Abstract

"In 2016, I interviewed a middle-aged man about Saddam Hussein's chemical attack on Sardasht. Suddenly he began to cry while telling his story, as if it had happened yesterday and not 30 years ago: "The war ended and we are all still coughing," he said. His crying and his last sentence left me with an insistent question: "How has this pain not become normal to him after all of these years living in Sardasht and experiencing chronic illness caused by chemical weapons? I attempted to comfort him by expressing my anger towards the media, the black weapons market and the Iraqi government's policies, without considering his everyday affairs or his physical and mental suffering even though his words frequently evoked his "lived body" in the war: children, insurance, medications, spring winds, lungs and etc. The sudden experience of such a distance in terms of how the man and me perceived the people's suffering led me to study and consider the "post-war body" in bombarded civilian populations, specifically the suffering of people who have lived in chemical-exposed zones, and also the way in which their lived bodies and awareness have been shaped by the active toxicity of these weapons. However, one can find a large number of photographs, medical studies and documents related to chemical weapons conventions on various websites and in academic sources while the "people" who suffered from the long-term effects of the war in this area are strangely absent from these sources. For me, the essential point of this issue is about how civilians internalize the effects of chemical weapons and define the nature of suffering in times of peace after the Iran-Iraq War. My working hypothesis is based on a recurrent motif that I've heard frequently in people's daily talk in border towns which is that instead of using dates when discussing their memories or events irrelevant to the war, these people refer to "before the chemical bombardment" and "after the chemical bombardment," as if this incident were a starting point for another kind of life in their eyes; a period of transition in the population's "being in the world," and therefore resulted in a transformation in their cultural and social practices. The research to advance this discussion is based on ethnography and focuses on this population's lived experience of pain, suffering, illness, and patienthood. Furthermore, since the this population's lived experience of disease has been caused by chemical materials and the lasting toxicity of these weapons, the research will also take chemical-ethnography (toxic ethnography) into account, namely, a study of the changed state of being that allows what the toxic exposure has prepared, is considered to think about the body, an "un-worlding," where the "normal" order of the world is lost. The he discussion framework is also based on social suffering theory, which focuses not only on illness but also on various forms of human suffering, such as grief, frustration, desperation, impotence, and desolation that result from structural inequalities and various forms of political, economic and structural violence that produce pain and misery."

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