Saturday, 18 July 2015
14 May 2021
An interview with Masoud Hosseini, war photojournalist

“Living in the shadow of death”

2012 February 26

Ardavan Roozbeh / Radio Koocheh

Translated by Avideh Motmaen-Far

It was a few days after the Taliban’s fall that I left for Afghanistan. A journey that marked at the same time a photography exhibition of the last Taliban’s days and a new start for the people, young photographers and journalists of this country who have been oppressed for many years either by foreign countries, national communists governments or different militias. In those days, what surprised me more than anything was the incredible passion and energy of the young people to learn, to discover, to write, to take pictures and make movies. The energy that not only the Taliban was unable to suppress all those years but also contributed to its ardent passionate accumulation.

Spending time with young Afghans is one of the beautiful memories of mine that I wrote in one of my diary of the journey until the day I would review them and talk about it more.
This energy led the young Afghans to learn very quickly given the new situation that occurred in Afghanistan, and become attracted to activities which were out of their reach for many years.
Some foreign NGOs on one hand whose true goals were educating people – but I emphasize the fact that many organizations were only spending the resources – led to a new wave of educational interests in the population. Photography and multimedia, news and reports, to try to reflect the situation inside Afghanistan to the outside world, given the remaining leftover of the tyranny and oppression in that society were dangerous approaches.

That was an introduction to say that the media just announced ”Massoud Hosseini” as the award-winning war photographer in Afghanistan. He won the second award of the most prestigious institution of photojournalism of the world, “Word Press Photo”. “Massoud Hosseini” is the award-winning correspondent for France Press news agency in 2011.

He also won the first award of photojournalism in 2011 from «POYi». Masoud Hosseini learned photography when he was an immigrant in Mashhad, Iran, and then he worked as a professional at the ”Aiineh Cultural Foundation” with “Manouchehr Deghati” and “Reza Deghati”. All this time, this active photojournalist, has been the narrator of many events in Afghanistan. The picture that earned him the first prize, was a picture taken at a bombing during an ”Ashura” ceremony in Kabul. It shows a screaming 12 year old girl named “Taraneh”(Song), along with the relatives and acquaintances who have been present at the moment of explosion. Masoud Hosseini was present at the site of the explosion himself. The blast killed Taraneh’s brother and left her mother and sister wounded. This photo had such an impact that earned the second prize of the best picture between hundred of thousand  pictures in the world.

I sat down with Massoud Hosseini, photojournalist in Kabul under the pretext of an interview about his award-winning photos, but we were not supposed to talk about photos only. We talked about the sufferings of a war correspondent, and his dreams too.
What is the situation in Kabul today?

Kabul is very snowy and cold right now.

I called you a real war correspondent. What are the issues a war correspondent in a country like Afghanistan, especially on the front line of all conflicts face?
Problems can be divided into several categories. Some are regional issues. There is an old saying that ”All is fair in love and war.” In a war, anything can happen to the photojournalist, you may be attacked, shot at, killed, or walk on a mine, or like my friend “Julva Sylvia” be injured on her two legs. In wars such as Iraq war we lost Professor Golestan. A war photographer who wants to record reality with a photographic image on the first line, risks being injured or even death. We do not have much to defend ourselves with and at the same time we have to be very close to where things happen.

Another problem is lack of adequate facilities. I’m working with a large company such as France Press but I live in Afghanistan and I have to prepare to go the war sites with what I can find here. In many cases it happened that I went to an area to report and faced lack of facilities.
I remember the large operations in Kandahar in April 2010, with all the efforts I could not find an adequate sleep bag and for five consecutive nights that I was in America’s military operation, I was frozen because of the amenities you can find in Kabul is not sufficient.

Do you think that Afghan politicians, militia and those who are involved in Afghanistan, believe in the abilities of a special correspondent like you and other journalists in Afghanistan?
The Press has already largely found its place but it is still a blurry situation. The Government and the President are committed to freedom of expression and journalists are free in their actions and criticism about the government and the president. But nonetheless, the question of how long it is going to last, remains. Is it because of the presence of the foreign troops or this situation will continue to be the same later? In many cases, warlords militia have not changed neither with reporters nor with ordinary people. As much as they were used to be bullies and the use force for whatever they wanted to achieve, they still behave the same way and threaten reporters and even kill them like the BBC reporter in southern province of Hellman. Journalists still are afraid of these people and try not to get too close and not to give them any pretext to harm them.

How did it happen that Massoud Hosseini became reporter and photographer?
Long story. It all comes back to the time when I was an immigrant in Iran. Afghan refugee immigrants faced hardships of life and problems and in many cases, nobody would care for their existence. For example, they were living on the edges of large cities such as Mashhad, in very poor areas and nobody, from foreign countries to United Nations seemed to care. I had a documents from the UN called the blue card and I could go everywhere, but they could not get out of the enclosed area and had a very very fiddly life.

I wanted to try to somehow reflect some of these issues. First I started to write about it but I realized that the best way to fully record the situation was photography. With help of some Iranian friends I started to learn photography and when the events of September 11 happened, I went to Kabul and began working with Professor Manouchehr Deghaty and Professor Reza Deghaty and fulfilled my dream of becoming a photojournalist.

Please talk about Taraneh and that World Press award-winning photo and the day that photo was taken.
It was a difficult day and I was gone to cover Ashura ceremony. I would do it every year and there was no problem. I did not expect any problem because never before, at any time in Afghanistan, these ceremonies were attacked by any institution or organization. That day I was trying to find a good shot of children who were wearing green or white arabian clothes reminding the children who were taken as hostages in Ashura hundreds of years ago. This subject has a long detailed story in Shiite sect.

A procession coming from Kabul entered the area and I saw Taraneh there. I decided to take a picture of that group and come back to take a picture of Taraneh and the ladies around her to make a more colorful picture. I wanted also to record sounds and make a video. It was at that moment that the explosion occurred and the blast wave came towards me. My hand got  injured and I was thrown on the ground. When I recovered, I saw people run away from the area where the smoke was coming. I decided to go to see what is going on there and uncontrollably, unlike the others, ran toward the smoke. When I got there, I realized that I was in the middle of the area where the bomb exploded and everybody was dead or injured on the ground like a circle around me.

I recognized the same people I have seen minutes ago with colorful clothes, were now on the ground. Because their clothes were colored, they were different from other bodies, many of them were women and children. I saw Taraneh who was standing in the middle of those bodies, terrified, screaming. She was also injured herself and lost many relatives, including his younger brother. That is how I materialized that moment with this picture.

War journalists’ job turns around the world’s painful events. How do you feel about it? If you were told that nothing painful would happen in the world and you would be jobless, what would you think?

I wish that day happened. Although capturing and recording moments that may be impossible to see for many people is enjoyable, but also when children and people get killed in front of my eyes, even the enemies of the peace, I do not enjoy it. But this is a reality that may never happen to see the world in peace and security. If sometime I hope and expect that with God’s wishes, Afghanistan is in peace, I will go somewhere else. Not because I am used to take pictures of the war, but because I want to be the voice of those who are innocent in the wars and unable to communicate that to the rest of the world. I would like to be their voice and speak for them.



«نوشته فوق می تواند نظر نویسنده باشد و الزامن نظر رادیو کوچه نیست»


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