Eyewitnessed: Untold stories

Michael Jackson and Napoleon

It was a rare sunny spring day in Paris. Manoocher was still staying at the military hospital of Les Invalides in Paris, months after having been shot by an Israeli sniper in Ramallah. Together with a few other war invalids, all in wheelchairs, he came out to sit in the sun in front of the Dôme des Invalides where Napoleon Bonaparte is buried. For them it was tourist watching, an opportunity to get out, a diversion. As usual, Manoocher had his camera on him. Sitting and chatting, from far he could see a strange scene: a guy all dressed in red and carrying a surgical mask (not a usual sight at the time) holding two masked children by their hands. Whatever, Manoocher took his camera, pointed it at the man and managed to shoot one frame, not a clear shot, from far, before several men in dark suits jump on him, held him back and preventedhim from taking further photos. His companions, all war veterans, one of them a former French secret service guy wounded in action, all in a wheelchairs, came to assist him and started pushing the men away. But those bodyguards, because that is what the guys in suits apparently were, didn’t give a damn about disabled or not and restrained them. Meanwhile Manoocher finally realized what was going on and that the masked guy was Michael Jackson with his children visiting Napoleon’s tomb. His bodyguards held the invalids tight and kept Manoocher’s camera until the singer had passed. Then they left. Only afterwards the veterans realized they had missed an opportunity to create a ruckus and sue Michael Jackson for his bodyguards attacking hospitalized invalid veterans in wheelchairs …

Michael Jackson at Napoleon’s tomb in Paris, 1997

The milkman

After the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Ministry of Information had changed its name to Ministry of Islamic Guidance.They were responsible to issue press cards to journalists. Among that ministry there was an office called Foreign Media Department which would issue press cards to journalists working for international press agencies. At the very beginning it wasn’t an issue, they would give journalists permits without causing problems. But slowly, while the hardliners took power, things got tricky. Heads of departments changed and were replaced with hardliners. A guy called Ismaelzadeh, who was from Azerbaijan, like Manoocher, but hardly spoke any Farsi, became the responsible for international press correspondents. Ismaelzadeh kept a pistol on his desk whenever Manoocher went to see him to renew his press card. Ismaelzadeh would point at his pistol, saying “This is how we treat our enemies”. 

One day he called Manoocher into his office. Gun on the table, he said unabashedly: “Look, you are earning dollars, and I need money to restore my house. You have to give me money.” 

“No”, Manoocher replied, “you have your salary and I have mine, why should I give you mine?” 

Ismaelzadeh grabs his press card: “That’s it. You are not allowed to work anymore.” 

“Seriously? You cannot do this!” 

To which Ismaelzadeh exclaimed: “I am not taking your card because of this. You don’t remember me? I am from Tabriz. Do you remember the boy who used to bring milk to your neighborhood every morning. I brought milk to your family’s house, too.” 

“No, I don’t remember, I was still small when we lived in Tabriz. But you surely were payed for your work, no?” 

“I came every morning, even on cold days, and I hated it. Now I am in power and it is time for revenge.”

(This kind of revenge on the Iranian people by the Mullah regime is continuing to this day.)

The Arafat double

In 1994, after his return to Palestine, Yasir Arafat was holding a speech in a mosque in Gaza. Manoocher went there with some other photographers and took photos of Arafat while speaking. Arafat finished his speech, left the mosque, got into his car and left, all documented by the press. With the event finished, Manoocher returned to his own car which he had parked behind that mosque. Suddenly he saw an armored car arriving and parking at the back door, and again Arafat comes out and goes to the car! It must have been a double. But which one was the real Arafat?