Iranian President’s Photographer Defects During Assignment in New York City

Official presidential photographers lead exciting lives. President Obama’s photographer Pete Souza attends secret meetings and captures iconic photos. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s personal photographer was arrested last year after being accused of being a spy for Russia. Now Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s photographer is the latest to do something noteworthy: he defected to the United States.

CNN reports that photographer Hassan Golkanbhan was traveling to New York to photograph Ahmadinejad’s UN General Assembly address when he decided to apply for asylum. Exactly what motivated him to do so is a bit hazy:

[Golkanbhan’s lawyer] said his client is afraid of persecution because of his perceived political beliefs.

“He’s perceived as not being a supporter, or being an opponent of the Iranian regime,” O’Dwyer said. “Somebody who has betrayed the regime and who can no longer be trusted by them.”

O’Dwyer said while the cameraman didn’t have any suspicion cast on him before his trip to New York, “there were things that he was expected to do that he was uncomfortable with doing,” and “while he was here… his position on certain things became known to the Iranian government.”

Golkanbhan’s wife and two children have reportedly fled Iran as well. The locations of the family members are tightly under wraps for their safety.

It’d be crazy if Golkanbhan accepted the photography position as part of some fancy plan to escape his predicament. Given how intensely presidential photographers are screened, though, it seems unlikely that was the case.

Image credit: Photo illustration based on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 2 by Daniella Zalcman and AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II by dawvon

  • lotah

    so he is assigned as teh presidents photogtrapher but in the opposition and he fears oppression…. mhm.. sure makes sense.

  • Marlon Correa

    @Iotah ofcourse it makes sense. I mean, I’m sure it’s a good paying job for starters. Second, if you’re not a full supporter of the person you’re photographing then by all means you’re going to take advantage of being able to travel outside your country, and then ask for asylum. I don’t know if these guy are restricted to leave their country freely, but for Cubans it isn’t. A lot of famous musician would make a name for themselves, play the game as long as they could, and as soon as they traveled outside their country DONE! Asking for asylum because they didn’t share the views the government did.

  • Mansgame

    Sure, NOW his life is in danger, but it’d be a hard argument to make that he was in fear for his life and that’s why he was seeking political asylum. After all, they trusted him with such a high level job. If they’re going to give this guy a refugee visa and make him a resident then they should let anybody else who wants a better life to come here without being turned away. Is this guy’s life worth more than any other immigrant? What about those waiting for the Dream Act to pass who have no other country to go to?

    What about those in Iran protesting and getting thrown in jail? This guy was part of the government so to let him come while turning away those who are putting their lives on the line is sort of misguided.

  • Mark

    Or, he was recruited by US to gather information on personal level

  • Fadi Ayat

    I have to agree with Mark. This guy probably was approached by someone with lots of cash and promises. Very high up on the ladder.