Photographer Michael Coyne On His Image Of An Iranian Rehab Center: 'A Symbol Of The Futility And Waste Of War'

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© Michael Coyne, Rehabilitation Centre, Iran (1985)

By Michael Coyne

Photographer Michael Coyne

Over a period of eight years, I documented life in Iran at a time when the country was mostly closed to international media. I was there after the Islamic revolution when the religious leaders were at the height of their power, and during the Iran/Iraq war.

I travelled with a film crew and on one occasion was invited to visit a rehabilitation center for people wounded in the war with Iraq, to see injured men lying in bed or sitting nearby, their limbs swathed in bandages. Because everyone was focused on the film crew, I was able to wander away from the ward, unnoticed, until I came across a room with callipers and artificial limbs piled on the floor and leaning against the wall. On the wall above there was an elaborately framed painting of Khomeini and a verse in Persian, which I later learned was a poem by a Shiite mystic urging dedication to Allah.

I immediately realized what a powerful image this could be as a symbol of the futility and waste of war. To me, also, it showed what became of the many young men who at, Khomeini’s urging, ran across minefields to clear the way for the advancing Iranian army. It made me angry then, as it still does, to think that the Basij, as they were called, some of them as young as twelve, were persuaded to commit, as I saw it, suicide. Because I was shooting with Kodachrome 11 (ISO 64) in very low lighting, I used a tripod with a cable release but, due to nervousness, bungled the first shots. I then managed to take a number of frames before a medical person came in and angrily asked me to leave.

Later on, this was one of the 35 photographs published in National Geographic magazine as a photographic essay entitled "Iran Under the Ayatollah."

WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath will show at the Annenberg Space for Photography through June 2, 2013. Learn more about Michael Coyne on his official website.

Comments

I don't think Khomeini urged soldiers to run on the minefields. To understand why Iranians fought the way they did you need to understand their faith and what they believe in. Stories like this does not do any good, does not show the truth. Making titles like 'Iran under Ayatollah' is just a joke. Have you forgot who brought the war on Iran? who showed the green light to Iraq to attack Iran? who gave the Chemical weapons to Iraq? The western media is just out of touch with reality and it's just acting like a puppet. It's a shame to see articles like this. To depict Khomeini as devil while the west committed the worst and inhuman atrocities against Iran, shows the true face of the west. Articles like this just proves that Khomeini was right about the fact that America is the great Satan.

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