Finalist 2016: Sadegh Souri
They are female, nine years old and of an age to be held responsible for their crimes – in Iran. Murder, armed robbery and drug trafficking are punishable with death by hanging, to be carried out when they come of age. The girls spend the waiting time in jails and correction centres. In ‘Waiting Girls’, the Iranian photographer Sadegh Souri reveals this strange procedure within Islamic Penal Law.
“It is very hard to enter the Juvenile Delinquents Correction Centre in Shahr-e Ziba in Tehran. You must know influential people. One of my friends is a documentarian, and I got into the prison with them as the crew’s photographer. The atmosphere of the prison was very depressing. One of the inmates, Somayyeh, said, ‘Pain showers from the walls here.’ Some inmates had no problem with photography, but others didn’t allow it. There was always a guard with us to see where we took photos. I went to the prison for about twenty days. After the fourth day we had become friends with most of the girls and we took their pictures easily. I talked with each of the girls every day while I was taking photos: they told me about their past, the hardship they had experienced, and how they had lacked any support. I felt upset every evening, asking myself why they had been treated like that. Some nights I had nightmares, and wondered what would happen to them.
“As a photographer, I must help the world. I must reveal to others the sad events that happen around me. As a human being, I want a world full of peace, a world without war, without hatred.”
I chose black and white for my ‘Waiting Girls’ series, because there was no colour there. Even if there was, we saw everything in black and white. The purpose of using black and white was to portray the girls’ loneliness. I don’t care if the photos become famous. What matters to me is to be able to save the lives of these girls. As a fellow human being, I try to convince the victim’s next of kin to waive their complaints, so the girls can return to a normal life.“
Born in Navahand, Iran, in 1985, Sadegh Souri studied photography and film at the College for Applied Sciences in Zahedan. After getting his photography diploma, he started working for a local newspaper in Zahedan as of 2006, an afterwards for the Mehr Iran News Agency. Souri has been working free-lance since 2010. He has had many exhibitions and photo projects, including ‘Silence after the Bombing’ and ‘Fuel Smuggling’, as well as the collective publication, ‘Gem of the East’.