World-class Iranian filmmaker, Abbas Kiarostami paid a two-hour visit to the Tehran Peace Museum during which he was briefed on the devastating consequences of the Iran-Iraq war and the use of chemical weapons by Saddam’s army against Iranian civilians and soldiers back in the 1980s.
On December 14, Sharq, a newspaper, reported on the visit which came at the invitation of the chemical victims of the war, and on the remarks Kiarostami and disabled war veterans who were there to narrate what transpired on the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq war. The following is the translation of the daily’s report on what the renowned filmmaker saw from behind his signature glasses to be dramatically transformed:
Kiarostami is moved by what he sees
Kiarostami, who was deeply affected by the visit, said, “We are doubly indebted to the veterans who were wounded in action; once when you were defending the homeland and making sacrifices for all of us, and now that you have undertaken the responsibility to narrate your war memories in the Museum of Peace despite the harms you have suffered. It is extremely difficult to review those tragic yet epical moments, and I should admit from the bottom of my heart that nobody but you can handle this.”
He went on to say, “Ordinary people who are out there strolling and having fun in the Park-e Shahr (the City Park) will enter a whole new world after they step into this museum. Undoubtedly, they will feel a pang of conscience with two questions weighing on their minds: Why have we been so far so ignorant of the enormity of the war which is so close to us although we are somehow familiar with the question of war and defense?
“And more importantly, they compare their own responsibilities with yours wondering why you are tender-heartedly pushing hard to raise public awareness despite your physical problems? This can be a wake-up call for everyone, me included, to wholeheartedly do what it takes to help you and your cause.”
The veteran director further said, “That’s why I’m going to ask everybody to pay a visit to the museum. I also want to ask for efforts to build at least 50 other peace museums across the country where the disabled war veterans could narrate their stories so that others too can relish the pleasure of discovering [new information about the war]. I am sure people will give you a helping hand in this humanitarian measure.”
Kiarostami, who had previously come in for criticism [by Ebrahim Hatamikia, another famous Iranian movie director] for his lack of interest in the cinematic portrayal of the Sacred Defense, further said, “I entered this museum as a person with a normal mentality, but from now on I will be strongly involved in what I saw here, especially the sight of the tearful, transplanted eyes of Mr. Hassani Sa’di which is per se conclusive proof of all documentation in this museum.”
Hassan Hassani Sa’di, one of the veterans who is 70 percent disabled, shared memories [of the battlefield events] with Kiarostami and others at the start of the visit. Later the disabled veterans present in the museum thanked Abbas Kiarostami for making Two Solutions for One Problem [a 1975 Iranian short film directed by Kiarostami which involves two school kids breaking each other’s stuff and getting in a fight because they would not cooperate.] and said that they have screened his film many times to teach young visitors simple ways of seeking peace.
Peace does not approve of bowing to injustice
The disabled veterans narrated wartime events, among them: the use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war, the support Western governments lent to Saddam, concerted efforts by the UN Security Council not to name in its resolutions Iraq’s Baath party as a regime that used chemical weapons [against Iran] or the unjust bans on [life-saving] medical supplies.
Hassani Sa’di said what he is doing is the logical continuation of the Sacred Defense, “Fully supported by other governments, Saddam launched the war only to spark a bitter feud between the Iranian and Iraqi nations.
“Now that the war has come to an end thanks to the honorable resistance of the Iranian nation, we take pride in every single part of the unforgettable epic. We may make a huge miscalculation if we fail to distinguish between the Iraqi people and the performance of the Baath Party in political discussions and cinema advertising, thus keep the feud between the two neighbors alive. If so, we will help the enemies who backed Saddam achieve their once-failed objectives.
Kuniko Yamamura, the mother of Martyr Mohammad Babaei, retold her memories of the war and her son, saying as an Iranian of Japanese origin she is determined to help advance the museum’s plans for the Iranian and Japanese kids and women.
Later Mohammad Reza Taghipour, the museum’s manager who is also an Iran-Iraq war veteran said, “I lost my legs in the operation to liberate Khorramshahr, but I’ve always told myself and the museum visitors that I take pride in the fact that I’m in a wheelchair and nobody owes me a debt of gratitude for what I did.
“That I sit in a wheelchair has caused my nation to proudly stand up. Here I announce that we don’t define peace as bowing to injustice; rather, we are after peace which comes with sustainable justice, and not false peace which will be just a temporary ceasefire between the past and future wars due to failure to administer justice.”
He continued, “We lost Ahmad Zangiabadi the other day, a veteran who was one of the narrators [of the war]. He was in line for lung transplant. In spite of false propaganda which depicts the disabled veterans as bedridden, terminal patients, he came out, with his breathing mask on and his oxygen tank in tow, to narrate what has happened to this innocent nation.
Like his fellow disabled comrades, he sought to show that there is no end to the responsibility to raise awareness even in the toughest conditions and until the bitter end. Unfortunately he is not with us anymore to welcome the visitors. May God bless his soul!”
On the sidelines of the visit, a report on the Friendship Ship Celebrations featuring Iranian and Iraqi children was screened.
1. Tehran Peace Museum is a member of the International Network of Museums for Peace. Its main objective is to promote a culture of peace by raising awareness about the dire consequences of war, with a focus on the health and environmental impacts of chemical weapons.
2. Abbas Kiarostami is an Iranian film director, screenwriter, photographer and film producer. He has been involved in over forty films, including shorts and documentaries. Kiarostami attained critical acclaim for directing the Koker Trilogy, Close-Up, Taste of Cherry, and The Wind Will Carry Us. In his recent films, Certified Copy and Like Someone in Love, he filmed for the first time outside Iran, in Italy and Japan, respectively. He was awarded Palme d’Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival for Taste of Cherry.