On Small Shoulders: Khoshboo’s Story (Iran)


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On Small Shoulders: Khoshboo's Story
Tehran, Iran. 2007. Digital.

Khoshboo is a 13-year-old Afghan girl living in Iran with her family. Her father, Abdolkhalil, is deaf, mute and partially blind. Her mother has gallstone problems, and her younger brother Davood has mental disabilities. She has a nine-year-old sister, Arezoo. It is up to Khoshboo to support the family.

An estimated one million Afghan refugees live in Iran, following decades of conflict in their home country. Khoshboo's parents came to Tehran during the war against the Taliban. In 2003, they returned to Afghanistan, but Khoshboo's youngest brother was killed during an attack on their home and Abdolkhalil received an eye injury. The family moved back to Tehran where Khoshboo, Arezoo and Davood were born. Their visa, and now also the family passport--their only official identity document--have both expired. The Iranian government takes the position that while the country accepted refugees during internal conflict with the Taliban in Afghanistan, it is not responsible for those fleeing ongoing disruption as a result of what it sees as US and NATO failure to establish stability. Recent arrivals, including Khoshboo and her family, are deemed illegal immigrants. This means that the family has no health insurance, cannot receive social security payments, and that the children are not authorized to study in state schools.

While Khoshboo has demonstrated an incredible strength of spirit and is the hope and support for her family in the face of many obstacles, their future is still incredibly tenuous. Some organizations, such as the United Nations Refugee Agency, advocate on behalf of refugees. These organizations support the revision of refugee legislation in countries where Afghani refugees live and try to improve the living conditions for Afghani refugees by offering legal advice and access to education.

About the Artist

Mehran Afshar Naderi is a 24-year-old freelance photographer whose works have been published in newspapers such as Hayat e No, Eqbal and Tasvir Sal Magazine. Naderi also served as the photo editor of the architectural magazine Maskan. In 2006, Naderi completed documentary training organized by World Press Photo held in Tehran, Iran.


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Comments (4)

Ash Nicole
United States

Amazing images- very powerful!

Sara D.

This is the most heart-rendering piece of the Picturing Power and Potential exhibition. The literal close-up to capture the everyday lived reality of Khosboo (who represents thousands of other girls with vast potential entrapped and mired in both physical and political boundaries) gave me the closest opportunity to connect with such hardship and struggle that I would not have been able to even imagine enduring myself. For a minute I felt I was able to stand in her small shoes. She is not just some war photo-journalism opportunity. Naderi shows us she is real and living and that despite the enormous odds against her she is holding onto some normalcy, attempting to embrace stability (as seen in the prayer and clothes hanging photos), which most of us take for granted, while at the same time carrying a light of hope for her and her family's future (as seen in the homework photo). She may have small shoulders but she is taking giant steps. I am keeping her in my prayers, may her strength carry her forward to continue and complete her studies in the face of such abject adversity and denial of her human right to an education and a carefree childhood.

United States

Life may be difficult but seeing the family on the floor in union remembering their son, shows family unity and love often not seen in American households. Ipods, TV's and cars cannot replace the love warmth and humility reflected here.

Kristi Lucas-Hayden
United States

These photographs of a young woman/girl working in her home gave so much information about her life. Seeing glimpses of her home environment, family meal-time, outdoor porch setting, etc. were enlightening and inspiring. It makes me more fully appreciate how young women in developing nations have such trials and yet work amidst their limited opportunities to survive and prosper with their familis.

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