The Painter-Cameraman

It is 1978. Ali Reza Khaleqi is now a young man in his twenties, who decides to enroll in a cinematography course in Cinema Azad Institute in Mashhad, while continuing with his painting and calligraphy. The cinematography course in the institute is closed down after a few sessions as the campaigns against the regime intensify. However, those few sessions were enough to make Ali Reza Khaleqi familiar with filming techniques and with figures like Mahdi Sabbaq-Zade, who worked in the theatre and in cinema. Thanks to this familiarity and of course his personal interest in filming and directing, Ali Reza Khaleqi succeeded in recording some footage of the Tabas[1] earthquake as well as of the public demonstrations against the Pahlavi regime; later, he produced documentaries with that footage.


Ali Reza Khaleqi: “In the middle of 1978, the “Cinema Azad” [Free Cinema] Institute made an announcement in the newspapers, saying that they were holding a training course in cinematography. Having a camera and being interested in filming, I went to enroll in the course as soon as I saw the announcement. My camera was an eight-millimeter, which used three-and-a-half-minute cassettes. Due to my insistence, my father had brought it for me as a souvenir from Mecca, about four or five years earlier. When I enrolled in the institute’s classes, they asked for a portfolio of my previous works; but I didn’t have many; just a few minutes filming the 3rd of Shaaban[2] celebrations, at my friend Naim Ebadi’s house, and some films from Imam Hussein’s mourning rituals in the streets around Imam Reza’s shrine in Mashhad.

I took those short films as samples of my work. When they announced the names, I was one of the nine persons who had been accepted amongst the forty applicants. From the very first day, they divided us into three groups, and I was told that I was in Mr. Sabbaq Zade’s group. Mr. Sabbaq Zade was a religious man, and he decided to put me in his group because of the religious theme of my films. During the first few sessions, Mr. Sabbaq Zade spoke about the theories of cinema and taught us a little on how to work with 8mm cameras. I guess I didn’t attend the classes for more than two or three months when the revolutionary campaigns intensified and the classes closed down.”


The result of his trip to Tabas to help earthquake victims is a documentary entitled The Victims of Antiquities, which has a revolutionary flavor as well. Khaleqi also recorded the public demonstrations in Mashhad, due to his interest in the matter, and the need he felt to visually document the happenings of the Islamic Revolution. Even though he could not record the moments of the people’s revolution as he wanted to, due to financial problems and difficulties purchasing blank video cassettes, he loved the work he did.

Ali Reza Khaleqi: “It was about 9 a.m. when we arrived to Tabas. We got off the bus with our equipment right at the city’s entrance, by a bridge; then, we went downtown by pick-up truck to see what was going on. I took my camera with me. As we entered the city, we saw that there was no city! Tabas was completely dead and quiet. Not even a house or shop could be seen. As far as our eyes could see, the houses were turned into heaps of ruins. As the car moved, I turned my camera on and filmed the ruins. This was our first image of Tabas.

On the second day, we were informed that “Ayatollah Sadduqi’s” party arrived to Tabas from Yazd,[3] on Ayatollah Khomeini’s behalf, in order to help and were staying on the other side of the town in Bagh-e Golshan. During the first few days, I sometimes went to help inside the cemetery, and what a cemetery that was! It looked more like a garden; we dug up scattered graves for the corpses at any random place, and buried them without the required bathing [ghusl]. We couldn’t wait for the clergy to come because we didn’t have time. We used to get up in the morning and pull the bodies out of the rubble. We didn’t have time to sit down, not even for 10 minutes. We just had a bit of rest at lunch time and at prayer times. Even during those times of rest, we would be busy distributing food among the earthquake victims. Sometimes, some of them would sit near our tent and tell us something about their lives; about how their wives and children died under the rubble, or what their houses were like.

They said that Farah, the Shah’s wife, had said that the houses of Tabas were ancient [and thus part of Iranian heritage] and must not undergo alterations. So, the town officials wouldn’t let us rebuild or renovate our houses. Most of the time, the camera was with me while I was working, and I used to look for genuine scenes. In the ruins of one house, we found a ten or twelve year old boy. The wall had fallen on his back, his head and legs were totally pressed, and his stomach was torn. It was a miserable scene. I quickly took out my camera and videotaped it, and one another instance I recorded a film of a dead pregnant woman. I had only five reels with which I could record less than 20 minutes. So, I only filmed scenes which truly revealed the depth of the disaster in Tabas.

For example, I shot a short scene of us burying the corpses in the cemetery, and a wide shot of our tent on which it was written, “Ayatollah Qommi’s earthquake relief crew”, and another shot of the people we were helping. One of the interesting scenes I recorded was that of a 3x4m room by the city entrance. The room was untouched by the earthquake. It was built of bricks and had four windows. Later, I produced a 16min documentary out of all my films in Tabas and named it Victims of Heritage, since I believed that the people of Tabas had been sacrificed for Farah’s words when she said that the houses here were ancient and must not undergo alterations. I assembled this documentary with those primary techniques I’d learned in in film school. On the documentary’s opening credits I wrote “victims of the antiquities” on a sheet of cardboard, hung a cluster of dates on it, and videotaped it. As part of those credits I wrote: “Why? Why didn’t anyone care about them? Was a handful of sand and stones so important?” It turned out to be an interesting documentary. At the opening, to evoke an earthquake-like atmosphere, I gave the images a somber light, and used the music of the movie Barabbas, in which the sounds of a lashing, storm can be heard. The music is slowly lowered and then the rubble and ruined houses could be seen. At the end of the movie, the images darken again, and the documentary closes with the statement, “No disaster would have occured if this wasn’t the case!” I think if I had sent this film for a documentary film festival at that time, it would have even won an award.

I went to the head of our group – Sabbaq-Zade – and asked him to lend me the intitute’s camera [which was more professional compared with my camera], so I could make more professional videos with it. He agreed and said, “That’s a good idea, you can find good subjects”. Now I had the semi-professional three-fourteen Canon camera, taken from Mr. Sabbaq-Zade and my own camera too. So I started filming. Most of the scenes I filmed were from public demonstrations, because they were so impressive, especially the demonstrations in Tehran Avenue (Currently called Imam Reza Ave.) which had such magnificence! Sometimes, before the crowd arrived, I would position myself on the roof of one of the hotels on Tehran Avenue, after asking the residents, so that I could videotape the crowds of men and women on the streets, their placards, the delegations’ flags, and the clergy who were always walking ahead of the crowds, like Ayatollah Noghani, Ayatollah Mar’ashi, Ayatollah Morvarid, and others. Then, I would go out of the building and head somewhere else to film from a different angle. Many of the women were with their children, and they carried them in their arms, or put them on their shoulders, and march a long way through the streets. I couldn’t afford to not film these scenes: a little girl, holding her mother’s hand, walking with the crowd, or a disabled woman on her wheelchair marching on despite the difficulty. There were many of these scenes to be found in the demonstrations, but I couldn’t record many of them, because I was short on video cassettes. Each three-and-a-half-minute video cassette cost 95 to 100 Tomans. Even if I tried hard to save my money, I could only buy three or four cassettes, and that was also difficult for me. Sometimes, I couldn’t even afford that. When that happened, I used to go to the camera store next to our shop, on Shah Reza Avenue, give them half the money for the four cassettes, and tell them I’d give them the rest later. While filming, I always tried to choose the scenes very carefully, so that they were new and useful.”

The Revolutionary Artist

Following the suspicious death of one of Mashhad’s well-known orators, Sheikh Ahmad Kafi – in the summer of 1978, and his clamorous funeral, the conflicts between the people and the imperial regime’s forces intensified, which lead to the martyrdom of a few people.

The fire of the revolution was set ablaze by these events. Khaleqi, who had previously created rudimentary revolutionary work himself, now with the development of the campaigns against the regime, felt a responsibility to use his art in the cause of the people and the revolution. He believed that recording people’s presence in the demonstrations and spreading the protests’ slogans in order to introduce and spread revolutionary spirit was more important than just being present in the demonstrations. This was of such great importance for him that apart from attending the demonstrations and recording the genuine moments of people’s presence, he helped propagate these slogans in different cities, by writing them on the walls and panels.

Ali Reza Khaleqi: “At first, I used to just take part in the demonstrations, but the demonstrations also had some necessities. The short slogans people made for the demonstrations had to be recorded somewhere, so that the others could also learn and repeat them. There were different slogans and one of the most famous ones was “Down with the Shah” which was repeated in all the demonstrations. It had a special rhythm which was very famous: “Down with the Shah! Down with the Shah! Down with the Shah!” Due to the hostility people felt toward the Shah, they used to write this slogan in a large format on every wall they could find with a can of spray paint, and the line would sometimes turn out to be pretty crooked.

Sometimes, they would even write the word “Shah” upside-down, and escape quickly. They just intended to convey the meaning, and didn’t pay any attention to their handwriting. Even I myself, a calligrapher, couldn’t write in an ideal way; because it would take too much time, and the spray paint was just handy for short words. Moreover, sometimes the paint spread made the lines barely legible. It would’ve been much better if we could write them more clearly. Little by little, as the revolutionary movements became more serious, we tried to standardize the graffiti, so that the slogans could be written not only faster, but also more neatly. The best way to do that was this cardboard templates. So in addition to our everyday work in the shop, I started making cardboard templates. At nights, when my father went home, I used to close the shop and the iron gate too, so as not to attract attention. Then, I used to turn on a dim light, stay up late and make different templates. At that time, I had made lots of templates for some classes at schools, so, I always had cardboard lying around, and whenever I sensed danger, I used to put all these cardboard boxes in front of me, hiding the slogans.

The only people who knew I did this were a group of guys who used to also do engravings. They usually snuck in around the evening; put the cardboard templates inside some newspapers and left. There were only seven or eight guys who would take templates from me; I met most of them in the houses of some religious figures or in demonstrations, and we started working together afterwards. “Down with the Shah” was one of the first templates I made in Nasta’liq calligraphy; but I didn’t make any more of that particular template since everybody could easily write it on walls with spray paint. Most of the slogans I made were short sayings by Imam Khomeini relayed to us by the clergy. In fact, we chose the slogans people often used in demonstrations; those which were more effective. Apart from the cardboard templates, I also used radiology films taken from Shah Reza Hospital (currently called Imam Reza Hospital), as templates. They were quite small and I mostly used them for short mottos. Sometimes if the sentence was long, I had to make the engravings on two or three pages. I remember I wrote the motto “No compromise, no disgrace” on a 1m long cardboard template, and another motto “either victory or martyrdom” on another 1m cardboard template in Nasta’liq; and then I glued the two pages together. Some of the Imam’s sayings were too long, and it was almost impossible to make the templates for them. So, some nights I would go with my friends to some less crowded places, and they’d keep a lookout while I wrote the Imam’s sayings on the wall very quickly, with a number four brush, which is usually used for painting building façades, writing in the Naskh style, which took less space on the wall. But since we were doing something dangerous we mostly used templates. I usually made about 5 templates for each slogan and gave them to several groups. The guys were really fast on their feet. Two guys would hold the templates while another spray painted it. To write higher on the walls, they used to climb up on each other’s shoulders, or up electricity poles. The guy who would climb up had to both hold the cardboard cutouts on the wall and spray paint it at the same time. For the slogans to be more effective they mostly used red and black paint, and they used red paints particularly for words like “blood” and “martyrdom”.

I mostly tried to make the templates on x-ray films because they lasted longer. The hospital staff knew me well by then and used to cooperate with me whenever I went there. But sometimes the hospital didn’t have any radiology films, so I then had to ask my friends to bring me any cardboard they had at home.

Around the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza there were a few places that made such templates, especially in Ab Square (currently called Beyt al-Moqaddas Square) where most of the demonstrations would start and end. I remember that in one of the demonstrations, I accidentally saw Ali Mofidi who had climbed up the roller shutters of the Melli shoe store, spray-painting a slogan on its gate, which was a bit awkward. Some other guys were holding him so that he wouldn’t fall down. The slogan said: “The campaign will continue until the overthrow of tyranny and despotism”. It was a very nice scene which I managed to record as my camera was with me. One of the reasons they painted slogans around the Holy Shrine was that the SAVAK wouldn’t dare catch them in the crowd, because the people would rush in and rescue them. So they were writing slogans on every blank place they could find around that area.”


The Israelites’ Symbol on the Mosaic Yard

Gradually, Ali Reza Khaleqi became a revolutionary artist and painter who was well known among those who were looking for artistic propaganda works for the campaign against the Shah’s Regime. When the painted picture of the Imam, which was always carried at the forefront of all demonstrations in Mashhad was damaged, Ali Reza Khaleqi was asked to paint a picture of the Imam to replace it. Ayatollah Khamenei talked about the Imam’s picture: “A large picture of the Imam had been made that was 16 or 17 meters in length and with a width of similar proportions. It was always carried at the forefront at demonstrations. Our friends said it is like ‘the Israelites’ special symbol[4]‘ in that they would gain victory in any war they took that symbol along with them. That day (December 30th) we carried that great picture with us and we were calm and knew for sure that no unpleasant event would befall us”[5].


Ali Reza Khaleqi: “You can’t carry a two or three meter long painting at the forefront of a crowd of several thousand people. Larger works were required to be used as a symbol in these demonstrations. That’s why a painter I don’t know, took it upon himself to draw a large picture of the Imam for the first time, based on one of his photographs, to be used in demonstrations. I really liked it. A few days after using the large painting in the demonstrations, somebody -I guess he was from the Keramat mosque- came to me and said that the picture of the Imam was torn. ‘Can you paint a picture similar to that one?’ Until then my work had only been small-scale and nobody had ordered such a large-scale painting. I said, ‘Bring the canvas and I’ll see what I can do.’ They gave me the torn painting, and the black and white photograph based on which it had been painted.

The photograph showed a middle-aged Imam Khomeini, and nicely reflected his state of leadership and strength; it was a calming picture as well. They gave me a thin fustian fabric (10m in length and 6m in width); our yard was not big enough for me to fully unfold the fabric, so I took it to my uncle’s house in Tapol Mahalleh. I put the original painting on the ground, and unfolded the white fabric on it. I copied the outline of the picture from the original painting with a black pen, and then drew on the details myself. The problem was that it would take a long time because I had to wait for the paint to dry after painting each part; and I had to fold it immediately before starting the next part to prevent it from becoming dirty.  This was somewhat time-consuming, but I was painting with love. When I put the pen on Imam Khomeini’s face, I had a special feeling. That face, with the special strength and charisma in it was wonderful to me. That day, my uncle’s family was worried that people in the neighborhood might notice what I was doing, so I had to work cautiously; I didn’t ask anyone for help, except for two of my cousins, whom I asked for help in unfolding the fabric.

The first painting didn’t have any text on it.  My friends asked me to write the following verse from the Quran on it: “O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you.”[6] I wrote this verse and its translation [in Farsi] in red, below the picture. When the painting was finished, I noticed how similar it was to the Imam’s photograph, despite the fact that I had not paid any attention to the intricacies and had done it hastily. But the tessellated pattern of the yard’s mosaics could be traced in the painting, on the Imam’s beard. If one looked carefully, one would have noticed it. I delivered the painting to the person who had ordered it and never saw him again. A few days later, in one of the demonstrations, I saw that they had put the Imam’s picture on a pedestal with wheels and some guys were moving it in the street. The presence of the Imam’s image gave credence to the demonstrations. When it was there, it meant that the demonstration follows the directives of Imam Khomeini. As it moved on the street, nobody walked ahead of it, as if it was the Imam himself walking ahead of us. People would consider the picture as their fort. Nobody would go ahead of it if it stopped. The picture was like a guide and a leader. It had special potency, giving energy to those behind it. It was an honor for the crowd; they felt they were walking behind a mountain. Even looking at it brought a special pleasure. Wherever the Imam’s picture was moved in the street, you could undoubtedly see some people looking at it from every side of the street. I deeply enjoyed seeing these sights; especially in the demonstrations on Tehran Avenue, where the portrait was moving, and the crowd was following it from behind, shouting slogans. I actually filmed that scene a couple of times from the top of one of the buildings on Tehran Avenue.”



The Horr of the Age

The writing of the Imam’s message about escaping from the barracks, which was placed on a panel in Imam Reza’s Holy Shrine and the painting[7] of a soldier from Mashhad who was martyred in Hamedan[8] and buried in Mashhad, entitled “The Horr[9] of the Age” are among two of Khaleqi’s important works. He brings all his ability and art to the revolution’s cause and doesn’t hesitate to use any effort to bring about the victory of the people’s revolution.


Ali Reza Khaleqi: “In one of these messages, Imam Khomeini (RA[10]) focused on a delicate and critical point; He issued a fatwa that stated that it is religiously permissible for soldiers to escape from their barracks and that they even have a religious obligation to do so. On the day this message was received from Paris, somebody hastily came to the shop and said, ‘We have just received a message from Imam Khomeini; we want it to be written on a canvas tonight.’ The message was so important that it needed to be written immediately that night. Since I had previously seen him in demonstrations and knew him, I said, ‘No problem, do you know a safe place where we could do that?’ He said, ‘My own house.’ We arranged to go there when turned dark, at around 8 or 9 in the evening, I bought an eight-kilogram pail of white paint, and waited for him. The same person came by on time to pick me up in his car. On the way, we talked about the revolution, and after a while, the car turned into Mohammad Reza Shah Avenue (currently called Shahid Beheshti), which was near the Army garrison; and most of the houses there belonged to army officers. I was afraid for a moment, wondering how a revolutionary guy would dare to live in the middle of those army houses. I didn’t know him all that well, so I felt frightened, thinking that it might all be a trick. The car turned into Sarbaz[11] Street (currently called Shahid Namju), went into an alley and stopped in front of a house. The house had a large yard full of trees and I think there was nobody there except for the two of us. It was about 10 p.m.; we hanged the fabric panel on the wall, and I started to write under the yard’s dim lights. The fabric was red and about 20 meters long. The fabric’s red color provided somewhat of a challenge as I had to use a thick coat of white paint for the writings to be properly seen. That night, after writing the text on the fabric panel, we waited for an hour for the paint to dry in that cold weather. Then, I painted the lines a second time. When the work was almost finished, he told me ‘We will probably hang it up in the Pahlavi courtyard (currently called Imam Khomeini) [in the Holy Shrine], before sunrise,’ so I began to wonder how they were going to hang up the panel in the Holy Shrine. That night, I finished the panel at around one o’clock, but since I was very tired, I didn’t wait for the paint to dry and just went back home, still thinking how they were going to put the panel up in the Holy Shrine. On the next day before noon, I went to the Holy Shrine to see what they’d done. I saw that they had hung up the panel above Pahlavi Courtyard, next to Dar az-Zohd hall. People entering the courtyard would look at each other wondering who could’ve put the panel there. It was very cool and funny; nobody knew who had put that in the Holy Shrine. The guys had purposely put it there so that the Holy Shrine’s officials would also see it; because the Nayeb at-towlie[12] office was located upstairs, by that courtyard. Many important people would go to Dar oz-Zohd passing through that courtyard, and whenever they came into the Holy Shrine. That event made a big splash and the news spread like wildfire all over the city of Mashhad. The pilgrims of the Holy Shrine who viewed the message also talked about it in their hometowns, so it spread all over the country. This was the most important panel I wrote of the Imam’s messages and it was hung up on a wall overnight.

The first portrait I drew of a martyr was the portrait of Mohsen Kashani, a young man from Mashhad, who had shot his commanders during his military service in the Hamadan Barracks and escaped. The news spread like wildfire in Mashhad, and made reverberations among the people. People said that he had been guarding a meeting room where a number of high-ranking commanders had made an important decision against the people. As he heard what was going on in that meeting, he entered the room and opened fire on all of them. While escaping, he was shot at and martyred. The day before the funeral, my friends and I were talking about Kashani. I told them if they could get a photo of the martyr, I would paint his portrait for the funeral. It was a favorable occasion, and I thought that we could use it to immortalize that martyr. Martyrs’ pictures had never been used in demonstrations at that time. They gave me an ordinary photo of Mohsen Kashani in which he was standing in his soldiers’ cap and uniform with his hand in his pockets. It was very common for soldiers to take full-length photos and send it to their families in those days. I gave the photo to one of my friends who was a photographer, and asked him to make a slide out of it. Then, with the slide projector I had, I projected the image on a canvas that I had attached to my basement wall, . I drew four black and white pictures from that image, without any alterations. I remember I drew two half-length pictures of him on the canvas in which his being a soldier was not evident; but for the other two drawings, I used two-meter high canvases, so that he would be easily recognizable as a soldier in the pictures; because I knew the impact it could have on people. I also put some red blood spots around his shoulder. In the memory of Horr ibn Yazid Riahi” who turned his back to Yazid’s army and joined Imam Hussein’s army, I called this martyr “the Horr of the Age”. On the top of the picture I wrote in red and with large letters, “The Horr of the Age, the valiant soldier, Martyr Mohsen Kashani “. His funeral became one of the biggest funerals in Mashhad. My friends had put my other paintings on some wooden panels, moving them enthusiastically in front of the crowd. Some of them moved the paintings of the martyr in front of the soldiers’ eyes, so that they would be affected, too. Many photos were taken of the painting of Kashani’s. I also filmed the scenes of people holding the painting. I wanted them to remain as mementos.”



 December 31st, 1978

It is December 31st, 1978 and the revolutionary ferment of the people has warmed up the winter of that year. The Shah’s regime is being drained of its lifeblood! The scent of revolution has filled every alley and street. Meanwhile, some government employees, and particularly some of the servicemen and troopers of the Pahlavi regime join the revolutionary forces and that enhances the people’s revolutionary zeal. Ali Reza Khaleqi, with a camera in his hand, is recording the events in the Mashhad demonstrations. On December 31, 1978) Mashhad residents gather around the Governor General’s Office in support of its staff’s decision to join the revolution. A gathering that initially seems a peaceful one, without any conflict between the military forces and the people. However, the sudden attack of the army surprises people, and four women named Fateme Amiri Birjandi, Mobine Salar-Pūr, Batūl Cheraqchi, and Elahe Zeynal-Pūr are martyred. Carrying his camera to record the genuine scenes of revolution, Ali Reza Khaleqi records some moments of this historical day in Mashhad which becomes known as the Bloody Sunday of Mashhad.


Ali Reza Khaleqi: “the staff of the General Governor’s Office had gathered to declare their solidarity with the revolution. On those days, whenever an organization’s staff congregated in support of the revolution, we presume that the army would attack them; so we would go there to support them. We wanted to go in front of the Governor’s Office, in order to show the army that it is people they are confronting, and on the other hand, to show the staff that we are with them. When I arrived there, I saw a huge crowd of men in front of the Governor’s Office, and ladies were behind them, in the middle of Lashkar intersection. People had surrounded the army tanks which were stationed in front of the Governor’s Office; some people had climbed onto the tanks, and you could not see the tanks anymore. Most of the crowds were gathered in front of the Governor’s Office. So, I went to that side, little by little, in order to film some scenes there. There was such a huge crowd you could hardly find room to walk. People were chanting the slogan, “According to Khomeini / The army is our brother”. I hardly found room opposite the Governor’s Office’s gates, and stood on the corner of Sardadvar alley. Nothing could be seen; I just saw a helicopter roaring overhead. In such tumult, Ebrahim Afshar who had seen my camera, came forward and said, “Get up on my shoulders!” He was tall; so I went up, and was able to monitor the situation in front of the Governor’s Office. Hashemi-nejhad and Ayatollah Noghani had climbed up one of the tanks. The tank was slowly moving among the people towards the Lashkar intersection. It was a beautiful scene which I proceeded to capture on tape. Some people were bringing the soldiers down from the tanks, kissing them, consoling them not to be upset. Some were even distributing sweets. Due to being short of films, I could only film parts of those historical scenes. Then, I came down Afshar’s shoulders, so that I could film from all the different angles. Two army trucks were to one side of the street, and the soldiers were getting off on by one. People would give them a jacket or coat or something they could cover themselves with and they would disappear in the crowd. In a moment, the guns were all gone and no soldiers remained. One of the trucks was aflame; still, some had climbed on top of it where they still could, trying to dismantle its machine gun. Nearby, one of the soldiers who had not escaped, had leaned against the door of a shop, crying. I went forward to film this scene. I saw that people were forcing kisses on him and trying to cover him with some clothes; but he was afraid, saying: “Give me my gun; I want to go back to the barracks”. His mouth was bleeding. As I was watching that scene through the camera lens, filming it, a hand from behind got hold of my camera. Someone wanted to catch my camera. Maybe he had thought that I was one of the SAVAK forces. Just as he was griping my camera, I heard a burst of gunfire from the middle of the crowd. The hand let go of my camera, and all the people scattered. I lay down in the ditch, with my camera whose microphone was broken. There, I couldn’t understand what was happening. But later on, I heard from some people that an army jeep coming from Taqi-Abad square had started shooting at people. Somebody had jumped into the jeep and hit the commander by an axe; he died and his body fell down on the ground; people tie a rope to his feet, and tie it to the jeep, so his body was being pulled by the jeep; I saw this last scene myself, but didn’t have any blank video cassettes left to record it. As the shooting stopped, the people were heard, saying “Allahu Akbar”[13], I looked around; some guys had fallen on the ground, and everything was in chaos. People were upset and angry; they shouted the slogan, “Military brethren, why fratricide?” I was all over the place, going to each and every corner of the street to see what was happening. I had no more video cassettes; so, I was going back to the Lashkar intersection to buy some. Near the intersection, as I was walking, I saw one of those tanks stuck in the middle of the crowd running very fast from the Governor’s Office towards us. The street was crowded, and the people fled as they were screaming: some to the left, and some to the right. The tank suddenly turned into Pahlavi Street, with the same speed. I noticed there were some women standing at the intersection, and a green car – a Peykan – was parked right at the intersection, on the street. The tank, turning at high speed, sideswiped the car, and pushed it into the ditch. I was on the pavement on the other side of the street; I quickly moved forward.  As the tank went a bit forward, the women screamed, ‘Stop! Don’t move! Somebody’s stuck in here, go back!’ The tank moved a little bit backward, and stopped there. I saw three women fallen down between the car and the tank. The women shook them a lot, but they wouldn’t move at all. They were dead. The women didn’t have the heart to touch the corpses; so, with the help of some other men I held them by their chadors and put all three bodies on the back of a Land Rover which belonged to the electric utility so that they could be taken to a hospital. The conflict was going on and some were moving back toward the General Governor’s office, annoyed; I also went to the Khosravi intersection, bought some blank video cassettes and got back to the same street. The street was less crowded by then; but it was like a war-torn city, messed-up, full of rubbish, broken things and burnt debris.”



A Journey into the Revolution

With the outbreak of the unfortunate events in the Bloody Sunday of Mashhad, and the departure of the Shah from the country in on January 19, 1979, people smelled the fragrance of revolution more than at any time before. Each day people were more assured that a real revolution is taking place. Recording the genuine moments of the revolution and the nice scenes of people’s demonstrations in Mashhad by Ali Reza Khaleqi is still going on when some whispers of the Imam’s return to Iran are heard. This news enhances the people’s – and especially the youth’s – ardor, and a passionate crowd of people flow into Tehran. Ali Reza Khaleqi also travels to Tehran, so that he can welcome the Imam, and also film the moment of the Imam’s entrance into the country and his reception by the people.


Ali Reza Khaleqi: “The last date they announced the Imam’s entering into Iran was January 30th. I decided to go two or three days earlier. In Mashhad, some groups were organized by the Beyt[14] to go to Tehran, but I didn’t like to go with the executive teams. I liked to be free there. So, two or three days before the January 30th, I bought some bus tickets with my younger brother and two of my cousins and set off for Tehran. I took my camera as well, in order to film the arrival of Hazrat[15] Imam Khomeini. When on the bus, we noticed that at least half of the passengers were young people like us. It was certainly sweet, but we were all worried about the Imam’s airplane being attacked. All the talks were also around this issue; everyone was wondering whether they would let the Imam enter the country, or if they would attack the plane, etc. We ended up saying, “No! God willing, they will not attack it.” When we got to Tehran we went straight to the Naser Khosrow area, to Shams ol-Emare Street, which had a hostel, called Mas،ūd. Mashhad residents would usually go there. The Mas،ūd hostel was full; we waited outside till 2 p.m., and finally got a room with lots of difficulty. On the day of our arrival, we were expecting that the Imam would come the next day; but, we found out in the hostel that Bakhtiar hadn’t allowed the Imam’s airplane to land. So, the clergy went on strike in Tehran University in order to force the government to open the airport. We were uncertain what to do, to stay or go back, since we had little money and it was probable that the airport wouldn’t open any time soon. Finally, we decided to pool all the money we had and stay as long as we could afford to. During the following days, I would usually go to the University; our hangout was the University and Enqelab square; we would hang out there until the afternoon. Every day, different groups of people, such as the nurses of some hospitals, TV staff, teachers, airport staff, or some groups from the Oil Company would come to announce their solidarity with the clergy. Different groups of people would go to the University, one after the other. Each group had written rhymed slogans on some placards, chanting them together while walking. Azeri people[16] were chanting some Turkish slogans, which I filmed. Those groups, while chanting their slogans, went around the mosque which was the center of the strike. The clergy held short lectures there. After listening to the lectures, people continued their movement again. I didn’t go for the lectures much, but I heard their voices through the amplifier. It was Ayatollah Taleghani who would usually speak. Ayatollah Montazeri was also there. Ayatollah Khamenei lectured, as well; and many other clerics whom I didn’t know. At noon, they all made their namaz (ritual prayers) together, and continued the program again. The Imam’s arrival was continually postponed; but we kept staying in Tehran, saying to ourselves, ‘though he didn’t come today, he might come tomorrow’. There were always some people chanting in front of the university. The guards had come and hit some people, and had left. People still chanted harsh slogans with bloody hands and faces, and showed their hands to each other. Since some were also killed, many people would really shout, in an explosive angry way. A minibus with a loudspeaker installed on it had stopped in front of the university,. It always broadcast the announcements. At that moment, it was constantly being announced that according to the edicts of Ayatollah Taleghani and Ayatollah Montazeri, everyone should keep calm, go inside the university, not get involved in any scuffles, and not make trouble! Those sentences were constantly being repeated. I took a “long shot” from the scene, and then zoomed on the loudspeaker of the bus and recorded the announcement.  Then, I turned the camera to people’s hands, which were bloody. They were continuously chanting and clamoring excitedly. Then again I zoomed on the minibus loudspeaker and the door of Tehran University. I deliberately filmed nonstop, in one cut, so that nobody could claim later on that the scenes were edited. I had in mind that these scenes must be documented because of their criticality.

On the morning of the twelfth day I got a strange thrill; I went in front of Tehran University early in the morning. Crowds of people were standing on both sides of the street, as if there was no room even for a needle. In the middle of the street, they had put a long line of flowers, as far as the eyes could see. It was so overcrowded that some people had gone on top of the buildings and the trees to be able to see the events. People were saying that the Imamwould first stop in front of the university after his arrival and would then go to the tombs of the martyrs in Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery. So I found a place exactly in front of the university, so that I could film the Imam when he would stand at the university gates. But it was too crowded in front of the university. People had put some 14-inch Japanese TVs on the cars and there were throngs around each TV. The Imam’s arrival was supposed to be broadcast on television and we were all waiting. Eventually, we saw the airplane passing overhead, with a few minutes’ delay. It was a really strange moment; we were all stressed out. I couldn’t move from there. I was waiting for a couple of hours for the arrival of the Imam’s car. The first car passing through was a minibus in which the seminary students were chanting slogans. There were also a lot of people in other cars, passing through the university street, one after the other. It was so crowded that I couldn’t see the Imamat all; when the cars left, I heard the guys around me who were also wondering what had happened; some said the Imamwent to Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery. Since I didn’t have a vehicle, I didn’t go there and moved along with the crowd from the circus which was called the 24th of Esfand (currently called Enqelabor Revolution Circus), chanting slogans. The next day, I found out that the Imam was scheduled to go to Refah School. I went there before the appointed time. There was a large window in the yard and they said the Imamwould stand in front of that window, and would give a reception to the people. I had the camera with me and I needed to find a place from which I would be able to get good footage. Crowds of people were flowing inside with excitement. The window, in front of which the Imam was to stand had two corners; and there was a two-meter-long wall near one of the corners. I saw that the wall was the nearest place to the window. So, I stood on its thin edge. It was difficult. Now, I was two or three meters away from the Imam’s window. After a while, Imam Khomeini came to the window on the other side towards the one near us. I was hardly able to keep myself on the wall; the crowd’s motion could make me fall down. I remember some women were on top of the roofs around the school, watching us; I filmed that scene. I was so happy I didn’t quite know what I was doing. I repeatedly zoomed on the Imam’s face, and his hand greeting people. After a few minutes of standing near us the Imam went toward the next window, visiting those waiting there, and then came to us again. After a while, when he felt tired, the Imam rested for a few minutes; but the people continued their ceaseless chanting in the yard. The Imam stood up again, coming to the window. He repeated this process two or three times during the fifteen minutes I was there. After we saw the Imam in Refah School, there was no need to stay in Tehran any longer. The people in fact had two objectives in coming to Tehran from the provinces; first, welcoming and visiting the Imam, and second, conveying a message to the regime, and both these objectives were fulfilled; the next day, we set off for Mashhad. In Mashhad, we noticed that the conditions concerning the revolution had changed a lot. No one would dare to stop activists from writing on the walls anymore; Even the SAVAK were on the defensive, looking for places to hide. At that time, I silkscreened the Imam’s picture on some pieces of fabric for the first time; and the guys fixed these on panels and attached them to the light poles on the streets which were the paths the demonstration took.. I recall the first street in which we put one of those pictures of the Imam’s was Khosravi-e Now Street; the fabric was a 90×100-centemeter one, below which we wrote in English and Persian “Rūhollah al-Mūsavi al-Khomeini”. In Mashhad we were waiting to hear news from Tehran. The revolution reached its peak in Tehran on the 22nd of Bahman (February 11, 1979). That day, first the garrisons succumbed, and a few hours later, the radio made the following announcement: “This is the voice of revolution. What you are hearing is the voice of the revolution.” Just as this was announced, people came out of the houses, pouring into the streets. All were so happy, celebrating the news. I went to a street (currently called Shirazi). The Army forces that were on that street at the time were stuck in an unforeseen situation; they didn’t shoot even one bullet, and went from Shirazi Street towards the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza in their military vehicles. I shot some nice footage there.”

[1]. A city in Iran

[2]. Imam Hussein’s birthday

[3]. A city in Iran

[4]. It was a symbolic casket as is narrated in Quran. (T.N.)

[5] (Interview with Qods Newspaper; Dey 10, 1366; December, 31, 1987).

[6]. (59(نساء،  یا ایها الذین آمنوا اطیعوا الله و اطیعوا الرسول و اولی الامر منکم

[7] Mashhad is a city in Iran

[8]. A city in Iran

[9]. One of the Imam Hussein’s followers who was at first in the enemies camp but joined Imam Hussein later, before the war started. The meaning of his name is a noble and liberal person

[10]. It is an abbreviation for Rahmat Allah alaih, i.e. God’s Mercy be upon him

[11]. The Persian word for Soldier.

[12]. Vice chancellor

[13]. “”الله اکبر, i.e. God is great or God is greater.

[14].The house and office of a Marja، (religious authority)

[15]. A title of respect used for high-ranked religious leaders

[16]. Residents of Azerbaijan of Iran placed in the north-east of the country, who speak Azerī.

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