‘A great shame’: Iranian photographer slams Trump’s use of her photo

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By Farnoush Amiri

An Iranian photojournalist is speaking out against President Donald Trump’s use of one of her photos in a tweet in which the president promoted a “brighter future” for the Iranian people.

Yalda Moaiery, 37, who lives in Iran’s capital, Tehran, wrote in an Instagram post this week that she took the photo of a woman during public protests more than a year ago around the University of Tehran.

“It would be a great honor for me if this image would be a symbol of freedom everywhere in the world,” Moaiery wrote Tuesday. But having President Trump “use it without my permission in a tweet in Persian even is a great shame for me and causes me deep sorrow.”

Moaiery told NBC News that she did not license or otherwise grant permission to the White House or any other part of the U.S. government to use the image. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and it is not clear how the image included in Trump’s tweet was obtained.

The president tweeted Monday in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, which overthrew the shah and led tens of thousands of Iranians to leave the country.

“40 years of corruption. 40 years of repression. 40 years of terror,” the president tweeted. “The long-suffering Iranian people deserve a much brighter future.”

The photographer responded on Instagram that Trump’s policies toward Iran are hurting its people, including her own family and friends who “are forced to live under sanctions that are devastating our lives.”

Her post in response was widely shared on social media.

“People are being crushed and ruined in Iran by all of his policies,” the photographer told NBC News on Tuesday in an interview in Farsi. “We have a lot of problems and a lot of that is because of Trump.”

Among those policies is Trump’s travel ban, restricting entry to the U.S. by people from seven countries, including Iran and four others that are Muslim-majority.

Moaiery said that because of this order, she and her brother have been denied visas to the U.S. twice. Their parents, who both have green cards, are currently living in San Francisco.

“It was my brother’s engagement, and my parents couldn’t come to here for it,” Moaiery said. “The travel ban has put a separation between our family.”

The photographer, who has captured the scenes of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan over her 20-year career, took the now-iconic photo when protests over the country’s economic problems broke out in late 2017. The image was published by major U.S. and international publications.

However, because of restraints on the press in Iran, Moaiery withheld her name from the photo credit until May 2018 — when she received an award for the photo in Iran. Prior to that, the photo circulated with no name credit.

Photojournalist Yalda Moaiery.Courtesy Yalda Moaiery

“I wasn’t able to reveal my identity for six months because I thought that being known as the photographer I might get me into trouble,” she wrote in her post. “But I came out as it’s important to show the situation in Iran in a clear and transparent manner.”

Her response to Trump’s tweet is the first time she has claimed her photo on social media.

Some other international observers also criticized Trump’s tweet, saying it is hard to believe he wishes the best for the Iranian people.

“Iranians simply do not see honorable intentions from Trump,” said Trita Parsi, author of the book, “Losing an Enemy — Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy.”

“They tend to believe he is targeting Iran to weaken and destabilize the country rather than to help the Iranian people,” he told NBC News.

Last year, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, a landmark Obama-era pact that had eased economic sanctions that the U.S. put on Iran after the revolution in 1979.

The Trump administration reimposed sanctions lifted under the nuclear deal to pressure the Iranian government over its nuclear program and its alleged sponsoring of terrorism in other countries.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told “Fox News Sunday” in November that the U.S. is working in support of the Iranian people.

“We are working diligently to make sure we support the Iranian people and that we direct our activity towards ensuring that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s maligned behavior is changed,” Pompeo said. “That’s the goal.”

But Moaiery told NBC News: “Our day-to-day life is what has been impacted the most by the sanctions on Iran. It has completely taken over people’s lives and ability to provide and live a high-quality of life.”

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