Cries from paradise

Amir is plain-spoken when he talks about the place called Behesht-e Zahra – the Paradise of Zahra – but a quiet awe sets in quickly.

“It’s a massive cemetery on the outskirts of Tehran, on the way to the city of Qum,” he says. “It’s just been growing and growing and growing at an extraordinary rate.”

The almost impossible spectrum of Iranians who rest there tell the country’s story. Ayatollah Khomeini lies in the Paradise of Zahra, along with victims of the Iran-Iraq war, martyrs of the 1979 revolution, clerics, dissidents, soldiers and laymen. After a beautiful young protester named Neda Agha-Soltan was killed in 2009 – a death that would be seen by hundreds of millions – she, too, was interred there.

So when two U.S.-based expatriates, Amir and Khalil (who remain anonymous to protect their families in Iran), launched a graphic novel in an ambitious attempt to dramatize the Iranian protest, Zahra’s Paradise didn’t just give the project a name, but an emotional core.

“So many Iranians lie buried there,” Amir says. “So much youth, so much life that’s been wasted there.”

Set at the height of last year’s bloody “Green revolution,” Zahra’s Paradise tells the story of a young Tehrani blogger and his mother (also named Zahra), who are searching for his vanished brother, Mehdi. The story is drawn in spare, flowing lines, stepping readers through a bleak vision of Tehran after the protests, emptied of ... >>>

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