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Some sources opposed to the Iranian government allege that during the Iran–Iraq War (1980–88), Plastic Keys to Paradise were distributed to young Iranian military volunteers by the Islamic Republic of Iran leadership. It was reported in the Western media that golden-colored, plastic "paradise keys" were widely issued, each one symbolizing the certain entry into "paradise" for volunteers who were killed.
Soldiers were issued metallic identification bags, and/or colorful identification cards, along with a copy of Shaikh Abbass Qumi (d. 1959) prayer book entitled Mafatih al-Janan or Keys to Paradise. Iranian soldiers' possession of military and religious items enabled some opponents of Khomeini to argue that the soldiers had been issued 'Plastic Keys to Heaven' – a concept that they hoped would evoke derision in the Western media against Khomeini.
Professor Seyed Marandi considered the "absurdity" of the plastic keys (for which he would like to see an evidence of, as a veteran of the Iran–Iraq war) and similar allegations, a feature of orientalist discourse which is not challenged by its Western audience, "as they reinforce the dominant representations of Iran in America by constructing an exotic Iran principally derived from US archives".
While covering the 'Imposed War' a New York Times reporter claimed that: "I saw Iranian soldiers ready for battle wearing small gold keys on their uniforms where other soldiers might wear medals. They were the keys that would immediately take their souls to heaven if they should die."
Accounts of the plastic keys have also come from Iranian civilians who lived in Iran during the war. One such example comes from Marjane Satrapi's illustrated memoir Persepolis, wherein the author relates how she and her mother were shocked to learn from one of their neighbors in Tehran that gold painted plastic keys to paradise had been distributed to the boys in her son's school. The boys were reportedly told that the key would grant them admission to heaven if they died in battle, which caused the neighbor to tell Satrapi and her mother, "All my life, I've been faithful to this religion. If it's come to this... well I can't believe in anything anymore..."