When Everywhere is Karbala: Murals, Martyrdom and Propaganda in Iran

Bill Rolston

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16 Citations (Scopus)
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In Tehran, murals depicting men who died in the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the Iran–Iraq war of 1980–1988 are ubiquitous. The murals represent an exercise in state propaganda, serving to remind citizens that these men died not simply for the nation but for Islam; they are martyrs. This message resonates with deeply held religious views in Iran. There is constant reference to the Battle of Karbala and the martyrdom of Imam Hossein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. This is seen to prefigure the revolt of the people against the Shah in 1979, the defence of the Revolution against Saddam Hussein in the 1980s and, furthermore, the claim of the Iranian opposition that the ideals of the Islamic Revolution have been distorted by politicised clerics. In propagating the myth of Karbala, the murals function to control the masses, bolster elite power and marginalise opposition to that power.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-23
Number of pages21
JournalMemory Studies
Issue number1
Early online date13 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Feb 2020


  • Ashura
  • Imam Hossein
  • Iran
  • martyrs
  • murals
  • propaganda


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