Kaveh Golestan

Kaveh Golestan

Kaveh_GolestanYears ago, in South Africa shortly before I emigrated to the UK one step ahead of the forces behind me, I spent six months hosting a number of world famous journalists interested in the local version of South Africa’s news. I had at that time a 500 acre estate, two rondavels which I shared with Hugo Fernandes, a fellow musician, which had a Lion Park on one perimeter providing that comforting African Lion roar sleep hygiene. The house in Chartwell also featured  an outdoor shooting range there where I learned a great deal about handguns and self defense. Exciting times that led me to a brother friendship with similarly PTSD anti-war thinker like myself. An Iranian born son of a famous Shah era movie producer, Ebrahim Golestan.
Kaveh Golestan lived in Eton Terrace, where, after I arrived in the UK with little or no friend network,  he would invite me every week for long and winding talks over coffee and Marlboro reds. And the very finest hashish imaginable. Long before its health benefits became the fastest growing sector in the US Stock market. It is fair to say in my first 5 years in the UK, Kaveh, (along with Ronnie Johnson) was my ethical interest mirror in starting a new life in a new country.

One day during this early period of my life in England in the musical 80’s, after I had established my first recording studio in Hampton Court, Kaveh asked to visit my home on the Thames and photograph “a day in the life of Andrew Brel“. Of course I agreed, but didn’t give it much thought. When he arrived that day, I hadn’t even shaved, let alone brush my hair or put on fancy clothes.  I didn’t consider any concession to syle that might suggest mindful awareness of what an honor this really was.  A current Press photographer of the year award winner was coming to shoot me?  Why should I do hair and make up?
Later, when I looked at the photos he took that day I saw a new and different side of myself. A layer of personality I had not been aware of previously.    Those photos were a therapy and a wonderful step towards in my self awareness.  Something he was aware of, as he revealed later, and did for me as a friend. To help. “Let me show you how other people see you.”

On the day I learned of his death, blurted out by a BBC TV news anchor as I walked past the telly one morning,   I literally had to sit on the ground, so weighty was my grief.
I think of my lost friend often. I used this picture from that day as a cover for an album I called ‘Riverbank Songwriting‘ and have told many of the stories he shared with me many times. I felt the value of the stories he shared in his lifetime should be better remembered than has been the case.

I looked up his Wikipedia page and reflect that is does not really measure the mans worth at all.  I googled more and found an old blog I wrote, which is copied below. That is more insightful into the character.  My friend Kaveh. Who told me stories that shaped the planet before, as he knew would happen, he left in a blinding flash.
What he would make of Trumpeters and Brexiters I know all too well. He was writing about them in the 80’s.

andrewkavehsmilepicw_HDR

Re-posted from my  Tales from the Riverbank Blog.
Kaveh Golestan, Terry Lloyd and the Iran Iraq War.

Having recently neared the  end of my book about the South African Bush war, ‘The Emergency Bouzouki Player‘  I migrated from one conflict to enjoy learning about another, in this case after seeing  an outstanding ITN documentary by journalist Terry Lloyd about the Iran Iraq war.
The Iran Iraq war, 1980 – 1988.
I have some insight into this particular conflict as I was good friends with Kaveh Golestan, the fabulous Iranian photographer who covered the Iran/Iraq war for many major publications including Time magazine.
Kaveh won many prestigious photography awards during this time. He would spend 6 months of the year in the war zone and 6 Months back in his Eton Terrace home, where I would join him and his lovely wife Hengameh for coffee, endless cigarettes and long conversations about the circumstances of his experiences on the Iranian front line. As a participant in war myself, I found our conversations to be especially insightful and rewarding. It was he who first made me aware of the Iranian military tactic of child sacrifice. Mothers so demented by the heady cocktail of Islamic belief and Nationalist rhetoric that they would drive their children to the front line to deliver them to certain death. Armed with only a small plastic key, a ‘Paradise Key’ which would assure them of entry to heaven.  Kaveh showed me incredible sequences of photos of mothers with faces aglow with pride and joy, the reason for which was revealed as being the moment they see their young child die in the name of Allah. John Lloyds documentary reminded me of this phenomenon in conflict. At the stage in the war where both sides were reduced to a first world war style trench conflict, separated by a heavily mined no mans land, the Iranians faced a dilemma on how best to mount an attack on the Iraqi defensive line considering the minefield issue. With an arms embargo in place and without the means to produce their own minefield clearing vehicles they contrived an ingenious solution. One entirely unique to this time and place.Word went out to Mothers across the land to bring their young children to the front line to become martyrs for Islam. Mothers arrived in droves bringing their young to serve Allah. Forming a human wave to walk across a mined no mans land, forcing the Iraqi gunners to shoot them, which would ‘rot their souls’ because Allah says you should not shoot children.Thousands of children died in this way. Martyrs for Islam. The kids were issued with a ‘Paradise’ key before being sent off. In full awareness of this master plan, the Ayatolah ordered 500,000 plastic keys from Taiwan. These plastic keys were to be hung around the necks of the youngsters before they were sent out. This, the Mullahs ensured all concerned, would guarantee instant access to heaven the moment following the explosion.The Mullahs, aware that their knowledge of military tactics was non existent, but charged none the less with being supreme commanders under Allah’s direct instruction, rejected conventional wisdom in their approach.  With Gods guidance they contrived a creative new way to make the Iraqi soldiers feel bad about themselves.

The Human Wave.

As witnessed by Penthouse journalist Bob Cringely

‘I took a taxi to the front, introduced myself to the local commander, who had gone, as I recall, to Iowa State, and spent a couple days waiting for the impending human wave attack. That attack was to be conducted primarily with 11-and 12-year-old boys as troops, nearly all of them unarmed. There were several thousand kids and their job was to rise out of the trench, praising Allah, run across No Man’s Land, be killed by the Iraqi machine gunners, then go directly to Paradise, do not pass GO, do not collect 200 dinars. And that’s exactly what happened in a battle lasting less than 10 minutes. None of the kids fired a shot or made it all the way to the other side. And when I asked the purpose of this exercise, I was told it was to demoralize the cowardly Iraqi soldiers. Waiting those two nights for the attack was surreal. Some kids acted as though nothing was wrong while others cried and puked. But when the time came to praise Allah and enter Paradise, not a single boy tried to stay behind.’

In 1989 I was sitting in Kaveh’s splendid front room in Eton Terrace looking through a box of some 200 large black and white prints of his photos, detailing the minutiae of this horrendous illustration of the dire consequences of blind faith. ‘Total War’ as it has been described.

Kaveh famously was the first cameraman to send back pictures proving the Iraqis were using chemical weapons (Nerve gas) in the conflict. (Chemical and biological weapons were supplied to Saddam Hussein by his allies – the USA, as well as Britain, Italy and France. Having supplied these WMD’s to Saddam, imagine Bush’s surprise when none could be found to suit his political convenience.)

As I had scant knowledge of Islam and its ways at that time (The late 80’s) I was thrilled by the opportunity to be informed first hand by such a knowledgeable and articulate source. I remain amazed by how little seemingly erudite non Muslims know about Islam.

The box before me contained pictures Kaveh had chosen as the best of his 8 years covering the war. He had hoped to have them published as a coffee book style record of the conflict. Essentially this was his life’s work. He was visibly saddened to report to me that no one would publish. ‘No one want to know about this’ he told me. I was stunned. The pictures I saw that day were the most remarkable record of war that I had ever seen. Black and white imagery tells a tale that no words can fully describe.

I came away convinced that everyone should be given the opportunity to experience this powerfully impacting lesson on what War really means. And see the ineluctable connection between religion and war.  However it is clear to me that only those directly affected by war have any idea of the enormity of its horrors and perhaps for this reason there is little demand for promoting any insight into wars horrors.
I shared Kavehs disappointment as publisher after publisher rejected his work. No demand for the facts.  The book was never published and the war is largely forgotten.

Kaveh was also extremely knowledgeable on the Shia fundamentalist Ayatollah Khomeini. The man essentially responsible for creating the conditions in Iran that motivated US interest in removing him from power and leading to the Iraqi attack that started the Iran Iraq war.  It was he who declared the fatwa on Salman Rushdie. (Another monumental pillar of Islam.)

Memorably Kaveh told me that this fellow, Mr Kohmeini, being extremely pious and knowing that food enjoyment was a sinful please,  lived on a diet of Onions and yogurt, surviving to the ripe old age of 88, before departing to receive his  70 allotted virgins. Considering how long eternity is, I think 70 virgins is a pretty modest number. Lets face it, after 70 goes, you’d have to spend the rest of eternity without so much as a single virgin. And then again, imagine a smelly 80 year old breath, when never shaving, never brushing teeth and living on a diet of raw onions and yogurt for thirty years. A good question for each of those virgins. “What first attracted you to the Ayatollah?”

But again I digress. In 2003 I was watching news TV when I heard ‘BBC reporter Kaveh Golestan was killed today in Iraq.’ I shed a tear at the tragic irony. He stood on a landmine. An Iranian killed standing on an Iraqi landmine after surviving 8 years of front line reporting the war.

And so, as I watched the remarkable documentary by Terry Lloyd I was reminded of this wonderful friendship from my past. I was particularly pleased to see that his journalism appeared to be true to the stories I recalled from Kaveh.  Especially the circumstances of American support for Iraq, motivated by anti Iran feeling.  To emphasise this resolve, in 1988, after Reagan announced to the World that ‘Iran will never be allowed to win this war’ American ship USS Vincennes fired on an Iranian airlines Boeing 737 killing all 290 people on board. I imagine this statement of intent, that America would never allow Iran to win this war, along with the powerful US military support for Iraq sent a firm message to the Ayotollah. The war ended soon after the Iran Air incident.  (Eventually, long after the war ended, the US paid out 131 Million dollars compensation to those civilian victims without ever apologizing.)

So moved was I by this fine body of work that I googled Terry Lloyd in order to contact him with congratulations.

Sadly in that search I learned that he too had died in Iraq. In March 2006, in suspicious circumstances.
‘Unlawfully killed’ by American bullets whilst reporting for ITN.  His death is, according to the National Union of Journalists, a war crime for which American soldiers should be brought to trial.
BBC article

I can almost hear President Bush explaining that one as ‘It will be a cold day in hell before we punish honest American Patriots for a small mistake like this. After all, this guy was not on our side.

So there you have it. I hope I have piqued your interest in finding out more about a conflict which holds many lessons for us, especially in light of the breakdown in relations between America and Iraq and the subsequent developments in Iran and indeed the world of Islam.

Has mankind ever contrived a more heinous weapon of War than Religion. Of course, those who ignore the mistakes of History are condemned to repeat them.

Here’s a song I wrote about the Iranian boys – called THE PARADISE KEY

Wikipedia article on the Iran Iraq war

And here is the Hugo Fernandes version of ‘The Paradise key.”

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