Iran. March 2012 – 2014
The eight-year war between Iraq and Iran ended a generation ago, but Tehran’s regime has instituted a series of quasi mandatory pilgrimages to the remote border region where more than 1 million soldiers from both countries perished.
These lands are considered sacred by many Iranians due the blood of martyrs shed there. Former soldiers tell stories to younger generations relating the courage and sacrifice of those who fought and died.
The tours and week-long camps, known as Rahian-e-Noor (Passengers of Light) are yearly events held by pro-government movements like the Revolutionary Guard and the Basij, and assisted by the military. The cost is $16 for each participant.
Controversy has surrounded some of the tours, as several accidents involving buses ferrying pilgrims have led to dozens of deaths. There is also controversy over the heavy-handed pro-regime propaganda, including lectures on ideology, that have of late been used to counter the Green Movement which attempted to break the power of the ruling clerics and hardliners.