Monday, June 8, 2009

family of the martyr

yesterday i saw part of an iraqi tv show which borrowed, i think, from two unusually different sources: iranian government policy and american television. it was a show featuring the families of men killed in the civil war. and although they made an inclusive statement near the end of the show saying something like all sects and communities were damaged by the violence, i suspect this channel's audience is shiites. so the featured family was shiite i think.

the host, a smartly dressed woman in green hijab entered the battered house. she was greeted by two women in billowing black abayas. they cared for four children. the older boy, of about 12 or 13, worked pushing a cargo cart through the city streets. i could not understand any of the conversation, really, whether because of their informal language, accent, or my preoccupation with the sad scene of human ruin revealed by the camera. the adult women's faces were marked by suffering. the children's faces were uncertain, awkward, eyes moving about.

the camera team dwelled on the chaotic, ruined nature of the house and its grounds.

at the end of the show, a truck pulls up outside the house and a team of men move a refrigerator and washing machine, as well as tables, blankets, and clothes into the kitchen. the women and children offer ritual and profuse thanks to al-forat tv.

it is a melancholy form of commercial populism, the station gaining points among the population for doing good. at the same time it reveals some of the human results of the heroic war unleashed by america's armchair hawks in 2003. i suspect none of the perpetrators will ever get the chance to visit the homes of martyrs. don't they want to get credit for their vicarious valor? what might they be afraid of?

the iranian element (i suspect) is the iranian state practice of designating "martyrs" who died fighting state enemies such as iraq and the mujahedeen militia, and rewarding their families with stipends and preferential treatment. this policy has aroused great resentment among other iranians, and defensiveness among recipients.

the american element, of course, is the popularity of home makeover shows.

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