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During the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), Plastic Keys to Paradise were allegedly distributed to young Iranian military volunteers by the Islamic Republic of Iran leadership.[1] It was reported in the western media that golden-colored, plastic "paradise keys" were widely issued, each one symbolizing the certain entry into "paradise" (heaven: al-Janna) for volunteers who were killed.

The claim is disputed by scholars of the Iran-Iraq war.[2][3] Soldiers were issued metallic identification tags, and/or plastic identification cards, along with a copy of Shaikh Abbass Qumi (d. 1959) prayer book entitled ‘Mafatih al-Janan’ or “Keys to Paradise”. Iranian soldiers' possession of military and religious items enabled some opponents of Khomeini to argue that the soldiers had been issued ‘Plastic Keys to Heaven’ – a concept that they hoped would evoke derision in the Western media against Khomeini.[2]

Professor Seyed Marandi considered the "absurdity" of the plastic keys claims (for which he would like to see an evidence of, as a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war) and similar allegations, a feature of orientalist discourse which is not challenged by its Western audience, "as they reinforce the dominant representations of Iran in America by constructing an exotic Iran principally derived from US archives".[3] While covering the ‘Imposed War’ a New York Times reporter claimed that: “I saw Iranian soldiers ready for battle wearing small gold keys on their uniforms where other soldiers might wear medals. They were the keys that would immediately take their souls to heaven if they should die.”[4] No photographs of the keys have appeared.

See alsoEdit


  1. Aslan, Reza (2006). No god But God. Random House. p. 190. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 “Khomeini’s Search for Perfection: Theory and Reality” by Baqer Moin in Pioneers of Islamic Revival, 2005 ed. by Ali Rahnema, p. 68.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Seyed Mohammed Marandi (June 2008). "Reading Azar Nafisi in Tehran". pp. 179–189(11). Digital object identifier:10.1179/147757008x280768. 
  4. Persian Mirrors, 2000 ed. by Elain Sciolino, p. 178.

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