Jean Gaumy began his career as a writer and photographer. His exposes on French healthcare and prison systems (he was the first photojournalist to be allowed inside a French prison) led to reforms. Today, he is better known for his photo of Iran’s chandored female militia practicing firing.
Gaumy visited Iran six or seven times over a four-year period. As he recalled:
“For me it was an opportunity to discover the true meaning of what Iran was, to be in a hot news place and really find out about it. I had listened to friends and colleagues at home, all of whom had an opinion on Iran, so my head was buzzing with received information, but when I got out there, I knew I would have to find out the real story for myself. Abbas told me not to believe anything I read in the newspapers about Iran and he was perfectly right. I found it very exciting, discovering an entirely new and different way of life.”
Basij militia — whose voluntary members are promised with martyrdom — still survives. During the war, they were sent before the army as a human wave to clear minefields and shield the army from the enemy’s fire. These days, it serves at a de facto religious police of the Islamic Republic, enforcing hijab laws and sex segregation.
All images © Jean Gaumy / Magnum Photos