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Oops! Iranian Billboard Honors War Dead With Images Of (Wait For It)...Archenemy Israel

Locals noticed that the soldiers on the billboard were wearing Israel military uniforms.

It was supposed to honor Iranians killed during the devastating Iran-Iraq war, but a billboard in the central Iranian city of Shiraz instead provoked mockery and was removed after it emerged that it featured not Iranian but Israeli soldiers.

The mistake prompted the head of the city council in Shiraz to order an investigation into how images of the soldiers of Israel -- Iran's long-declared enemy -- made it onto the billboard.

The billboard featured an altered image showing the backs of three male soldiers standing on a ridge looking out at the clouds. It was erected last week to mark the 38th anniversary of the start of the 1980-88 war that killed an estimated 500,000 Iranian and Iraqi soldiers, in addition to a similar number of civilians.

Soon after it was erected, locals noticed that the soldiers on the billboard were wearing Israel military uniforms, prompting a wave of criticism and mockery on social media.

It also emerged that a female soldier seen in the original was cut out of the altered image:

One Twitter user, @bahmanazadi124, wrote on September 27: “In a revolutionary move to commemorate “Martyrs Week,” officials in Shiraz have erected a large photo of three soldiers from the Israeli army!”

The user employed a pun on “revolutionary,” which refers to Iran’s clerical establishment that came to power after the Islamic Revolution in 1979:

Even the official Persian Twitter account of Israel’s Foreign Ministry mocked the billboard:

A parody account, @TheMossadIL, named after Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, tweeted on September 26: “Mission Completed: Shiraz, Iran. A tribute to the martyrs. Pictured: IDF [Israeli defense Force] Soldiers.”

The tweet ended with a “thank you” in Persian:

The controversial billboard was taken down on September 26, with Iranians taking photos of its removal:​

Sayyed Ahmadreza Dastgheyb, the head of Shiraz City Council, on September 27 called for an investigation into why the image of what he described as "soldiers from the usurper Zionist regime was used" and said that it would be necessary to "deal seriously" with those responsible, the semiofficial Mehr news agency quoted him as saying.

"It is necessary to review the issue urgently," he said.

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    Frud Bezhan

    Frud Bezhan is the editor for Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan in the Central Newsroom at RFE/RL. Previously, he was a correspondent and reported from Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Turkey. Prior to joining RFE/RL in 2011, he worked as a freelance journalist in Afghanistan and contributed to several Australian newspapers, including The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.