The New Karbala

September 25th, 2016

Every Day is 'Ashura and Every Soil is Karbala, ca. 1981
Posters and other graphic media produced during the Iran-Iraq War collapsed the historical past with the present, as soldiers were depicted as martyrs of the Battle of Karbala (680 AD). The 7th-century battle symbolized the seminal act of martyrdom and the promise of salvation according to Shi’i beliefs.

By depicting the ongoing war alongside the Battle of Karbala, wartime graphic arts sponsored by various government ministries and organizations imagined Shi’i sacred history as unfolding in the present. In so doing, poster arts were fitted into a larger symbolic framework of salvation by verbally and visually presenting the Iran-Iraq War as an extension and vindication of the Battle of Karbala. As a consequence, soldiers were encouraged to sacrifice themselves on the battlefield, their martyrial acts heralding the promise of salvation in the afterlife