Monday marked the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and for the occasion, President Trump tweeted a meme version of a protest photo from Tehran.
In the image, a woman holds her headscarf over her mouth, one arm raised proudly in the gray air. And in the version Trump posted, black and red text embedded next to the photo says “40 years of corruption. 40 years of repression. 40 years of terror.”
“The regime in Iran has produced only 40 years of failure,” the meme said. “The long-suffering Iranian people deserve a much brighter future.” He also tweeted the message in Farsi.
In an Instagram post this week, the journalist who took the photo, Yalda Moayeri, pushed back against Trump’s use of her work, saying that if the photo was used as “a symbol of freedom everywhere in the world,” then it “would be a great honor.”
“But having president Trump use it without my permission in a tweet in Persian even is a great shame for me and causes me deep sorrow,” she wrote and said she took the photo in circumstances that were “very difficult.”
The photojournalist went on to describe how Trump’s policies on Iran have affected her family and friends. “Even if I could go to America financially (I cannot) to visit my dad, I wouldn’t be able to go, as he has imposed a travel ban on the Iranians he says he cares so deeply for,” she wrote.
Moayeri told the New York Times that during the protests at Tehran University when she took the photo, there were violent confrontations between students and police, and she worried she would be arrested. But she continued to work anyway, initially hiding her identity as the journalist behind the photos for fear of repercussions.
Thousands of people were detained and more than 20 killed during the unusual mass protests across Iran in late 2017 and early 2018.
“I did not take this risk to have someone using it to pressure us Iranians even further,” she told the Times after Trump tweeted the image.
When asked for comment on Trump’s use of the photo, White House National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis wrote in an email to The Washington Post, “The Iranian regime’s mismanagement and corruption have led to a collapsing economy and its export of terrorism has made it an international pariah,” and “it’s up to the Iranian regime to change its behavior, and ultimately up to the Iranian people to determine the direction of their country.” He would not, however, specifically speak to the use of Moayeri’s photo.
The Post could not immediately contact Moayeri for comment. But in her Instagram post, she made clear that “the image shows my people and is for my people,” and that she doesn’t believe it should be “abused” by anyone in Washington.