Following the political and social turmoil that was the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Iraq was on the opportunistic offensive. Fearful that its own oppressed Shia population might rise up against the state and desirous of achieving the status of premier Persian Gulf state, Iraq attacked Iran without any warning on September 22, 1980.
Iran retaliated quickly–and unconventionally–and even used child soldiers in the process. While the minimum fighting age was 16, it was not uncommon to see 12 year olds engaged in battle, donning “keys to paradise” distributed by the Ayatollah for use in heaven upon their virtually assured death. Often used as human mine clearers, estimated death tolls of these children soldiers are as high as 100,000.
For more on Iran, check out our gallery on life under the Shah before the Iranian revolution.