knew you wanted to be a photojournalist from the moment you picked up a
camera. How do you reconcile your passion for the news with putting
your own personal safety at risk, and ultimately, forcing you to live
in exile in France?
"Before the 2009 election, I spent
most of my time following the two candidates who were reformists.
People were really happy and hopeful that there would be change in the
country. Everyone in Iran had energy and I had this energy too,
following the candidates and capturing this energy on camera. There
was a big will from the people to make this change, but it didn't
happen - the Government remained in power and people began to protest
in the street.
"After the election, the ministry in charge of
foreign media correspondents officially banned us from reporting the
protests, and my editor advised me to stay at home as it was too
dangerous for photographers. There were 3 photographers who were
attacked and stabbed. They said stay at home, but I couldn't.
felt this was a very important moment in my country's history and
thought I'd better not lose this moment by staying at home, even if
they didn't publish my pictures. The only thing I could do was to go
out so I did not regret it later."
Why were you forced to flee?
didn't know I was in such big danger. We were getting ready to have a
new reformist government and an open atmosphere for reporters and
photographers so I was getting ready to re-open our office. But after
the election, I didn't know that people would get killed and there was
a huge depression in the country.
"The government wrote an
article about SIPA being the enemy and that anyone who worked for SIPA
was a spy. I had two other colleagues working for SIPA who were
arrested along with many other photographers.
"I got arrested in
the street. Luckily I didn't have my camera on me at the time, if I
did, I would be in jail now. I hid my camera before they could find
me. After I was arrested I never went back to home. I called my
neighbour and they said government agents had come to my house and had
gone through my things. I thought, I will hide and spent time at a
safe house, but after some time I felt the owner might report me so I
"I then heard that one of my colleagues who had been
arrested was tortured and appeared on television confessing he was a
spy. I said to myself, 'I had better not stay'."
are many Iranian journalists who have been forced into exile and are
living in Iraq or Turkey. Tell us about your journey to France and
what the future holds for you now.
3 August I fled to Iraq. I had a backpack with a few pieces of
clothing, but not my passport or my computer because the Government had
taken them. I got in contact with an alcohol smuggler and he helped me
to cross the Iran/Iraq border on foot. It took 17 hours.
thought I would go to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) but I was arrested by Iraqi security. They thought I might be
an Iranian spy. After 7 hours of interrogation they took me to the
UNHCR and I was registered as an asylum seeker on 5 August. For two
weeks I slept in the street.
"Through Reporters Sans Frontiers and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I was able to enter France on 6 November 2009.
now, I'm living only in the moment. The future seems too dark. The
job market has changed for photojournalists all over the world. I was
a good photographer and was represented by agency. Here I am just a
number until I get permission to stay. I cannot work; I cannot do
anything. I just edit my old stories.
"If I went back to Iran they will catch me and lock me up. Maybe they will release me but I will not be allowed to work.
"I hope the political situation will change so I can go back and use all the skills I have gained over the years."
Why is press freedom important to you? Why is it important for photojournalists to report what they see?
can write a book about this! People who cannot be in the field need
information and it is our role as journalists to provide that
information. So we must be free to express what is happening.
Otherwise people will lack information and not be able to judge what is
really happening. This is not just in Iran; this is everywhere."