Abedin Mahdavi

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Abedin Mahdavi
Abedin Mahdavi - 1-Geneve 2011.jpg
Mahdavi in Geneva, 2011
Born (1981-10-30) October 30, 1981 (age 37)
OccupationPhotojournalism, Director, Human rights activist

Abedin Mahdavi (born October 30, 1981, in Tehran) is Freelance Photojournalism, International Reporter subjecting war children and crisis, Director and a Human rights activist regarding international Peace. He is the leader and founder of an international artists group called "Holy Children Group".

He has been at the scene in most war-torn areas and internationally critical places as a photojournalist and children-HIV/AIDS activist since 2001 and the main subject of his cultural-artistic activities are war children, poverty, and crisis. From the money he makes out of these activities, he provides these children with artistic and cultural supports in all over the world.


Abedin Mahdavi was born in October 29, 1981, in Tehran in NezamAbad neighborhood. His parents were simple teachers and he was raised in a cultural-artistic family. He belongs to the middle-class society of Tehran. His father who used to be a teacher has worked in many deprived areas of Tehran and has made a great distribution to educate the poor adults in downtown areas of the city. He was recognized as one of the best teachers in Tehran and won great respect among people of those areas. Abedin Mahdavi received his first camera as a gift from his father at the age of 14.

Abedin Mahdavi started photographing at the age of 14 with that camera and after learning about the art of photography, took it more seriously in Iranian Photographer House, between 1996 and 1998. At the age of 15, in a photographing contests among students of Tehran. The photo was about a teenager sitting on the sidewalk with a pair of scales beside him who fell asleep of exhaustion holding his study book with his hand.

During that time, he was mostly influenced by the books in his father's library and his thoughts were directed to human being problems. In his second year of high school, after the final exam, he escaped from home picking up a small backpack and his camera and went to the western areas of the country to take his first photos from the war-stricken children. He tried very hard to create an exhibition when he was 16 but he couldn't afford it. He continued his career and then he met Kaveh Golestan – an Iranian photojournalist and documentary Filmmaker - and learned many things from him regarding photography.

After getting his diploma, he was sent to the eastern borders of the country for his military service and in that time he has observed the clashes with the drug dealers and the problems of rural people and Afghan immigrants and he was touched to a great extent by the miserable scenes of low lifestyle and poverty of those people. He spent a lot of time along with his friend teaching Persian Alphabet to the shed dweller children until his friend was killed in a border conflict and he exercised the negative effect of war for the first time at the age of 18 in 2001.

In 2002, he started studying film making in Iranian Youth Cinema Society and for the first time he traveled to Afghanistan in 2004 for his thesis. He produces and directed his first documentary movie about an Afghan child who has lost both his legs due to the explosion of anti-personnel mine. Members of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Afghanistan helped him to find these children and to make an interview with them. Therefore, the movie was sent to the committee headquarter in Switzerland and he was honored for making the film.

Kaveh Golestan was killed in Kurdistan, Iraq due to mine explosion in March 2004. The news of his death has severely affected him mentally and changed the direction of his life. He established Holy Children Group after the death of Kaveh Golestan supported by both his own mother own his friend's. He benefited from the support of Fakhri Golestan, wife of Ebrahim Golestan, was an Iranian writer and director and she is the mother of Kaveh Golestan who was one of the first children rights defenders in Iran and has established and supported many orphanages in Tehran. Fakhri Golestan has died in 2011 in Tehran when she was 87 years old.

She and Abedin's mother have gathered the primary budget of the first project of the group that included buying colored pencils, drawing papers, world globes and other drawing stuff and distributed them among Afghani children to make some drawings with the subject of peace. Primarily, with the support of these people, 500 colored cards was printed and after receiving great welcome, 3000 more were printed in Pakistan and distributed among the poor children of those areas. The design of these cards was a peace bird holding an olive cluster and children attached to its feet and wings trying to lift them up from the earth.

Abedin Mahdavi; leader of Holy Children in Afghanistan, 2003


In 2004, Abedin Mahdavi travelled to Afghanistan again and stayed there for 20 months. He continued photographing and filming war-stricken children visiting many areas of the country and different people at the time of clashes and has recorded magnificent scenes. Besides his artistic activities, he has conducted extensive research by gathering Afghan children drawings to discover negative effects of war on the children. His presence in many areas of Afghanistan with the tolls prepared for the children amazed several international children rights groups. He went to different areas of the country and asked children to draw something for him with the subject of “War and Peace” giving him papers and pencils and after few days returned to collect the drawings from the children. He gave every child a pack of colored pencils and a postal card as a souvenir.

Because the lack of financial support, he faced many difficulties during the time in Afghanistan and was even wounded in one of clashes in Kandahar and survived. In the winter of 2004, he was captured by Taliban group in Kabul and all his belongings were stolen. Since he was a recognized person for Afghani authorities and his activities have drawn their attention, he was arrested twice by the troops. First time he was arrested by the NATO along with German troops in Kabul for seven days and then got arrested for the second time by the U.S. Army in Panjshir for ten days while photographing. As he was informed, the main cause of the arrests was being an Iranian subject or holding an Iranian passport. After they investigated about his independence project in Afghanistan, he was released and apologized and the U.S. Army in Afghanistan had issued a photographing license for him and supported him as well to keep on his activities all over the country.

He made his first TV interview with DW-TV correspondent in the city of Herat regarding his activities and it was aired in the national TV of the country in 2004. BBC Radio and VOA correspondents also made a report in Kabul and Herat mentioning his activities in the nurseries of these two cities talking about his drawing project in Afghanistan. The news of his activities in Afghanistan was spread by reporters, anti-war activists and other NGOs to more than 30 countries across the world and this brings more attention and support for him. While returning to Iran in 2005, he was arrested on the eastern borders of the country by the Iranian security forces for a crime he was never told. He was released after three days of inappropriate investigation under certain conditions.

After a short while, he created an exhibition of the Afghani children drawings in Tehran which was considered to be his first one. This exhibition was held in Afghanistan in the same year with help of some friends. He tried to register this group as a Non-Governmental Organization Organization but his request was rejected. The authorities reminded him that he was on parole. He started to work as a photojournalist for a domestic and a foreign news agency in the same year. Meanwhile, he travelled to Pakistan and Iraq to pursue his research project about war children under the name of Holy Children group and comes back with a precious collection of photographs.

On 12 July 2005 while he was taking photos of some students gathered in front of Tehran University supporting Akbar Ganji, he was attacked by some Iranian security forces with civilian clothes and his camera and equipment were broken. He was hurt on the side of neck and rib cage but those people continued to beat him savagely while dragging him on the street until losing his consciousness. He was taken to the hospital by three women who were at the scene and he was treated there. Some witnesses said that among many photographers and journalists, he was the only one who was attacked and the others were banned to photograph or film the scene of beating but those who knew Abedin Mahdavi and his background regarding his contribution to the war children have published some photos and news on websites and weblogs.

After a while, he decides to stop his activities inside the country for good and takes his whole projects to outside of the country. Right now, he lives as an ordinary citizen beside along with his parents and all his activities including war children or natural disasters are followed in some other countries.

He is a graduate of Iranian Youth Cinema Society in film making and holding a degree in directing from university of art and culture in Iran and he took course in documentary photographing, social photography, digital filming and photographing in several countries including China, United Arab Emirates, and Sweden.

During the time he spent in Afghanistan, he also met Reza Deghati one of the most Iranian photographers and he learns many things from him regarding documentary photographing. He was a student of Nicol Fridani, one of the pioneers of natural photography in the country from 2005 until his death. In these years, Nicole was unable to continue his job suffering from Parkinson, however he taught his students about his career and his experience.

Abedin Mahdav; leader of Holy Children International Group, Haiti, January 2010

Abedin Mahdavi has been to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Tajikistan, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Haiti, Venezuela, and Colombia since 2003 and conducted his thorough research under the flag of Holy Children using tools such as drawings and handmade toys. By making films and photos of the same subject, he provides his travel expenses and funds the group's activities. With this limited income, he was able to send some aids to the poor children of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Somalia.

Right now, Abedin Mahdavi as a young active artist regarding peace and children international rights has faced many problems, threats, and conflicts and has devoted his personal life to his goal. He is a well-known person among international peace organization s in the U.S and Europe.

In an interview he made in his exhibition in Sweden in 2008 he said: “All I can do is to offer my love to this world and its people and especially the lovely children with the indelible name of Holy Children.”

Cultural-Artistic Activities[edit]

Abedin Mahdavi is an active member in most NGOs and other organizations who defend children rights to keep them away from labor and the streets and support the poor children. He also makes a lot of donation to orphanages and nurseries. Recently, he has donated one of his movies’ monetary prizes to Shin-Abad School children who have been hurt in a fire accident.

International Artistic Group of Holy Children[edit]

This international group consists of several artists in different fields from many countries. Its independent cultural-artistic activities in war-stricken countries and critical areas aim to achieve international peace and to make the world a safer pace for the children which have drawn the attention of many artists so far. After preventing Abedin Mahdavi from pursuing his activities in Iran, he chooses Sweden to pursue his goals. This group was able to assemble one of the most beautiful children's photographs and drawings in the world.

Photographing Activities[edit]

  • Our Street Children (2000)
  • Merchants of Pain (2000)
  • Kurdistan Children (2001)
  • Uptown, Downtown (2002)
  • The Hidden Beauty – Souraj, Afghanistan (2003)
  • Spiritual Feature of Ancient Herat, Afghanistan (2003)
  • Holy Children – War Children of Afghanistan (2003–2004)
  • A Sky Without War, Afghanistan (2003–2004)
  • Ahmad, an Undying Memory, Afghanistan (2003–2004)
  • Warriors, Afghanistan (2003–2004)
  • Return of a Native, Afghanistan (2003–2004)
  • Holy Children – War Children of Pakistan (2004)
  • Holy Children – War Children of Tajikistan (2004)
  • Children of Bam, Iran (2005)
  • Tehran's Heaven, Iran (2005–2006)
  • Freedom, Iran (2005)
  • 10th Floor, Iran (2005)
  • Easter, Iran (2006)
  • Our Proletarians, Iran (from 2005)
  • Pakistan earthquake (2006)
  • Children of the Land of Revelation, Saudi Arabia (2006)
  • Holy Children – War Children of Iraq (2007–2008)
  • Holy Children – War Children of Lebanon (2008)
  • Generation of Pain, Palestine Children (2009)
  • Holy Children, Haiti (2009)
  • Haiti is Alive, Haiti earthquake (2009)
  • Children of Simon Bolivar – Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti (2009–2010)
  • Holy Children, Colombia (2009)
  • Along with Water, Pakistan's Flood (2010)
  • War-Poverty-Death, Somalia (2011)


  1. Short documentary films
  • Souraj and Herat's Mines, Afghanistan (2003)
  • Holy Children, Afghanistan (2004)
  • Border Trace, Afghanistan (2005)
  • Sky Children, Afghanistan (2004–2005)
  • Quick Immigration, Afghanistan (2006)
  • Home, is the End of Life, Iran (2006)
  • Protectors of Persia, Iran (2007)
  • Another Honor, Iran (2007)
  • Barbareh Swallows, Iran (2008)
  • M for Mother, Iran (2009)
  • Pulse, Iran (2009)
  • Praying, Pakistan (2010)
  1. Long documentary films
  • Return of a Native, Afghanistan (2003–2004)
  • Dazan School Children, Iran (2008)
  • The Pain Generation, Iran-Palestine, Gaza (2009)
  • Haiti is Alive, Haiti (2010)
  • Children of Simon Bolivar, Cuba - Haiti - Venezuela (2010)
  • Doctor Zaka, Haiti-Venezuela-Cuba-Colombia (2010)
  • Poetry Without Limits, Sweden (2011)
  • Why War? Iran-Switzerland-Sweden (2011)
  • Welcome to Mogadishu, Somalia (2011)
  • This is our Home, Tehran-Iran (2011)

Fictional Long Movies[edit]

  1. Embryo Convicted

“Embryo Convicted” is Abedin's first fictional cinematic movie which its subject deals with Iraqi war-stricken children. This project was stopped in Iran because of the authorities’ hostility towards him and no license was issued. He decided to take the project outside the country.

Fictional Film Scripts[edit]

  1. Souraj (2005)
  2. Border Market (2005)
  3. Children of Fire (2007)
  4. Twelve O’clock (2009)
  5. Yahiya Station (2010)
  6. Embryo Convicted (2011)

Photo Exhibitions[edit]

  1. Holy Children 1, [Afghanistan war-stricken children], solo, (Kabul, Afghanistan) 2004
  2. Holy Children 2, [Afghanistan war-stricken children], solo, (Tehran, Iran) 2004
  3. Holy Children 3, [Pakistan war-stricken children], solo, (Tehran, Iran) 2005
  4. Holy Children 4, [Iraq war-stricken children], solo, (Baghdad, Iraq) 2007
  5. Holy Children 4, war children exclusive exhibition [Afghanistan war-stricken children], solo, (Uppsala-Stockholm, Sweden)

simultaneously in Iran, 2008

  1. Holy Children 5, [Afghanistan war-stricken children], solo, (Paris, France) 2008
  2. Holy Children 6, The Pain Generation [Palestine and Lebanon war-stricken children], solo, (Tehran, Iran) 2009
  3. Humanity in War [Holy Children Selection], collective exhibition along with held by International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with photographers James Nachtwey, Franco Pagetti, Antonin Kratochvil, Ron Haviv, Christopher Morris, and by

Iranian war photographer Abedin Mahdavi.(Tehran, Iran) 2009

  1. Children of Bolivar, [Caribbean doctors without borders], (Iran-Cuba-Venezuela) 2010
  2. Holy Children 7, Praying, [Pakistan flood-stricken children], (Tehran, Iran) 2010
  3. Holy Children 8, Haiti is Alive, [Haiti earthquake], (Tehran, Iran) 2010
  4. Holy Children 9, war children exclusive exhibition, [war-stricken children of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, ... ], (United Nation-Geneva, Switzerland) 2011

Awards and honors[edit]

  1. Honored by Iran Photojournalists Association as the youngest war photojournalist (2006)
  2. Special award in International Air Photographing Club Contest of Canada (2006)
  3. Honored by Children Defending Cultural Organization of Sweden as a war children photographer (2008)
  4. Honored by Sweden National Museum for the donation of war children photos (2008)
  5. Honored by judges of the 4th documentary film festival, [Haiti is Alive, 2010], (2010)
  6. The award of the best political documentary film and candidate for the best long documentary film in the 5th documentary film festival, [Welcome to Mogadishu, Somalia, 2011], (2011)
  7. The award of the best anti-war documentary film in the 1st Independent Filmmakers International Festival, [Why War?, Iran-Switzerland-Sweden, 2011], (2011)


External links[edit]