An Iranian Photographer’s Uncensored Look at The Islamic Revolution

"I did not want to compromise on the images I wanted to show and frankly, I thought for many years that getting a permit to publish such a book was a near-impossible dream..."

The photographs of Kaveh Kazemi featuring the Iranian revolution and its aftermath show two sides to the story. They are images that didn’t make the cut into official Iranian history books. When State media is the only media, fake news is the only news. So there’s no sign in official despatches of the photo (above) of two women in pre-Revolution fashion being let away by armed Islamists. Kaveh Kazemi, 28 in 1979, followed the women after a protest against the introduction of the compulsory veil. They lost the veil and their freedom.

A group of women protesting against wearing the Islamic veil, while waving their veils in the air outside the office of the prime minister in Tehran, Iran, in March 1979.

A group of women protesting against wearing the Islamic veil, while waving their veils in the air outside the office of the prime minister in Tehran, Iran, in March 1979.

“In 1978 and 1979 the people unanimously wanted the Shah out,” he says from his home in Tehran. “Now there is disappointment among many, but the feeling is very different. Still the majority wants to see reforms within the existing system.”

 

Kaveh Kazemi

A demonstrator in Tehran holds a banner of Ayatollah Khomeini.

His photojournalism is contained in Revolutionaries, the First Decade. Published in Iran, Kaveh Kazemi says the State’s censors didn’t much like the book, seeking to remove some 20 images. “The publisher and I objected, saying we couldn’t alter actual historic events,” he said. “They reduced it to one image, not a bad score… I did not want to compromise on the images I wanted to show and frankly, I thought for many years that getting a permit to publish such a book was a near-impossible dream… Somehow some reforms are working and those in power are much more realistic nowadays.”

 

Kaveh Kazemi

Hezbollah forces attacking leftist students outside Tehran university campus in April, 1981.

Kaveh Kazemi

An army officer guarding the SAVAK (National Intelligence and Security Organization) headquarters in Tehran, stands on top of an armoured personnel carrier, with three demonstrators as a gesture of unity, on the afternoon when the army conceded and the Iranian Revolution was declared victorious, 11th February 1979. (Photo by Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)

A veteran from revolutionary forces with severe face burns sitting next to his bride, beneath a photo of Ayatollah Khomeini, in a wedding arranged by the marriage bureau of the Martyrs Foundation in Tehran.

Kaveh Kazemi

An Iranian revolutionary guard weeping by the body of his brother during heavy shelling by Iraqi forces at Sare Pole Zahab in Iran’s Kermanshah Province.

Ayatollah Khomeini, sitting on a balcony to the right, addressing clergymen who came to Jamaran mosque to see him on March 1, 1982.

Kaveh Kazemi

Demonstrators looting government bureaus and banks, liquor shops, cabarets and cinemas during the revolution in Tehran.

Kaveh Kazemi

Kaveh Kazemi

Members of Hezbollah mocking a woman who had taken off her veil in protest.

Kaveh Kazemi

A group of women Basiji, or mobilized volunteer forces, learning to use gas masks in case of a chemical attack by Saddam Hussein’s government. 1988.

“For me, photography is best at its simplest and purest form, looking at things directly.But it’s not just clicking the shutter, you also have to convey a message… To put in perspective what you are witnessing.”

 

See more of Kaveh’s excellent work at his website.