election in which Mousavi lost against Ahmadinejad. Protesters came out en masse demanding the ousting of Ahmadinejad. One such protester was Neda, a young, beautiful philosophy student who was shot by the Iranian police while peacefully protesting. I have chosen to depict her image against the one from 1979 so as to depict another conception of martyrdom – martyrdom for democracy. She, too, is bathed in green, while the blood from her fatal gunshot wound remains red – the color of Yazid, the color of evil. Beneath the picture of her face is her name, written simply in white – the color of Husayn’s horse at the Battle of Karbala.

Photos are sourced from:……

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