A cut from memoirs of Jalil Taeffi

Escaping with camera

Selected by Faezeh Sasanikhah
Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan

2024-1-15


We were in the garden of one of my friends in "Siss" on 26th of Dey 1357 (January 16, 1979). We had gone for fun. It was there that we heard the news of Shah's escape from the local people. They said that the radio had announced. As soon as I heard this news, I took a donkey and went on its back. I stood on the donkey and said: "Shah escaped"! I gave my camera to one of the guys and told him to take a picture. He also took a picture of this scene.

With the Shah's escape, the fever of the revolution intensified and people's hopes for victory increased. When we reached the month of Bahman, the conflicts had intensified everywhere in the city. It was hardly a day that would end peacefully. I went around the city with a camera although I knew it was a dangerous job and if I was arrested, I would be in big trouble. I was trying to take pictures of people's demonstrations.

It was in those days that I saw the scene of the Shah's statue being pulled down in Sa'at square[1] and took a picture of it. Sa'at Square was the turning point of Tabriz people's rallies. It was the center of the city and the junction of several main streets. Once in the same square, I witnessed the martyrdom of several people. On that day, a relatively significant crowd was coming from the direction of "Laleh Beig"[2] towards Sa'at Square. Their leader was a cleric. When they approached the square, the police started shooting. A bullet hit the head of one of the demonstrators and he fell to the ground. Blood was pouring from his head. The People came and stained their hands with his blood and painted blood on the walls of the municipal building and chanted "Down with Shah". After him, three other people were shot, one fell by the tree and the other two fell in the middle of the street.

In this situation, a group of soldiers came from "Tarbiat" Street to Sa'at Square and people were practically surrounded. Everyone who could, ran away from "Laleh Beig" alley, and everyone who couldn't was arrested. I had taken a position in a corner and was filming these scenes. In that crowd, some soldiers noticed me filming. They quickly ran towards me. When I saw that the situation was dangerous, I took my camera and started to run away. The soldiers followed me. I entered Laleh Beig. They ordered to stop. They fired a few shots, but I could not surrender myself.

With this camera and the films that I had recorded, my case was heavier than that of ordinary demonstrators. With great effort, I reached myself to the end of the alley which was a little more open and near the main street. An old lady was standing in front of the door of her house. When she saw me, she asked: "My son, why are you running away?" I said that the soldiers followed me. She said: "Come quickly." I threw myself into the yard and she closed the door. Before doing anything, I took the film out of the camera and put it in my pocket. I had taken three reels of film from those scenes. I said that if they took the camera, I would at least save the films somehow; of course, saving them was also saving myself! I stayed in that house for a little more than an hour and then carefully opened the door and looked outside. When I saw that there was nothing unusual, I thanked the lady and walked towards my house.

After this incident, I did not leave the house for two weeks so that I would not be arrested if I was detected. After two weeks, when I came out one day, I saw that the commandos had been brought to the streets. The clashes of that day started from Gajil intersection. The commandos were beating people with batons. I also saw some young boys lying on the ground covered in blood and people could not take them with them.

I had my camera with me, but I still couldn't film. In the throng of Gajil intersection, I was hit from behind with a baton twice. I felt pain, but I did not fall down. After a few minutes, the ambulance arrived. The wounded were put in the ambulance and taken away. I went to Angji Mosque[3], to go to Jame Mosque from there. I saw some military vehicles stopped in front of the square's mosque and in front of the church. The commandos jumped down from the cars. I had hidden the camera under my coat. When I wanted to take out the camera and turn towards the street, one of the commandos saw me and pointed at me with his hand, which means to take him. With his signal, some commandos ran towards me. I ran away. When I reached the corner, I saw several "carts" left on the corner of the street. Apparently, in that throng, the poor cart owners had abandoned their carts and ran away. There were potatoes and onions on one of the carts. I quickly squeezed myself inside one of these carts and closed the door. The commandos arrived and looked around and could not find me. I could hear their voices. I was sitting quietly and motionless out of fear. I stayed in the small room for two hours. After two hours, I opened the door and saw that they were beating an old man in the middle of "Rasteh Koocheh"[4]. From that distance, I adjusted the camera and filmed that scene. After they beat him, they left him there and left. When the situation calmed down, I cautiously came out and left quickly.

 

Source: Rashidi, Ruhollah, Cameraman, Oral memories of Jalil Ta'effi, Rah-e Yar Publications, V. 2, 1398 (2019), P. 40.

 


[1] This square is located in front of the historical building of Tabriz Municipality. The municipal building was built in 1314 (1935) by the order of Haj Arfa-ul-Mamalek Jalili, the then mayor of Tabriz, designed by German engineers. Since a big clock has been installed on top of the tower of the municipal building, this square is known as Sa'at or Clock Square.

[2] the present Shahid Yushari

[3] "Ayatollah Angji" Mosque is located on "Jomhooriy-e Eslami" Street. A group of benefactors built this mosque in 1354 (1975). Due to the residence of Grand Ayatollah "Seyed Abolhasan Angji" near this mosque, this place has become famous with the name of this prominent and revolutionary cleric. This mosque has been one of the important centers of the city both during the revolution period and during the holy defense years.

[4] The street leading to Tabriz Jame Mosque

 



 
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Escaping with camera

We were in the garden of one of my friends in "Siss" on 26th of Dey 1357 (January 16, 1979). We had gone for fun. It was there that we heard the news of Shah's escape from the local people. They said that the radio had announced. As soon as I heard this news, I took a donkey and went on its back.
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