[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 5 April, 2003, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
BBC cameraman's last moments
Kaveh Golestan
Kaveh Golestan had trained many Iranian photographers

On Wednesday 2 April, BBC cameraman Kaveh Golestan was killed and producer Stuart Hughes injured by landmines near Kifri in northern Iraq. BBC correspondent Jim Muir, who was with them, sent this account of the incident.

We arrived at Kifri at around 1500 local time. We had driven down from Sulaymaniyah, about three hours away to the north.

It was a beautiful spring day and we could not resist stopping for a picnic lunch in the shade of some trees along the way, something we had not done before.

It was bread, tinned tuna, cucumbers and tomatoes, and tea. Kaveh said it was the best meal he had had since we arrived in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq 59 days earlier.

He was very proud and happy about the work we had been doing, and talked excitedly about doing more and better.

"When I'm in situations like these, I feel I am me," he said.

Kaveh Golestan
He was very proud and happy about the work we had been doing, and talked excitedly about doing more and better

Later, in Tehran, his mother Fakhri told me she had talked to him the day before, and "he was dancing on the telephone".

When we got to Kifri, we went directly to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) headquarters and climbed onto the roof to get the lie of the land.

For the past 10 years, Iraqi Government forces had occupied a citadel just to the south-west of the town, on a grassy rise.

Two days before we got there, the Americans had bombed the Iraqi army's front-line positions, and the Iraqis withdrew from the citadel and pulled their front line back well beyond the ridge running from east to west, several kilometres away to the south of Kifri.

Their nearest positions were out of sight, at least 10 kilometres (six miles) away.

But the Iraqis had spotted Kurdish peshmerga guerrillas from the PUK moving into the areas they had vacated, and had bombarded Kifri heavily the day before our arrival, killing three people and injuring about a dozen others.

Everybody was very nervous about more shelling, but nothing had happened on Wednesday by the time we arrived.

Broadcasting spot

We needed a position to do some live TV broadcasts by videophone, and the citadel looked like a good location.

There seemed to be no reason not to proceed, although some colleagues who had started going up on foot had become spooked and turned back half-way

The local PUK commander said it was safe as the Iraqis were far off, and gave us a young peshmerga to guide us there.

In case we might be spotted and attract further shell fire, we reduced our exposure by taking just one car.

I drove, Kaveh had the front passenger seat to my right. In the back seat, Stuart was on the right side, our translator Rebeen Azad in the middle, and our peshmerga guide behind me on the left.

We drove to the edge of town and conferred with local people at the beginning of the rise leading up to the citadel.

There seemed to be no reason not to proceed, although some colleagues who had started going up on foot had become spooked and turned back half-way.

We drove up across the grass, following in the track marks of vehicles that had gone up before, and on to the path leading directly to the citadel.

I wanted to go right up to the building and park in its lee - the Iraqis were way away on the far side - but our guide said it would be safer to pull off to the left, where there was a grassy dip that would take the vehicle lower.

We had done the same thing at several other abandoned Iraqi positions over the previous few days.


So I drove down to the left a few metres into the dip and stopped. We all started getting out, in a hurry to get set up.

The Sky - photo by Kaveh Golestan
Golestan was a Pulitzer prize-winning freelance cameraman

Suddenly there was an explosion in immediate proximity.

Part of the blast caught the left side of my face and left me dazed and with singing ears.

I thought: "How could they have spotted us and hit us so accurately from so far away?"

Instinctively, I did what we had done twice before in the past four days when we had come under bombardment, which was to try to find something to get behind or below.

I ran around the left side of the car to the back, and threw myself on the ground.

In the seconds that that took, there were two more explosions, then silence.

Then Stuart was shouting. "I'm hit, I'm hit."

Rebeen was shouting. "It's a minefield, it's a minefield."

I got up and found Stuart, around to the right of the car. He was hopping on his left foot.

His right foot was badly hurt, the heel ripped off, bones exposed.

But he was not bleeding badly and I knew he would survive.

I opened the back of the car and got him in. I told him, "You've been hurt, but you'll be all right. You've done the course. I know you'll be all right. I promise you."

I tried to arrange it so he could not see his foot. He was very brave and remained completely conscious throughout, reassuring us that he was OK.


By then I had realised Kaveh was missing.

I shouted: "Where's Kaveh? Where's Kaveh?"

I felt immediate guilt. I had driven him all the way from Tehran in my car, and into a minefield

Rebeen, who had not had time to get out of the car as he was in the middle, shouted: "He's over there, to the left. He's dead."

I looked over to the left, and there was a body lying about 10 metres away in a dip, covered with dust.

I said: "That's not Kaveh."

From where I was, it looked like an old body left behind by the Iraqis.

I approached, and as I did, I saw it was Kaveh.

He was lying on his front and looked as though he had fallen asleep on the job. He looked peaceful.

I said: "Kav, Kav?"

But I knew it was hopeless. His upper half was intact, but everything below was obscenely shattered. He had already gone.


I felt immediate guilt. I had driven him all the way from Tehran in my car, and into a minefield.

Kaveh Golestan, whose rich, complex life I knew so well and had shared intimately for three years, who had given so much to so many, who had educated generations of Iranian photographers, lay dead beside me, and I was alive.

The only words that came to me were curt and obscene.

I dragged Kaveh out and Rebeen helped me pull him in to the car.

I thought that there might be some miracle way that he might be saved.

We drove backwards along the line we had come in on, and raced down the hill to where people were directing us to an emergency clinic just around the corner.

Stuart was rushed in and given emergency treatment, some injections, then loaded into an ambulance and raced up to Sulaymaniyah.

As he was carried past, he asked me to call his girlfriend Aileen and tell her he loved her, and gave me her number from his palm pilot.

His Thuraya mobile satphone had been broken in the blast, but kind colleagues from Reuters, who had rallied to the clinic, lent me theirs.

All over

But for Kaveh it was all over. I asked them if there was anything they could do, and they shook their heads.

I felt his pulse one last time and there was nothing there.

They took him inside and the next time I saw him he was shrouded in an open plywood coffin.

I had to sign forms and answer questions for his death certificate, then we drove through the dark up to Sulaymaniyah behind the ambulance with his body in it, and the aftermath began.

Only later was I able to piece together what had happened, with the help of Rebeen, who behaved with great courage and presence of mind and was the only one who could actually see and understand what was going on, and Stuart, by now in hospital at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and fighting bravely to keep his right foot.

Like me, Stuart was convinced that the first explosion was a mortar attack.

In fact, he had himself trodden on an anti-personnel mine.

Like me and Stuart, Kaveh had thought the same thing, and ran around the front of the car and down the hill to the left to get to lower ground, as we had done before in apparently similar circumstances.

Except this time he was not escaping a bombardment, but running deeper into a minefield.

Rebeen thought Kaveh had trodden on one mine and fallen on another.

But the extent of Kaveh's injuries was far greater than could have been inflicted by two anti-personnel mines.

I believe the Iraqis had done what they apparently often do, which is to plant an anti-personnel mine on top of an anti-tank mine so that the one detonates the other.


Kaveh is now at peace, and life will of course go on, but ours will not be the same without him. He was unique and irreplaceable.

His energy, artistry, enthusiasm, sensitivity, courage and mischievous humour were only part of a complex, charming and gentle character who engaged all he met.

One of the great comforts at times of such great distress is the kindness of friends and colleagues.

Many people have helped in many ways, but those that I noticed particularly amidst the chaos were Joe Logan of Reuters, who talked with me all the way back to Sulaymaniyah, Ben of CBS, Bruno of ABC and Quil Lawrence of the BBC's The World co-production, who were among many who dropped everything to cope with the crisis.

Others included Hero Ibrahim Ahmad, wife of PUK leader Jalal Talabani, who made many arrangements including a very rapid border crossing to allow me to take Kaveh home to Tehran the day after he died.

The greatest comfort and privilege has been to be able to grieve with Kaveh's family - his wife Hengameh and son Mehrak, his mother Fakhri, his sister Lili and her sons Mani and Mahmoud, and daughter Sanam - who are all struggling bravely to come to terms with a loss they always feared would happen.

A small fragment of Kaveh's photographic legacy can be found on websites kargah.com and iranian.com.

Up until the incident, Stuart was also indefatigably feeding his daily diary into stuarthughes.blogspot.com.

Kaveh Golestan was born in Abadan, Iran, on 8 July 1950, and died in Kifri, Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, on 2 April 2003.

The BBC's Mike Sergeant
"He was a Pulitzer Prize winning film maker"

Richard Sambrook, Director of BBC News
"Kaveh was a very distinguished photojournalist"

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific