A Photo Report of the Iraqi Forces Invasion to Tehran at the Onset of the Iran-Iraq War

Gholam Hossein Sheikholeslami and Mohammad Hossein Sheikholeslami
Translated by: Zahra Hosseinian

2020-09-29


On September 22, 1980, Iraqi forces made an airstrike and ground attack on various parts of Iran and started the imposed war.  At about 2:30 pm, Iraqi aircrafts attacked Mehrabad Airport and surrounding areas in Tehran. The number of published photos related to this event is very limited. This photo report provides a brief overview of the photos which have been published and made available online, and offers suggestions for collecting other potential photos.

 

1. Photos From Inside the Airport

The first published photo of the Iraqi attack was taken by Mr. Abbas Fathi, a photographer for the Kayhan newspaper.[1] This photo shows a bombing of Tehran's Mehrabad airport by Iraqi aircrafts. The photo appears to have been taken from the north of the runway to the south. Access to other photos which may have been taken that day by Mr. Fathi, will be invaluable. According to the news published in Tasnim, Mr. Abbas Fathi passed away around July 2014.[2]

 

 

Photo-1: Front page of Kayhan Newspaper, September 23, 1980

Photo-2: The site of the explosion at Mehrabad Airport by Mr. Abbas Fathi, September 22, 1980

 

2. Photos from Ekbatan Town

Mr. Saeid Sadeghi, who was a photographer for the Jomhouri-e Eslami newspaper in those days, took his first war photo in Tehran on the afternoon of September 22, 1980, and became a visual narrator of the sacred defense for eight years until August 1988. "I was working in the newspaper office, when I heard about the attack," he said, first sharing his photos of the Tehran bombing with Khabaronline for public coverage in 2012[3],[4], "Due to the long distance of the Jomhouri-e Eslami newspaper building from Mehrabad airport, we did not hear the sound of the bombing, so we arrived at the scene with our reporter with a slight delay." Noting that many people had gathered around the airport, Mr. Sadeghi continues, "When we pushed our way through the crowd, the military and security forces, who surrounded the airport, did not allow us to enter the bombed-out area. Shortly after, an Air Force officer asked us why we were wasting our time there and not going to Ekbatan Town for photography, where a few bombs had also fallen."

In an interview with the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), Mr. Sadeghi added: "It was almost 2 o'clock when I rushed to Mehrabad Airport, but the security guard threw me out after seeing the Jomhouri-e Eslami newspaper card. However, at the same time, he let the newly arrived reporters and photographers of Kayhan newspaper in."[5]

Having a unique collection of unseen photos from eight years of sacred defense, this war photographer adds: "On the advice of that officer, I reached Ekbatan town and saw that the Iraqi MiGs dropped a few bombs there in hurry, because they were scared. When I got there, the wounded had been transferred to the hospital and the army and the Islamic Revolutionary Committee had taken over the protection of the area."[6]

 

 

Photo-3: Saeed Sadeghi

 

"I quickly grabbed the camera and started taking pictures," he says, "Fortunately, the bombs had dropped somewhere in the Ekbatan town, where no one still lived and only a few cars had been damaged. The photos I took that afternoon were my first photos of the war which were made from negatives."

 

 

Photo- 4: Ekbatan town, Tehran, by Mr. Saeid Sadeghi, September 22, 1980

 

 

Photo-5: Ekbatan town, Tehran, by Saeid Sadeghi, September 22, 1980

 

 

Photo-6: The Ekbatan town, Tehran, by Saeid Sadeghi, September 22, 1980

 

3. Photos Overlooking the Airport

 

At 2:30 pm on Monday, September 22, 1980, Gholam Hossein Sheikholeslami was reading in his house on the third floor of a building in the Shahr-e-Ziba, when he heard the sound of a terrible explosion. He immediately went to the balcony and saw a big column of smoke around Mehrabad airport. Given the (direct) distance of seven kilometers to the airport, the explosion occurred about 20 seconds ago and the smoke was quite clear. He immediately picked up his amateur camera and took the following two photos. He still had no idea what caused the explosion, but it was clear that it had taken place around the airport, as he had already seen the planes taking off or landing from the same place where the smoke from the explosions could be seen.

 

 

 

Photo-7: The smoke from the explosion at Mehrabad Airport, Tehran, by Gholam Hossein Sheikholeslami, September 22, 1980

 

 

Photo-8: The explosion smoke at Mehrabad Airport, Tehran, by Gholam Hossein Sheikholeslami, September 22, 1980

 

The volume, color, density, columns of smoke, and the inclination of the explosion smoke to the east due to the wind in Mr. Fathi's photo (Photo No. 2) and Photos No. 7 and 8 confirm each other. A closer look at Photo 7 and a comparison with Photo 2 shows that the smoke from the explosion is denser and less volum. This and other evidence from other photographs indicate that Photo 7, among the photographs presented in this report, is the earliest and first photograph taken of Iraqi forces' invasion. This photo has been made available to the public after forty years.[7],[8],[9]

Photo-9: Map of the estimated location of the photography compared to the locations of the explosion

 

The above photo shows a map of the estimated location of the photography compared to the location of the explosions.

 

4. Suggestions

 

The following suggestions are provided for collecting other possible photographs of this historic event:

  1. To access other photos taken by Mr. Abbas Fathi from inside the airport, contact the Kayhan newspaper archive or his family. Also, it would be interesting to be able to take a new photo from the same location where his published photo was taken to compare it with the forty years ago photo.
  2. It would be very valuable and historically significant if other unpublished photographs of Mr. Saeid Sadeghi could be accessed.
  3. Announcing a call for photos or memoirs related to the beginning of the war to collect and record these events from the perspectives of different people. Preserving these photos and memories, which are in personal albums or people's minds, and making them available to the public will be an important service for those who are interested and for the future.

 

Hoping for a day when there will never be no war and all people will live together in peace, friendship and tranquility.

 


[1] Hamshahri Online, 22/09/2013, "The first photo of the imposed war"

[2] Tasnim News Agency, 26/06/2016, "Installation of volumetric works of lasting photographs of the revolution and war in Tehran"

[3] Khabaronline, 21/09/2012, "On the first day of the war, where did the Iraqi aircrafts drop their bombs on Tehran? / Saeid Sadeghi's memoirs and photos from September 22, 1980"

[4] Donya-e-Eqtesad Newspaper, "A Narrative of the First Bombing of Tehran", No. 4428, Published on 22/09/2018, News No. 3442524

[5] Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), 25/06/2019, "Of that group, only I am alive! I clung to the ground many times out of fear", News Code 98040402167

[6] Khabaronline, 21/09/2012, "On the first day of the war, where did the Iraqi aircrafts drop their bombs on Tehran? / Saeid Sadeghi's memoirs and photos from September 22, 1980"

[7] Wikimedia.org, "Iran photographs taken on 1980-09-22"

[8] Tabnak, 10/09/2020, "The first photos of the attack by Iraqi forces on Mehrabad airport", news code: 1001809

[9] Ensaf News and Analytical Base (Ensafnews), 11/09/2020, "The first photos of the Iraqi’s invasion to Mehrabad in September 1980."



 
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