First Place

Afghan Asylum Seekers in Iran

Zobair Movahhed

Middle East Images

Afghanistan has recorded the world’s most prolonged armed conflict in the last 150 years. Two generations have been born into war and have lived during war without being able to imagine a peaceful future. The only thing most Afghans remember is seeing their towns and country, as a whole, being passed around among different groups and belligerent countries. They see that the endless cycle of war has only led to bloodshed and bloodied soil on graves. This forty-year conflict has brought cold-blooded massacre, ruins, and unprecedented emigration. For those who have chosen emigration, illegal passage across borders is the quickest, and yet the most dangerous way, to reach their destination. This story is only a glimpse of the sorrowful journey – with little chance for survival and success – that these travelers embark on. Passing the border of Iran and Afghanistan is very difficult due the rigorous border control. The journey begins at Shahr-e-Naw located in the southern part of Afghanistan. The whole journey from Shahr-e-Naw to Tehran is managed by a few key smugglers. Each one of them has organized a group of drivers as well as workers to clear the roads and attend to rest stops. These workers and drivers are well versed in the local terrain and are paid a set amount of money per individual they smuggle across Terror, hunger, humiliation, and beatings inflicted by the smugglers or officers are common on this twenty-day journey. Many Afghan immigrants experience this journey multiple times. They work in Iran for a few years and return to Afghanistan for a few weeks to see their wives and children. This project has attempted to give a voice to those who have been lost and left behind in the middle of the clamoring conflicts between the politicians, countries, and international organizations. It aims to ask what makes a human being choose dying on the road over staying at home.

Zobair Movahhed is a member of Middle East Images and living in the most eastern part of Iran. He works as a photographer in the field of social documentary and journalistic photography.

[ ISSUE REPORTING PICTURE STORY ] A long-term project on a single topic. It could focus on science, news, politics or any number of topics, ranging from coverage of a single person to an entire community. The project must convey a deep understanding of the subject. Each submission consists of 10 to 40 images. Each participant is allowed to enter up to 5 submissions. The images must be taken in 2019 or 2020. Stories on COVID-19 can be entered in this category but if you have already entered something in the COVID PICTURE STORY category, you should avoid submitting the same story to this category.

Judges for Issue Reporting Picture Story
Abir Abdullah
Nariman El Mofty
Bryan van der Beek
Shiho Fukada
Wonsuk Choi