With the start of the Arab Spring I was closely observing the wave of change in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, but I couldn’t go and see and document it, first, because I had no financial support and second, I didn’t know anyone in those countries to help me. It was and still is extremely hard for Iranians to get visa, too.
As demonstrations and conflict started in Syria, I was determined that I want to photograph this part of the history. However, I faced a huge obstacle: the Iranian government involvement in the conflict made it forbidden for Iranian to travel Syria unless through the government and as soldiers. It was extremely risky to go as an independent, but I took my chances and left Iran in hopes of shooting the realities of the war. I was 21 at the time I reached Damascus, that’s 2012 during the harshest days of the conflict, when Damascus was on the verge of collapsing.
Iranian photographers were banned from Syria especially in areas with strong presence of the opposition group. For this reason, I never made it to the other side, and I could never document the revolution from the point of view of the opposition. I also had no agency (local or international) to financially support me and I had to use my personal savings to go and independently cover the war.
I started taking pictures from my apartment, secretly from the window and sometimes when in taxi.
What was happening before my eyes was a critical moment in the history of Syria. A conflict that could and still can dramatically transform the region, and maybe the world. My achieve covers frontline military operations of the Assad regime, involvement and operations of allied countries, the destruction of cities and devastation of life. Throughout years of living with Syrians, and due to extreme restrictions on photographers, I became interested in also shooting life from people’s perspectives. I became absorbed in stories of Syrians that unwillingly fell into a brutal war and suffer the most.
Cities are in ruins, but so are the people in both sides. All these years, I closely followed the work of journalists and photographers that were covering the conflict from the opposition side. The country might seem divided, but the human experiences of loss, pain, and separation is the same in both sides.
During the past eight years, I also travelled in the region to widen my vision. I was present and photographed the famous “Saturday Mothers” demonstrations that took place in Istanbul, the Kirkuk operations against ISIS, and the protests in Tehran.
I continuously reflect on my experiences and try to be as objective as possible in order to capture and present the reality as is. I follow and constantly learn from the work of Newsha Tavakolian, Jerome Sessini, Moises Saman, Lorenzo Meloni and Andria Bruce.
I believe that the importance in photography is the delicate and unique vision of the photographer, and I am forever in need of challenges that push me to learn, and re-learn what is ought to be “the truth”. My aim is to capture and present the multiple realities that are actively being constructed and for this reason, my next project and hope is to cover the stories of the cities that were captured and occupied by ISIS.