Every Friday, Fereshteh, 22, cleans and repaints the tombstones of the unknown martyrs in the Behesht Zahra cemetery. Her name means “angel.” No one charged her of such a task, and no one in her family has been killed in action. “These martyrs and the blood they shed are the reason we have a good life in Iran today,” she says. “We owe them our happiness and our peace. I tend to their graves, and they will help me in the next world in return. They will be my friends.” The graves of the martyrs in the war against Iraq take up the biggest part of the Behesht Zahra cemetery, which spreads over close to 1.7 square miles and houses 2 million graves. It is a real necropolis, open 24/7. One can eat and drink there. There are playgrounds for kids, all sorts of shops, salons for up to 5,000 guests during great funerals, a brand new subway station, a movie theater showing war films, as well as a computer center to find the exact location of the tombstones.

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Eshqabad (literally ‘Love Town’, near Tabas, in the east of Iran): the primary school teacher died in a car accident. The whole town is attending the funeral.

Mr. Ali Karimi is being buried at Behest Zahra cemetery in Teheran. 140 burials take place at Behest Zahra each day. Karimi’s family has hired Hadji, a professional funeral singer.

Idée originale et conception : Carole Cheysson, Conception graphique : Emma Brante, Webdesign : Crosscross, Production : Les poissons volants, Musique : Googoosh, All images © Paolo Woods, Copyright Éditions Grasset, Paris.

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