Kurdish Smugglers Going to Iraq, Kurdistan, Iran, 2016
I say this a lot, but this is one of my favorite pictures. And maybe that's more for the story behind it then the picture itself. The photo also makes me very sad, as this was taken about 25 miles from the earthquake that occurred on November 12th, 2017.
This picture came about as we were leaving the small town of Uraman Tahkt, in the mountainous western part of the Kurdistan province. Although there is a lot of agriculture in this region, a lot of money comes to Uraman Tahkt from smuggling. As we were leaving the village in our bus, we went by Revolutionary Guard (known in Iran as Sepah) station and, just behind it, saw men running up the hill. We asked Ashfin, our guide, who these people are and what they were doing. He told us these were local Kurdish men, running toward the border Iraq to smuggle things across from the other side. Mostly they would smuggle things like DVDs and small electronics, but they would also get things like TVs. That they were doing this right behind the Sepah station was surprising, as smugglers have been shot by the Revolutionary Guard in the past, according to Kurdish human right groups . But of course, we began taking pictures from the bus surreptitiously.
But as we wound up to the pass, we came across a whole group of around 15 men, all chatting and talking on cell phones. At this point, we were a few kilometers from the station an hour drive from any actual town. In the distance, to the west, we could see Iraq. We asked Ashfin if we could stop and talk to them. He said "why not?" So we stopped the van and got out. Of course, aside from our guides, I was the only one who spoke Farsi, and these men spoke more Kurdish than Farsi. But I did know how to ask to take a picture, and my group asked me to ask these men if I could take a picture. They smiled, nodded, and asked me the same question. I said yes, and everybody began taking pictures, us with our cameras, them with their cell phones. As we did so, some of them men got to work, heading down the valley towards Iraq. I was especially impressed by the man with the cane.
My heart goes out these men, their families, and the those affected by the earthquake. Everyone I met there was terribly kind and generous.