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Photo Essay | Paris: Iran's Political Hub


09 Jun 2012 23:35Comments
Seeking a New Home Refugees whose asylum applications have been accepted start lining up outside the Préfecture de Police in the 19th arrondissement at three in the morning. They repeat the process until they get a turn inside. The prefecture issues a residence permit that allows refugees to work, if they can get someone to give them a job. This photo was taken on December 11, 2009, during the first winter after Iran's disputed presidential election and the massive protests that followed.
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The Long Wait An Iranian-Kurdish couple, both journalists, queue along with other refugees outside the prefecture.
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Wearing of the Green The idea to adopt the color green for the presidential campaign of Mir Hossein Mousavi is often credited to Roohollah Shahsavar, a journalist and former head of a youth branch of Mousavi's headquarters in the northeast city of Mashhad. After being locked up for a few months, Shahsavar was released and fled to Paris, where he enrolled as a university student.
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Another Tongue Iranian refugees learn French, as they try to assimilate into their new home.
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Friend Turned Foe Abolhassan Bani Sadr joined the resistance movement against the Shah in Paris while a student at the Sorbonne. Upon his return to Iran after the Revolution, he became the first president of the Islamic Republic. His presidency was undermined by an intense rivalry with clerics close to Khomeini that led to Bani Sadr's impeachment and escape from Iran along with MKO guerrilla leader Masoud Rajavi. Bani Sadr, who would soon denounce Rajavi for being too militaristic, lives in Paris.
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A Victim with a Voice Ebrahim Mehtari was a university student studying software engineering in 2009. He was arrested, jailed, and tortured for taking part in the demonstrations following the disputed election that June. Mehtari fled to Turkey and eventually settled in Paris. He frequently writes about his experience and the broader human rights situation in Iran. One night in March last year, Mehtari was attacked in the vicinity of his Paris home -- he was stabbed in the leg, calf, chest, and arm, and had a rope put around his neck by two men (one Iranian).
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Solidarity Following the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian diaspora in France organized numerous events in solidarity with protestors in Iran. A mile-long green cloth signed by Iranians worldwide was wrapped around the Eiffel Tower. Paris has provided a venue for Iranian opposition movements since the latter half of the 19th century. It has been home to Iranian opposition leaders and intellectuals in every field since the 1979 Revolution. Iranians in Paris have always been an active and influential part of the Iranian diaspora.
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Out of the Cell Hamzeh Ghalebi, a prominent member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, headed Mir Hossein Mousavi campaign's youth and student committee. Ghalebi was detained a few days after the demonstrations that followed the 2009 election. He spent 70 days in prison, 64 of those in solitary confinement. Ghalebi, who resides in Paris, remains active in the opposition movement.
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An Iranian Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi studied law at the University of Tehran and then served as the first woman judge in the history of Iran. Stripped of her title after the Islamic Revolution, she began to practice law again in 1992 when she undertook several national cases including that of Parvaneh and Dariush Forouhar. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Price in 2003 "for her efforts for democracy and human rights" and decorated by France with the Légion d'honneur.
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Next Stop Unknown An Iranian refugee is part of a large group evicted from a Paris hotel.
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A New Year's Kaleidoscope Celebrating Nowruz in the 20th arrondissement.
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Relentless for Rights Shiva Nazar Ahari (right) is a human rights advocate who in 2003 cofounded the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR) and the Society of Tara Women (STW). Arrested, along with her lawyer, for alleged involvement in the 2009 postelection demonstrations, she was sent to the notorious Evin Prison -- her third stint there.
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Mr. Crocodile Nikahang Kowsar (center, with camera) is a political cartoonist. He was jailed in Evin for a famous cartoon of his, "Ostad Temhsah" ("Professor Crocodile"), which shows a crocodile strangling a journalist while shedding "tears" of false sympathy. In exile, he continues to draw cartoons in reaction to political events in Iran and runs khodnevis.org, a citizen journalism website. Ahmad Rafat (left) is an Italian Iranian journalist. Both were in Paris to meet and document the plight of Iranian refugees.
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Permanent Foreign Bureau Roohollah Shahsavar (left) is a journalist formerly based in Mashhad in northeastern Iran. He was arrested on June 17, 2009, and has since lived in exile. Siraj al-Din Mirdamadi (right) is a journalist based in Paris. He was a member of Mir Hossein Mousavi's presidential campaign in 2009.
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The Old Guard Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi meets with Iranians in Paris. The eldest son of the late Shah of Iran, Pahlavi has lived in exile since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. A leading voice for reform in Iranian political affairs, he has visited Paris on book tours and speaking arrangements many times. Opposition members sympathetic to the return of a constitutional monarchy, some of whom reside in France, see Pahlavi as an heir to the Peacock Throne.
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Friends of Freedom Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë invoked his own city's tumultuous battles for liberty minutes before he made Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi an honorary citizen on June 10, 2010. Delanoë and Ebadi are joined by Karim Lahidji (right), president of the Iranian League for the Defense of Human Rights. Delanoë, a staunch supporter of the Iranian democratic movement, is one of the few European politicians to have signed a petition calling for the unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners in Iran.
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Directing Resistance Internationally acclaimed filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf is joined by French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy. Makhmalbaf spent time in jail under the Shah, and has been targeted by the Islamic regime both for his films and his efforts as a human rights activist. He left Iran in 2005 shortly after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was first elected president. He and his family now live in Paris.
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Pictures of Home Author Marjane Satrapi studied at Tehran's Lycée Français and continued her education in Vienna. Her celebrated book Persepolis tells the story of her upbringing and the effect of the Islamic Revolution on Iranians. After the 2009 reelection of Ahmadinejad, Satrapi joined with Mohsen Makhmalbaf to urge European governments to support the Green Movement. Satrapi lives in France where she makes films in both French and Farsi.
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Acting Up Golshifteh Farahani is an Iranian actress and musician. She has appeared in Iranian films such as About Elly, and with Leonardo DiCaprio in Body of Lies. Last year, she starred in the French production If You Die, I'll Kill You (Si tu meurs, je te tue). She also won the Tehran Avenue underground rock competition with her band Kooch Neshin (Nomads) and has recorded with Mohsen Namjoo. In January, she appeared topless in a short black-and-white film by Jean-Baptiste Mondino, Bodies and Souls (Corps et âmes), and in a photo for Madame Le Figaro. She was consequently banned from returning to Iran and now resides in France.
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Mutiny Mohammad Reza Haydari spent 20 years working for Iran's Foreign Ministry. In 2009, he was consul to the Iranian Embassy in Norway. After the disputed presidential elections back home and the violent crackdown on the protests that followed, Haydari announced that he was quitting the ministry out of disillusionment with the Iranian regime. Now living in exile, he has joined with the Iranian opposition in France to further challenge his former employers.
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Music to His Ears An Iranian refugee's first night in Paris, in front of the Palais Garnier in Place D'Opéra.
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Ever So French "They believe she's from here because she grew up with their culture," Cyrus Amuzegar, information minister in Shapour Bakhtiar's transitional government and a longtime resident of Paris himself, said of Farah Diba. She and the late Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi first met at a reception held by the Iranian ambassador to France in the late 1950s, when she was a student at Paris's École d'Architecture. In 1963, Queen -- later Shahbanu (Empress) -- Farah was awarded the Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur, France's highest decoration. She divides her time between Washington, D.C., and Paris.
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An Archaic Punishment Protestors hang a banner with an image of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani at the base of the Place de la République monument. Ashtiani, a 44-year-old mother of two currently jailed in Tabriz, was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. The sentence was the subject of an international uproar; figures such as Carla Bruni, France's then First Lady, pled for it to be overturned. Meanwhile, the hardline Iranian daily Kayhan published a story that called Ashtiani a "whore."
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Prison for a Pen Ebrahim Nabavi is a prominent satirist, well known for his "Sotun-e Panjom" (Fifth Column), which appeared in a series of Iranian newspapers, banned one after the other. The author of several books, he was arrested and jailed twice by the Islamic Republic. Currently a resident of Brussels, Nabavi makes frequent visits to Paris.
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[ diaspora ] Like the French, the Iranians had their own grand sweeping revolution. And like the Russians after theirs, a series of high-profile assassinations plagued the exile community in Paris following the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Whatever the parallels, Iranians intellectuals and pleasure seekers have been attracted to the French capital since at least the latter half of the 19th century. Even then, the upper strata of society, unable to express themselves freely in their homeland, were able to so in this magnificent haven. The first political movements opposed to the Qajar Dynasty were cultivated in Paris by Persian students, intellectuals, and diplomats.

The power of Iranian-led political movements outside the country, primarily in France, figures prominently in the Iranian political culture. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini famously set up operations in 1978 just outside Paris, where he had access to the international media. After the revolution, the MKO, the Fedayeen-e-Khalgh, the Tudeh Party, monarchists, republican nationalists, and independent leftist and progressive factions all established themselves in and around Paris as well. "Mapping out the groups of political exiles active against the Islamic Republic is like trying to describe a perpetually moving kaleidoscope of changing political patterns and colours," wrote Annabelle Sreberny-Mohammadi and Ali Mohammadi in 1987.

Abolhassan Bani Sadr joined the resistance movement against the Shah in Paris while a student at the Sorbonne. Upon his return to Iran after the Revolution, he became the first president of the Islamic Republic. His presidency was undermined by an intense rivalry with Khomeini's inner circle of clerics that led to Bani Sadr's impeachment and escape from Iran along with MKO guerrilla leader Masoud Rajavi.

Rajavi established the Council of National Resistance as an umbrella opposition group initially comprising the MKO; the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, led by Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou; the National Democratic Front, led by Hedayat Matin-Daftari; and the United Left.

Officials of the Islamic Republic made regular visits to Paris in the 1980s in attempts to extradite Iranian exiles. In 1986, the spillover of violence from Iran could be seen in Paris as guerrilla cells within the MKO fought with members of the Fedayeen-e Khalgh at the MKO's headquarters in the Paris suburb of Auvers-sur-Oise. The French police subsequently curtailed the MKO's activities, and Rajavi left for Iraq, where Saddam Hussein had promised him military bases. The other groups soon broke off from the MKO, but many elements of the organization remain in Paris.

Since 2009, many prominent members of the Green Movement who fled after the postelection crisis have chosen Paris as a destination. They include Ardeshir Amir Arjomand, spokesman for Mir Hossein Mousavi, and several of the former presidential candidate's other senior aides, such as Hamzeh Ghalebi. Cartoonist Mana Neyestani, cleric-turned-journalist Mohammad Javaad Akbarein, nationalist-religious journalists Reza Alijani and Taghi Rahmani, and filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf are among them.

Even many "children of the Revolution" who do not wish for the regime to be overthrown find themselves in the company of those in France who worked with Khomeini during his months in the Paris suburb of Neauphle-le-Château, said one Green Movement activist.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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