Art And Culture

Iraqi War Victims Focus of Photo Book

Iraqi War Victims  Focus of Photo BookIraqi War Victims  Focus of Photo Book

Iranian documentary photographer, Mehdi Monem, has focused on Iraqi victims in the wake of the 1980-1988 war imposed on Iran by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, in the second volume of his photo book ‘War Victims’.

On September 22, 1980, Iraq launched the attack on Iran by bombing border towns and cities in Iran, particularly Khorramshahr in Khuzestan Province. When the military hostilities broke out nobody imagined that the war would be one of the longest in conventional history. During the eight years, besides warfare on the fronts, border cities and urban regions were attacked by Saddam’s army with poison gas in clear violation of international norms and the 1949 Geneva conventions.

The conflict was also marked by indiscriminate ballistic-missile attacks, extensive use of chemical weapons and attacks on third-country oil tankers in the strategic Persian Gulf from which an estimated 70% of the world’s oil passed at the time.

The collection ‘War Victims’ shows landmine victims, civilians in urban areas caught in aerial bombardments, and those gassed by chemical weapons deployed by Saddam. Many women and children died in the chemical attacks. The protracted war resulted in at least a million casualties on both sides, left half a million with permanent disabilities and several billion dollars’ worth of damages to oil facilities and city infrastructure.

The bilingual book includes 137 photos in 144 pages and is set to be unveiled at an upcoming art event ‘Ten Days with Iranian Photographers’ on January 5-15, 2016, Honaronline reports.

“I am a photographer who started work from the battlefronts. I have some breathtaking memories from the war. After the war, I came across some terrible scenes, which I recorded with my camera. It is 27 years since the ceasefire and soldiers have returned to their homes and are moving on with their lives. However, many people have not forgotten the war and the scars still remain,” said Monem in an earlier interview with the online Private Magazine. The two neighbors now have cordial relation but still have to sign a peace treaty.

  Averse to War

In the second volume, Monem decided to focus on the Iraqi people who were injured and maimed in the bloody war. “I visited several families and have taken some photos, although my work was impeded due to the presence of the ISIS militant group” in parts of the neighboring Arab country.

At first I thought I might not have the same feelings towards the Iraqis as I have for my own people.” But when he met the victims of the war on the other side of the border his stance changed, giving way to sympathy, he said.

The photos are the result of his feelings of aversion to war. “I have tried my best to convey this feeling to people all over the world. The mission of ‘War Victims’ photos is an effort to help create a peaceful world, since there is no winner in a war.”

Monem said to him photography “is a kind of pictorial conversation which links me to my subjects through photographs and my lens. My camera allows me to show the people’s happiness, pain and suffering to the world. In this way, I convey an important message against war and violence.”

The earlier volume of the photo book included pictures from areas along Iran’s western border - the provinces of Kurdistan, Khuzestan, Ilam, West Azarbaijan and Kermanshah. They include images from Sardasht, in West Azarbaijan province, which on June 28, 1987 became the first Iranian town hit by a chemical gas attack, and one of the worst affected, so much so that it become known as Iran’s Hiroshima.

Born in 1961 in Rasht (northern Iran), Monem is a self-educated photographer. Since the aftermath of the war, he has been working on the human suffering of war victims.

He has published another collection earlier, portraying the present-day lives of war veterans injured in the conflict, titled ‘The Miracle of Hope’.