Broadway Bombers: Iran's Revolutionary Guard Launches Theater Production

July 7, 2023

An Iranian state terrorist group has dipped its toes into show business, financing a theatrical adaptation of a Persian epic poem recounting a mythical history of Iran.

The play, The Seven Quests of Esfandiyar, is based on Shahnameh, an Iranian epic that has been compared to Homer’s Odyssey. It follows a Persian prince who receives a blessing from Zoroaster, the central figure in Iran’s pre-Islamic religion, and must embark on a journey to save his sisters. Notably, the original poem contains verses that have been characterized as being critical of Islam.

Theatergoers noted that the play doesn’t focus much on Islam, but rather on Iranian nationalism. "There’s no trace of Islamic ideology in this show," one Iranian journalist observed, "rather it is purely nationalistic, which is why it’s valuable."

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was formed in the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian revolution to aid in enforcing a strict interpretation of Islamism by suppressing internal dissenters and countering supposed foreign efforts to subvert the Iranian government. The Revolutionary Guard denies distancing itself from Islam in producing the play, arguing that they also have a mandate to promote nationalism, which they say the production accomplishes.

The U.S. State Department designated the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization in September 2019. The group has ties to a number of other Islamic terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, to whom they have funneled millions of dollars.

Islamic fundamentalism has been the source of recent controversy in Iran. Last year, mass protests broke out after a woman was arrested for violating Iran’s hijab mandate and later died under unusual circumstances in police custody. The protests are ongoing, with over 500 protesters having been killed and nearly 20,000 detained. A 2020 survey also undercut the Iranian government's claim that the country is overwhelmingly Shia Muslim.

Published under: Culture , Iran , Terrorism