It Seemed the Better Way
My uncle is buried in a graveyard intended for the political prisoners of the 80s. There are many broken tombstones lying around in this section. The tombstones were broken at times by people we did not know but could guess where they were coming from. The tombstones later would be replaced with a new one by the families of the departed but it was only a matter of time for the cycle to be repeated, some families gave up in the process, some did not.
Most people buried in the graveyard belonged to an organization called The People’s Mojahedin of Iran (MEK) aka Monafeghin’ (hypocrites) which is now a political–terrorist organization that advocates “overthrowing the Iranian government and installing its own leadership. MEK started as a student movement opposed to the Shah, they gained many followers, often very young ones who were attracted to the organization mainly because of the fiery and emotional speeches of its leaders. After the 1979 Revolution that overthrew the Shah, the MEK clashed with the new clerical regime and was soon exiled from Iran. They carried out a series of bombings and assassinations in Iran in the 1980s which led to a wave of arrests and executions. The MEK took shelter in Iraq where they allied with Sadam Hussein against Iran during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.
I once asked my mother about my uncle, why didn’t he denounce this violent organization? Did he think they were worth fighting and dying for? She said she had asked the same questions from him before he got arrested at the age of 19. He wanted to denounce the organization, he did not think they were worth fighting for anymore. But, he was afraid of what the organization could do to him and his family if he quit.
Even though these tombstones are not public monuments, they certainly have a public role within the current political climate. As it happens when historical rupture occurs, it affects people physically and emotionally and symbols often represent ideas behind these consequences. In that sense, public monuments in one political context could be celebrating certain ideals, while in the other the very same monuments are destroyed or left to oblivion. For that reason, there is a parallel between public monuments and the public role of tombstones, especially because of ideological meaning they carry.
*This project was supported by GuestRoomMaribor Residency.