War can be one of the most negative reflections of humanity, involving unimaginable violence to human beings both physically and psychologically. When our shared humanity is recognized, deep connections can be built across cultural divides, which can support both inner and outer peace.
The short film, My Enemy, My Brother, documents the relationship of two soldiers who first encounter each other in combat during the Iran-Iraq war. In 1982, 13-year-old Iranian soldier Zahed Haftlang met 18-year-old Iraqi soldier, Najah Aboud, in a bunker at the battle of Khorramshahr. Zahed, who was ordered to kill any surviving Iraqi soldiers, chose instead to save Najah's life. Twenty years later, the two men met again by chance in Canada.
The Iran-Iraq war lasted from 1980 to 1988, making it longer than both the first and second world wars. The war resulted in at least a million casualties on both sides and at least a half a million soldiers became permanently disabled. Iraq invaded Iran with the intent of settling long-term border disputes as well as becoming the dominant power in the Persian Gulf, but these goals were not achieved. The war ended with a United Nations brokered ceasefire in 1988, with the last prisoners of war exchanged in 2003.* According to scholar and political scientist, P.W. Singer, the first modern use of child soldiers in the Middle East occurred during this war, when Iran recruited soldiers ages 12 and above, pulling thousands of children from school. Singer estimates that approximately 100,000 Iranian boys lost their lives during the conflict.**
According to the International Red Cross, prisoners of war on both sides were treated inhumanely, conflicting with the Geneva Convention,*** and tens of thousands of Iraqi and Iranian soldiers were unaccounted for as late as 2008.****
Connections to National Standards
Common Core English Language Arts. SL.9-10.1 and SL.11-12.1. Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 (or 11-12) topics texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies. D2.Psy.2.9-12. Investigate human behavior from biological, cognitive, and sociocultural perspectives.
College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies. D2.His.3.9-12. Use questions generated about individuals and groups to assess how the significance of their actions changes over time and is shaped by the historical context.