When 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini died at the hands of morality police who deemed she was wearing her head covering improperly, it sparked a wave of unrest in the country — A country that is difficult to document.
Journalists had to decide the best way to publish imagery from inside a country that is goverened by a regime that is hostile to foreign press. At the recent Visa Pour l’Image photojournalism festival in France, there was the first-ever anonymous photographer exhibit.
Two journalists from the prestigious Le Monde curated the anonymous exhibit, as they painstakingly authenticated each image for the exhibition Uprising in Iran.
“From September 16 2022, the day Mahsa Amini died, the reality of what was happening in the streets was visible on social networks,” Marie Sumalla, a Le Monde journalist, tells RFI.
“It was important to think about how we were going to collect these images in order to verify them, publish them, and give them to our readers.”
The French journalist brought in Iranian experts to confirm the images by geolocating them, checking sources, and verifying dates.
“From then on, the videos and photos began to appear on social networks, but with great difficulty,” adds Le Monde journalist Ghazal Golshiri.
“In Iran, WhatsApp and Instagram have been blocked since September 2022. Facebook and Twitter have been blocked since 2009, and Telegram since 2019. So the Iranians need anti-filtering software.”
Award-Winning Photography Alongside Citizen Journalism
Uprising in Iran also includes a powerful photo by Ahmad Halabisaz of a young Iranian woman sitting in a busy square in the Iranian capital Tehran with her hair uncovered, defying the mandatory hijab law in the strict Islamic country. The photo has received multiple awards, including an honorable mention at the World Press Photo awards.
“We felt it was important to show Ahmad Halabisaz’s photograph. Ahmad is someone we have worked with on several occasions,” says Sumalla.
“The fact that this photograph won a World Press award was an important sign for the journalism community.”
For more, head to the Visa Pour l’Image website.
Image credits: Photographs by Darafsh