The Last Image

BYAHMAD RAHBAR

She gets hold of her camera and checks the battery; it’s not fully charged. She thinks to herself, for the job I have it should be fully charged, most probably I won’t have access to any electricity.

It might be my last day of filming, she thought; because former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki threatened he would attack Ashraf, home to more than 3000 Iranian dissidents, members of Iranian opposition.

Early next morning, she gets up and waters the little garden in front of her room. She then asks one of her roommates to water the garden every day to keep it always green in case any thing happened to her. Saba’s roommate gives her a concerned stare, but Saba smiles and passes by her roommate.

She picks up her camera and jumps in the back of a pick-up truck with some of her friends, setting off for the place where her other friends were already gathered. She is determined to capture the scenes where Iraqi forces are attacking Ashraf residents. Iraqi forces are standing only few meters away fully geared with a variety of weapons, anti-riot equipment and HUMVEE vehicles, ready to attack. She looks at her friends; they have nothing to protect themselves. She doesn’t want to believe that Iraqi forces would shoot her friends. Talking to herself, she murmurs, “Some last drops of human values might still be left in them”…

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Good fate didn’t last too long; it faded as she remembered the horrific hours of the Iraqi forces’ last attack back in July 2009 when her friends were brutally shot to death and murdered.

Iraqi forces started taking direct aimed shots; there is no place to take cover. She is capturing the scenes with her camera as she heard a cry:”Asiyeh” has been shot. Saba just cannot believe it. Asiyeh is her best friend and colleague. As she was recovering from the shock of this news about Asiyeh, another voice shouted in her ears: “Watch out Saba, Iraqi forces are shooting at any camera at sight, you are their target.” She rushes to Asiyeh to check up on her, but Asiyeh points at her camera which laid on the ground and tells Saba with her last breaths: “I caught all the scenes, pick up my camera!” Saba’s eyes get wet in tears.

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A vehicle approaches to evacuate Asiyeh for medical care. (Asiyeh was another eyewitness reporter who was shot to death on April 8, 2011).

As Asiyeh was evacuated, Saba continues on filming the atrocities. One of the Iraqi soldiers, in charge of killing innocent people, unrelentingly aims and shoots. With each shot, one resident falls.

He knew residents don’t have any weapons to defend themselves. A voice cried out: “Saba watch out, he is coming your way!” Saba starts running to take cover.

A few seconds later she starts filming the armed men who are shooting at them. As she was filming she was thinking to herself, what do they want from us? Where in the world are asylum seekers slaughtered by official forces of the host state? This is another mystery of our times… Just then she felt severe pain in her leg and fell to the ground.

She looks at her leg, tries to stop the bleeding, but it’s no use. She cries for help. Her friends rush to her side and try to stop the bleeding, but one of main arteries of her leg is ruptured. Gradually she faints out. Saba later opens her eyes, finding herself among many others wounded, with one of her friends attending to her. She has lost a lot of blood and feels very weak and dizzy. She notices a camera is turning towards her. Puts all her strength together and turns her head and says to camera: “We shall stand to the very end…”  She doesn’t have any strength left. One of her friends shouts: “She needs blood!” One of the nurses explained, “We don’t have the equipment for blood type test here”. She continued, “Someone is coming though with O blood, we will give Saba some of her blood.”

Saba feels better after blood injection. Everybody is working hard to dispatch Saba to a hospital out of Ashraf, but the Iraqi forces are not permitting anyone exit the camp; since the residents are under a siege, no one, not even the wounded and sick are allowed to leave.

In the ambulance she noticed her father is accompanying her, feeling a sense of confidence in his presence. After waiting for long hours inside the ambulance the Iraqi forces eventually allowed them to head off.

When they reached the hospital Saba felt dizzy again and was in need of immediate blood injection. As she was fainting she could hear voices around her in Arabic. She came to understand that they said only in one condition would they provide the needed blood: only if her father would surrender to mullahs’ regime in Tehran.

Saba realized that she and her father had to make a choice between human dignity and the cause of freedom of Iranian people, or treason and hypocrisy. As she willingly gave up her confortable life back in Europe and chose to make the ultimate sacrifice so that every Iranian youth would have a happy and free life, deep down she preferred that her father would not give in.

Gradually her eyes fell heavy. She was thinking to herself, I would not see my beloved sister any more. I would not see the caring face of my father any more. I would no longer feel my mother’s unending love…

But deep down she felt peace. She thought to herself, I am dying in the path of the Iranian people’s struggle for freedom and democracy. I am becoming a martyr but the scenes I have documented would expose the crime against humanity in Ashraf…

The photo above is the last picture taken by Saba from the soldier shooting at her. She was wounded in this scene, on April 8, 2011 in an attack by Nouri Al-Maliki forces at Ashraf and died in a Baghdad hospital a few hours later. She was a member of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, the main Iranian opposition against the mullahs’ ruling Tehran. Her name will be remembered forever amongst devoted journalists who documenting atrocities with the objective of bringing all perpetrators to justice.

 

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