Khamenei defends controversial tours to Iran-Iraq war frontlines

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Despite high profile fatal car accidents, Iran’s supreme leader has defended tours to the sites of frontlines from the Iran-Iraq war as being necessary for remembering the sacrifices and importance of the war.

Raahian Nour (Path of Light) tours are government sponsored trips to different battle grounds from the Iran-Iraq war near the Iran-Iraq border. The former battle grounds have been turned into educational tourist destinations that are frequented by curious visitors, people who have lost family members during the war and students on school field trips.

Given that Iran has one of the worst traffic fatality rates in the world, and the deaths of students traveling to these sites have received a great deal of media coverage, some have questioned the continuation of these trips.

In a meeting with officials that operate the Raahian Nour trips, Khamenei called the trips a “good tradition” and stressed that “the key and main point of Raahian Nour tours is to create the grounds for pilgrimage and knowledge.”

He warned, “Forgetfulness and distortion are two big dangers that stalk every big historical event. The elite, scholars and officials in the arena of the sacred defense (Iran-Iraq war), with an exact understanding of this cultural resource and treasure, should not allow this epic to become the victim of forgetfulness and distortion.”

In a reference to the controversy of the fatal car accidents, Khamenei said, “Some of the events that happen on these tours must be prevented, but these types of events must not be an excuse to question the principle of this big and useful movement.”

He continued, “The sacred defense, just like a great and glorious picture, that however much the individual gets closer to the original incident and contemplates its components and makeup, will see new and wonderful dimensions of it.”

Khamenei also encouraged more films to be made about the Iran-Iraq war, which lasted from Sept 1980 to August 1988, and is often referred to as either the “sacred defense” or “imposed war” by Iranians and officials. Approximately half a million Iranians were killed in the war.

“Very good books have been written about the sacred defense,” Khamenei said. “They have the ability to be turned into appealing movies, such that all of the war regions and each of the operations of the sacred defense could also be the source of a distinguished production.”

He also recommended reading the letters and final will and testaments of those who died in the war to get a better understanding of their sacrifice.

While Khamenei did not mention specifically how the Iran-Iraq war was being “distorted,” he did say that “forgetfulness” was due to “not repeating the specifics of this big event.”