Navigating and resisting the compulsory military service in Iran: embodied experiences of non-heterosexual Iranian men

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the homosocial space of the all male military service, (hetero)masculinity and gender normativity are promoted and bravery and warrior mentality are highly valued. On this basis, policing gender and sexuality is a relevant issue, aiming to reward heteronormativity and hyper masculinity and marginalize non heterosexuality and gender nonconforming performances. In the Iranian context, since the Iran Iraq war (1980–1988), military service has produced a feature of militarized (hetero)masculinities through the cult of martyrdom. It enforces soldiers to stand up against the enemy, be willing to seek martyrdom and sacrifice themselves in order to protect the Islamic Iranian homeland. It is a symbol of entering adulthood and during that time young men are expected to embody the official ideology which revolves around heteronormativity and strict gender norms. In this context, the focus of this paper is the embodied experiences of those young conscripts who do not embody the (hetero)masculine ideal, because they are either non heterosexual or do not fit into the strict regime of gender. Drawing on ethnographic data, and policy documents, this paper shows how the idea of the (hetero)masculine ideal has been translated into practice through the dispositif of the sarbazi and how some young Iranian non heterosexual men try to resist conscription while others try to find ways to carve out a liminal heterotopic space during their military service.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
JournalAsiatische Studien - Études Asiatiques
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 24 Dec 2021

Cite this