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