The Azerbaijani Who Received the Prestigious Award Of France

By Guivami Rahimli

    During an official ceremony took place in the Senate of France in November Reza Deghati was awarded with the title and the Medal of "Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Merite" - (Knight of the National Order of Merit).

The President of the Senate of France and a number of French Senators, media representatives, Iranian, French and Afghan intellectuals attended this recognition award ceremony.

Reza Deghati, an Azerbaijani born Iranian photojournalist, received this prize from the government of France as an award for his work in reporting the realities and conflicts around the world during the past three decades and for his endless struggle for the rights of children against discriminations and illiteracy in developing countries.

Christian Poncelet, the President of the Senate of France, highlighted Reza's invaluable contribution to Human Rights globally as great photojournalist. He said: "Tonight we are all gathered here to witness the recognition of Reza's important activities by the government of France. He is a man who has shown us the realities of the world with humanistic eyes. His photographs truly are lessons of solidarity, faith and humanism for all of us."

Addressing Reza he said: "The portraits of all the women and men that you have gathered from all over the world show the uniqueness of mankind. Your special attention to the fate of vulnerable children in the world has shown us their innocence through your photos. For the humanitarian work you have done in the world, and especially in Afghanistan, Sarajevo, Lebanon, Palestine, in the name of the President of France I make you "Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Merite".

At the end of his speech Mr. Poncelet called Reza Deghati one of the honours of France, who is a true fighter for freedom in the world.

Reza Deghati thanked the President of the Senate and the government of France for creating the favourable conditions for the pursuit of the high values of Human Rights and freedom. He said: "this title and medal will make me work even harder to show the fate of those most in need around the world."

Born in Tabriz, Azerbaijan province of Iran in 1952, Reza is today one of the world's best-known photojournalists. His opposition to the Shah's regime caused him to be imprisoned for more than three years when he was 22.

"I was accused of taking pictures showing poverty and injustice in Teheran".

The years spent in prison were for him an opportunity to meet all the Iranian intellectuals who were imprisoned: "It was wonderful to be together with the greatest writers, philosophers, journalists and movie directors."

In 1981 he left Iran for Paris, France, where he lives now.

During the last 25 years, he used photographs as a weapon to fight injustice: "he fights war by shooting his subjects" as the Times of India wrote. Reza is published by the most prestigious international magazines and works for the National Geographic and travels all over the world.

From the Bosphorus to the Great Wall of China, from Lebanon to Afghanistan, from Rwanda to Sarajevo, Reza shows with infinite humanity not only torments and upheavals but also the arts, culture and traditions which are part of mankind.

In the late 1980's and the early 1990's, he released several reports in the Caucasus including Azerbaijan. Sometimes as the only photojournalist he witnessed and recorded the brutal repression of popular protests in Baku by the Soviet troops in 1990 and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and tragic fate of the Karabakh refugees in Azerbaijan through his camera.

His friendship with Afghan commander Massud, his role as a consultant to the United Nations in Afghanistan, his cultural affinity to this country, and particularly his role as a journalist led Reza to found the non-governmental organization AINA. Based in Kabul, Paris and Washington, AINA is fighting for the development of independent media and cultural expression in Afghanistan. AINA's next objective is to help the other countries to consolidate democracy through education and independent information.

Over and above his commitment as a man and a journalist, Reza, master of colours and shadows, offers us a poetical vision of the world.

The Medal of "Chevalier de l'Ordre du Merite" is the highest distinction in France for humanitarian and cultural actions.

Reza Deghati is the first Azerbaijani to receive such a prestigious award.

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