The Story of Taking the Photograph of Imam Khomeini in Najaf

Compiled by: Islamic Revolution Website
Translated by: Fazel Shirzad


In 1974- maybe 1975-, when I went to Iraq, one day I told Haj Mustafa to request Imam to permit me to take a lot of photos of him, but not a photo of a sheik who just sits with his cloak on his shoulders; but [it was better] he did his usual works and have nothing to do with me and I photograph. Haj Mostafa replied that he would get permission from the Imam to do it. He asked Imam for this request, and Imam replied that there was no problem. That evening, I came to the shrine of Imam Ali (PBUH) with Mr. Doaei and I decided to start there. Imams entered the shrine and prayed and went to a corner and began to recite and pray, and I took pictures. That night after dinner I told the Imam that I want our friends to compare your office and his desk with the Pope and the Vatican. Haj Mostafa allowed me to be with him for an hour. Imam replied that I had permission do it forever.

    The next morning, I went to the Imam's house again and took some pictures before they came to his office. The Imams came up and started working and wrote letters and then got up to be ready to go to the mosque. Sadegh Qutbzadeh was along with me on this trip. When I came out of the Imam's house and joined him, I told him, "Wow, I took nice photos on these that we can advertise." Qutbzadeh and I went to Mr. Sheikh Nasrollah Khalkhali's house and had a cup of tea. We were Mr. Sadr's guest for lunch. I was going to go again tomorrow afternoon when the imams came and sat in the yard and take pictures from there. I went home and looked at the camera. I wanted to print the film sooner, I found that the [camera's] number of the film was on zero. I was surprised and I said to myself that the film ring was probably stuck or rotated. I went to a photographer and told him to pull out the film ring and print the photos. He went and came into the darkroom and said there was no film on my camera! I was very surprised and upset. I even suspected the photographer, but there was nothing I could do. I told Haj Mostafa the problem as I was very upset and annoyed. He said that it did not matter, we would take new photos again. I said, "What do you explain the problem to the Imam?" He said: I say him that the film ring has been broken. I will tell the story of that film ring later."

 Well, [let me go on to say my memoir,] the next afternoon, I went again to take a photo of the Imam. The Imam's house had a small courtyard. In the afternoon, they would put a rug on one shady side, and he would sit there for two or three hours. When the sun rose, they would take the rug and put it on the other side. He had just come and sat down. In front of him, there were cardboard envelopes full of letters that they were answering, with some paper and a book in their hands. I took pictures of him in different ways. He moved their glasses two or three times. I said:" Sir, did the glasses bother your eyes as the handle of them are not ok? He replied:" No, I should screw the handles." I said he can fix this with a small screwdriver. He told me not to do anything with my glasses! I replied that I have nothing to do with his glasses, I had something to do with his eyes.

     We were on this side of the yard for three and a half hours, then they paved the other side and the Imam got up to go that way. At this moment, Haj Mostafa arrived and greeted him and said:" Are you satisfied?" I said: [yes,] a lot." and then I told the Imam, because [I don't like] the photos to be similar to each other if he allows, it was better that Mostafa sat next to him and I took a photo of them together. Haj Mostafa joked that if SAVAK captured one of these photos, it may cause trouble for Imam! The Imam immediately reacted that:"your existence is a problem for me than the awareness of SAVAK." I also took three or four photos of Imam and Haj Mostafa, which have been published in the photos section.

     Haj Mostafa joked that if these photos fell into the hands of SAVAK, it may cause trouble for Agha! The Imam immediately said:" for me, your existence is a problem, not the knowledge of SAVAK!" I also took three or four photos of Imam and Haj Agha Mostafa, which have been published in the photos section.

     Haj Mostafa sat down for twenty minutes and left. Imam told me it was enough to take the photo. I said: "so, let me pack up my equipment and go". He said: "I didn't mean that you should go, I mean it is enough to take a photo". I accepted and sat down. They brought fruit. I ate some fruit and got up and said goodbye.  An interesting thing happened when I left. Imam's house had doors. I used to come inside Imam's house from an external door. This time I was going out of the yard, by the help of the Imam, I was going to leave the house from the inside door that opened to the adjacent alley. Instead of the door, I pulled back the kitchen curtain. There was a servant,[ a woman,] was working. I pulled myself aside. Imam said: it is not the exit door; it is on the other side. I said: "Sorry, ignorance has such consequences. Imam said: "No problem, she was not a desired one."

     Once again, I took some photos of Imam. At that time, Seyyed Ahmad had not yet arrived in Najaf. This time it was not as good as the last time; I took a few photos. I remember when I went up to the Imam's room, I saw that the book Afzal al-Jihad written by Mr. Haj Seyyed Javadi was on a small table next to his place,  this book can be seen among my  photos.

     Now I am going to tell the story of the film ring that was lost. What happened to that film ring? Qutbzadeh and I came to Beirut. I was sitting on the balcony of the Shiite Assembly. Mr. Sadr told me, "What happened to the photos you took of Mr. Khomeini?" is it stolen by the Ba'athists?" I suspended Qutbzadeh at that moment. I thought to myself how Mr. Sadr knew about the story. I pretended that I did not know anything about it. He said what I would think if he found this film ring. I replied: " there is two suppositions; either you have a connection with the Ba'ath party; therefore you can take the film ring back, that is, you have so much influence over the Iraqi spy agencies that your influential elements enable you to take this film ring; or there is [another supposition that] an intelligencer brought you news about film ring. He told me not to be upset because I found you very upset, I want to say that this film is kept by Mr. Qutbzadeh; he had said, "I wanted to give a political and protection education to imam's photographer so that you would not be so fearless and [to be careful.]" you should have taken this camera from Iraq in any way but not with a film ring; Mr. Qutbzadeh said what the photographer would do if the photos were taken and captured at the border?" I replied that you were wrong if I had printed them we would have given the photos to friends and distributed them as well. Anyway- for any reason- the film was found and two film rings included 36 photos of Imam were printed.

Source: S, Tabatabai. (2008). Socio-political memoirs of Dr. Sadegh Tabatabai, Student Movement. Volume 1. Tehran, Orouj Publishing Institute,. 121 - 126

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