There are a number of symbols that have been used in Turtles Can Fly. First, Bahman Ghobadi uses the red fishes to represent a sign of hope - the elusive U.S. intervention mission in Kurdistan. After helping Agrin to get water from ponds, Satellite showed her another pond in which three children had been drowned. Although Agrins attempts to rescue the three children were in vain, he still vowed to get the red fish one day. The director uses the symbol of the red fish to illustrate the fact that America had no intentions of turning Iraq into paradise as it has envisioned. On the contrary, the U.S. intervention would only make the situation in Iraq out of control. This is vividly depicted in the final scene, where despite waiting the Americans for a considerable duration, Satellite turns his back on Pesheows question, Look, didnt want to see the Americans? upon their arrival and walks to the opposite direction. As the color of the fish fades away so does hope in Satellite. The American heroism that Satellite had emphatically championed for at the beginning of the film, fails to save anyone by the end. The director presents the story of a region in which there is no resolution regardless of how hard other regions attempt to create a better ending.
Furthermore, the main characters, who all happen to be children, symbolize the ideology of victimization that is often instigated by military aggression. The narrative is told largely through the lens of these children, specifically Agrin, Hengeow and Riga. Their lives and suffering draw a vivid picture of the plight of children during war. A number of scenes demonstrate how devastated the area is and the socio-economic plight of the locals attributed to conflict and Saddam Husseins policy. This is depicted in Ismails frustration, Look what Saddam has done to us, we have no water, no electricity, no homes and no schools, to hell with Saddam and his clique! Moreover, a host of children are not only orphaned, but also dwell in a refugee camp, a majority missing arms and legs as a result of bombings and landmine, and make their living by unearthing and selling unexploded landmines.
Also, Agrins blind child, Riga is another symbol of suffering or victimization due to war. Riga is a product of rape where her mother was assaulted by Iraqi soldiers. Through flashback, it is vivid how Agrin underwent traumatic suffering primarily as depicted in her rape ordeal that occurred in a pond. Riga is presented as a totally unfortunate child. Being an offspring that was conceived out of rape, is an excellent symbol of the horrifying experience Agrin encountered during the course of the war in Iraq. Additionally, the symbol of rape also represents the invasion of Kurdistan that has been raped by many other nations like the girl (Agrin) in the narrative. Also, Rigas blindness might be a symbol of the devastating impact of chemical weapons and landmines that were launched on the Kurdistan.
Besides that, the leaflets that American helicopters drop upon their arrival symbolize the U.S. rescuer of the Western nations, particularly championed by the U.S. In tandem with Hengeows prediction and read through Satellites voice, the leaflets are drafted in a peculiar manner purporting that the Americans would end the Kurdistans suffering, injustice and misery, are their best friends bringing good news and paradise. It is clear that the American mission was to overthrow Saddams rule, which would stop the suffering of Iraq as a nation and its people and restore freedom and democracy. These are values anchored on the western liberal democracy.
There are other symbols that are worth mentioning. The breaking of the arm of Saddam Husseins statue is a symbol of Americans overthrowing of Saddam and the ultimate ending of his reign in Iraq. Also, Agrin represents Kurdish beauty that is unfortunately tampered with by Iraqi soldiers as well as the outcome of the U.S. invasion.
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