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Iran: Witness to revolution

Saturday 30 April 2016, by siawi3

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/photography/what-to-see/hengameh-golestan--witness-1979/

Witness to revolution: the women of Iran 1979

Photo: Women join forces to protest against the hijab ruling in Tehran, Iran, 1979 Credit: Hengameh Golestan

Lucy Davies

10 September 2015 • 3:25pm
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Iranian photographer Hengameh Golestan was married to the award-winning Iranian photojournalist Kaveh Golestan, who died while on assignment in Iraqi Kurdistan, in 2003.

Hengameh took her first images aged 18, and for a brief time attended photography school in England, but learnt most about taking pictures from working as her husband’s assistant. “To say that working with Kaveh was inspiring would be an understatement,” she says. “He was always critiquing my work and offering advice to help me improve. Technically and also spiritually I got everything from him.”

Hengameh liked to photograph everyday life in her home city of Tehran, in particular the lives of women and children, and quiet, often mundane domestic details. But in 1979, when she was 27, revolution came. In January, following two years of demonstrations, the last Persian monarch - the Shah - left Iran for exile. In Feburary, Ayatollah Khomeini returned to the city, bringing about the final collapse of the royal reign and a new Islamic Republic.

Photo: Women join forces to protest against the hijab ruling in Tehran, Iran, 1979
Credit: Hengameh Golestan

“It was the best time of my life,” says Golestan. “I was in the streets from morning until night as something was always happening. Every day was so unpredictable. The mood was one of anticipation and excitement, and a bit of fear. We were actively taking part in shaping our future through actions rather than words and that felt amazing.”

On 8 March 1979, more than 100,000 women gathered on the streets of the Iranian capital to protest against the new Islamic government’s compulsory hijab ruling, which meant that women would henceforth be required to wear a headscarf when away from home.

Photo: Women join forces to protest against the hijab ruling in Tehran, Iran, 1979
Credit: Hengameh Golestan

Sensing the importance of the occasion, Golestan decided to attend as a photographer rather than a protestor. At the time, there were few documentary photographers in Tehran. “People were not really familiar with that type of journalism,” says Golestan. “At demonstrations…there were not enough of us [photographers] to be noticed….But taking pictures in the crowd was not easy, most of the time I was running and hiding from the government officials who did not want images to be taken. It was a solo undertaking, the fact that you would have to constantly run and hide made it impossible to go in as a team.”

Photo: Women join forces to protest against the hijab ruling in Tehran, Iran, 1979
Credit: Hengameh Golestan

The majority of the images she took that day have never been exhibited or published before. This week they will be displayed at The Showroom in North London, part of a programme designed to generate relationships in the local area. Golestan has lived close to the gallery, near the Edgware Road, for almost 20 years, having moved to the UK in 1984 with her husband and son, and will be involved in a number of workshops and discussions designed to accompany the exhibition.

Photo: Women join forces to protest against the hijab ruling in Tehran, Iran, 1979
Credit: Hengameh Golestan

“People in Iran were very politically charged at this point in time [in 1979]” says Golestan. “This demonstration was, for us, the women, a continuation of the revolution. We were sure that we as the people could get what we wanted, although we were disappointed in the end. But Iranian women are very strong and resilient. We took it in our stride.”

Hengameh Golestan: Witness 1979 is at The Showroom, Penfold Street, London NW8, until 27 September 2015. Tel: 020 7724 4300