Iraq's extensive use of chemical weapons, and deliberate attacks on civilian targets. A notable feature of the war was the state-sanctioned glorification of martyrdom among Iranian children; the discourses on martyrdom formulated in the Iranian Shia Islamic context led to the widespread usage of human wave attacks and thus had a lasting impact on the dynamics of the conflict. (source1 source2)

Wikipedia mentions a "lasting impact". But what was it? Ideological? Strategic? Perhaps both?

  • Neither here, nor there, but child soldiers can make operational sense, albeit in a twisted and disgusting way: by recruiting mostly indigenous teens, Shining Path in Peru ensured that it would not be getting infiltrated by undercover cops. Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 22:24
  • I wonder if there's an unbiased assessment of the actual number of these children. The numbers quoted by source 2 gives unrealistic KIA/WIA ratio, for starters.
    – alamar
    Commented May 21 at 10:36

4 Answers 4


The lasting impact was the glorification of martyrs as examples to society at large and paying of families of those who died in the pursuit of political gain. There's a whole Wikipedia article on that.

To encourage volunteers, religious leaders broadened the definition of a martyr, announcing that all fatalities of the war [with Iraq] were to be considered martyrs for the country, and therefore for Islam.

The largest impact has been the funding and improved social status of the families of martyrs

While the loss of a loved one is clearly a tragic and distressing event for a family, the families of martyrs in Iran were well taken care of. Having a martyr in the family meant immediate and permanent social mobility for many families. It was a mark of respect to have lost a son in the war, and the public displays honoring martyrs kept the memory of a family's loss alive in the community. Even beyond the social support of the community, the families of martyrs received certain tangible benefits. A large percentage of spots in many schools were reserved for the children of martyrs and having a martyr in the family gave a job applicant an edge against other applicants. Families of war martyrs were given certificates of martyrdom at the event of their child's death which gave them discounts for groceries and clothes. Societies were set up for the sole purpose of helping the families martyrs or the "living martyrs" who were injured during the Iran/Iraq War.

This idea of funding martyrs has been exported to other areas under Iran's influence, where it has taken on a new dimension. Hamas and Fatah, for instance, both fund the families of martyrs

The Palestinian Authority Martyrs Fund is a fund operated by the Palestinian Authority (PA) that pays monthly cash stipends to the families of Palestinians killed, injured, or imprisoned while carrying out politically motivated violence against Israel.

In particular, they fund suicide bombers

Hamas has operated a separate fund for years predating before its takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007. In 2001, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas, boasted that Hamas payments to the families of prisoners and of suicide bombers totaled between $2 and $3 million. According to a 2001 report by the Israeli government, the families of prisoners received an initial lump sum payment of between $500 and $5,000, with monthly stipends of about $100, with higher payments for the families of Hamas members.

In short, by paying people to kill themselves and take as many political enemies with them, Iran has created a new type of war with people (who are often in desperate financial circumstances) turning themselves into expendable weapons for the sake of their families.

  • 2
    that's highly unusual. now i wonder what happens if some kid decides he doesn't want to become a martyr and rather quit or run away, or a suicide bomber who at the last minute decides to ask for help and not detonate? will it be disgrace for the family? repercussions? and how they even recruit? do they go to elementary schools? Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 16:00
  • 2
    @ForShaniNicoleLouk The Oscar-nominated Palestinian film "Paradise Now" gives a real feel for the conditions and how it works. Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 3:22
  • @OwenReynolds with all respect for the psychological drama, I doubt that most people carrying out suicide attacks are capable of such deep self-reflection - they are too immature, which is why children are perfect choice. Child indoctrination is a real thing in Gaza
    – Morisco
    Commented May 22 at 14:54

the discourses on martyrdom formulated in the Iranian Shia Islamic context led to the widespread usage of human wave attacks and thus had a lasting impact on the dynamics of the conflict.

For answering this question, we should take look at Iran's situation when the war began.The war began in 1980, less than two years after Iran's revolution. After the revolution, many high ranked army men in Iran were purged, so the army had become really weak, that's why Saddam decided to attack Iran. Besides, the Islamic republic created another armed force, IRGC, so that the regular army wasn't the only armed force, IRGC became more powerful as the time passed by.But IRGC was not an ordinary army, it was a kind of religious army, its members were(and still are)brainwashed and fanaticized in order to do jihad and the best choice for such operations were children, between 12 to 17. An example is Hossein Fahmideh, a 13 year-old boy whose suicide attack against an Iraqi tank became a model for other children to do the same. I remember in our books at school we saw regularly this quotation by Khomeini:

Our hero is the boy who threw himself under the tank.

The long lasting impact is using children in military operations, they sacrificed themself and opened the way for the rest of army and the regime represented them as hero and they became a model for other children to do the same thing.

  • 1
    "brainwashed and fanaticized in order to jihad" is a subjective and rather meaningless opinion. Many Iranians view IRGC as a necessary concomitant of the Iranian will to safeguard their national soverignty and remain resilient and strong in a very volatile region. Commented May 21 at 8:08

The impact of Iranian martyrs in general was more far-reaching and deeper than merely acquiring funds or gaining social status. It has had a deep impact on the collective psyche of Iranian society, stemming from their religious view of martyrdom. I'd say its impact is ideological first and foremost. One consequence of this is the effect this has on Iranian sovereignty, defence and national integrity: the idea of martyrdom motivates Iranians to want to create a strong and resilient nation capable of withstanding any external or internal threats.

The Iranians didn't have an intact army at the end of the revolution (due to purges and defections); most of the war reponsibility was shouldered by young Iranian men who had participated in the revolution and protests. The average age was 20-30 years among soldiers, officers, commanders etc. In such an atmosphere it was quite natural of children to willingly join the army to die in "glorious" battles for the sake of their motherland.

The story of the sacrifice of Hossein Fahmideh still resonates strong in Iranian culture and reminiscences of the days of the Iraq-Iran war; parallels are drawn to the young martyrs in the epic battle of Karbala, a central and cordial part of Shia Islam.

[Edit: Also interesting to add the impact of Muharram mourning ceremonies where Shia Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, grandson of Prophet Muhammad, who was slain in the battle of Karbala along with his family and companions; these mourning ceremonies played a fervent role in galvanizing young Iranian men and boys, inspiring them to join the war effort and aspire for martyrdom.]

  • 1
    Very interesting answer... But there is still something that I don't get about the difference between the Muslim and Western (Judeo-Christian) attitudes to children. Westerners prioritize defending children and keeping them out of harm - dying so that children can live and have better future is viewed as heroic in western culture. Sending children to martyrdom and then crying over their deaths seems contradictory... (no offense intended, just trying to understand reasoning)
    – Morisco
    Commented May 22 at 8:38
  • 1
    @FourLegsGoodTwoLegsBad it's an interesting disparity really, like a cultural clash. But I think context is necessary: when it comes to the Iran-Iraq war, the Iranians simply didn't have an army, so everybody felt it necessary to join in the war effort, young boys included. Iran had emerged from a revolution where they were in the arduous process of forming a new government. On the grassroot level, you didn't have a functional administration to filter war recruits maybe. If Iran were to fight a war today, this wouldn't be happening, since today they have a regular army. Commented May 22 at 8:43
  • 1
    @FourLegsGoodTwoLegsBad but I have to add; young boys weren't really allowed to join unless explicitly allowed by parental permission. If I'm not mistaken; there was an service age limit as well (although not implemented efficiently). Many young boys faked their parent permission to join. If you talk with Iranian veterans: the war was seen as an reincarnation of the epic battle of Karbala. Commented May 22 at 8:49

have had some comments below @AbdelAleem's answer, but were removed, so adding this answer to bold some aspects maybe hidden in other answers.

In Iranian culture the Iraq-Iran war was considered as a Humanity University, many even kids were so eager to take part and grow spiritually. Hussain Fahmideh was one pattern, he did what he did for the love of God, the prophet and his household PBUT, and Imam Khomeini. Finding Islam being substantiated in Imam Khomeini, he was submitted to him as much as trying his best to do whatever he think Imam will expect people to do so. He used to say his prayers even years before the age of 15 which is the age that acting along Islamic rules become obligatory for boys in Islam. The family were living in Karaj when a battle occured in Kurdistan. He went there but he was sent back due to his age, and his parents were asked to prevent him from doing so in future. There he said don't bother yourself I will be anywhere Imam wants soldiers there. After a while he was to buy some bread for his family, but instead he gave the money to a friend to buy bread for his family, for him to travel to Khusistan to take part in Iraq-Iran war, and that the friend to keep it secret for three days. There the commander refused to accept him as a soldier, but he begged him to keep him for only a week. He got injured in that single week, but then again returned to the battle-field. The commander (not sure if he was the same commander or not) refused to accept him again, and Hussain Fahmideh secretly penetrated to a front-end and brought back an Iraqi gun and cloth so to prove he is not a child and can take part in the war, and the commander then after accepted him as a soldier. When Khurramshahr was surrounded by Iraqi forces and they were continuously advancing toward the city, Hussain and his friend were there, and his friend was injured. The Iraqi tanks were close and he could do nothing to prevent them, so he took some grenades and went toward a tank. He was shot in leg but continued and exploded the tank. A single tank was exploded but a column of tanks stopped advancing and returned back out of fear. Hussain Fahmideh was aged only 13 when he was martyred. (source in Persian)

It was not only Hussain Fahmideh who took part such eagerly in the Iraq-Iran battle. Look for another example to Mehrdad Azizullahy, the 14 years Martyr, being interviewed (the interview in Persian). He says in this interview that soldiers coming back from the battle-field used to explain how human-making, sin-free, and full of opportunities to grow spiritually, was the battle-field, so that many were interested to experience the atmosphere and grow as better humans there, at the same time to defend Islam against the whole globe (in Iran people often consider the war not merely between Iran and Saddam Hussain, but between Iran and all the Western and Eastern countries who were supplying Saddam with all sorts of armors, weapons, crafts, while not even selling a simple Barbed wire to Iran. That Germany was giving Saddam Chemical Weapons and then accepting Iranian people who were confronted to Chemicals in battle-field to actually study the effectiveness of their own weapons is so famous among the Iranians. The situation was not so different from what now happens in Ukraine.) If you look at the interview you do not see a 14 years old child which appears to be, but he is an aged pious man in the body of a child. Many scholars have identified such children or youth (like Ibrahim Hadi who was perhaps a very good example in this regard, not to mention many young commanders all under 30 or 40, each being so pious and humble, at the same time they were so brave and ingenious) as their patterns, asking for prayer from them.

About how martyrdom has effects on Iranians, one can refer to what Imam Khomeini told about it.

ملتی که شهادت دارد اسارت ندارد ... translated into "A nation that has martyrdom will never be captive"

یک همچو ملتی که آرزوی شهادت می کند، این ملت دیگر خوف ندارد ... translated into "such a nation that longs for martyrdom, this nation no longer has fear"

در بستر مردن، مردن است و چیزی نیست، لکن در راه خدا رفتن شهادت است و سرفرازی و تحصیل شرافت برای انسان و برای انسان ها ... translated into "Dying in the bed is dying and nothing more, but dying in the path of God is martyrdom and pride and education of honor for himself and for the human being"

مرگ سرخ به مراتب بهتر از زندگی سیاه است translated into "dying in red is better than living in black"

هنر آن است که بی هیاهوهای سیاسی و خودنمایی های شیطانی ، برای خدا به جهاد برخیزد؛ و خود را فدای هدف کند نه هوا؛ و این هنر مردان خداست. translated into "It is the art of making Jihad for God without political noises and evil displays. and sacrifice yourself to the goal, not the desire; And this is the art of men of God."

هیچ هراسی به دلتان راه ندهید، که شما پیروزید _انشاءالله. چه کشته بشویم و بکشیم حق با ماست.ما اگر کشته هم بشویم در راه حق کشته شدیم و پیروزی است، و اگر بکشیم هم در راه حق است و پیروزی است. translated into "Do not let any fear into your heart, that you will win - God willing. Whether we kill or are killed, the Truth (God) is with us. If we are killed, we are killed in the path of truth and it is victory, and if we kill it is also in the path of truth and it is victory."

And this love for martyrdom makes people brave, they will not fear the enemies even if they are so much superior in military power and troops number, even not important if they have nuclear weapons, no matter how strong they are, the God is yet way stronger. This, in my opinion, is the lasting impact on the dynamics of the conflict not only on Iraq-Iran war, but on all recent conflicts between Iran or its proxies and the Westerners, and Israel.

  • This appears to focus on proselytising about specific martyrs rather than actually answering the question (which is why your comments were deleted as well).
    – F1Krazy
    Commented May 22 at 14:13
  • @F1Krazy, not sure why you see it as proselytising specific martyrs, its intention-reading perhaps. Tried my best to be on-topic. Why some children were engaged in fighting against Iraq was examined by two good examples. What was the motive force with the martyrdom of the children being a good manifestation of it was also explained. Why there was considered a lasting impact for this motive force was also explained. Even it is clear from the answer that the "lasting impact" is ideological and not strategic. So why still blaming me for not answering the question?
    – owari
    Commented May 22 at 14:36

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .