Pearl of Iran

Farshid Tighehsez

Iran

[simpleresponsiveslider]

When I was 10, my father was hospitalised due to kidney disease in a hospital in Urmia. At home, in Tabriz city, my mother, my five year old sister and I were waiting for news of father’s recovery. After a few days, due to the severity of my father’s illness, my mother took us to Urmia city. At that time, the only way of to get between Tabriz city and Urmia was across Lake Urmia. Small passenger ships were the primary means of transport.

'Noah's Ark', the biggest passenger ship on Lake Urmia, which ran aground in the middle of the lake. 2013.

‘Noah’s Ark’, the biggest passenger ship on Lake Urmia, which ran aground in the middle of the lake. 2013.

In spite of my young age, and lack of awareness about the situation, I was full of worries and fears. Stormy weather and the lake’s restless waters made the fear grow in me more and more. Because of the bad weather, shipping had to be stopped, but we arrived just in time and we boarded the last ship. We were sitting next to the ship’s window. It was a one-hour trip, and I was staring out the window the whole time. My feelings of anxiety and fear gave way to peace. It was a beautiful picture: a blue lake and cloudy sky, and the rain drops on the window of the ship. It was a beautiful moment that I have not forgotten.

That image was the most beautiful thing that I saw and felt that day. Unfortunately, it was never to be repeated. I’ve been looking for that lost beauty since 2011, the time I started taking pictures of Lake Urmia, but in all my photos I only witness a salty death.

A view of the coastal village of Sharaf Khaneh from within the lake. 2011.

A view of the coastal village of Sharaf Khaneh from within the lake. 2011.

Lake Urmia is the world’s second largest brine lake. It is located in north western Iran, in the region of Azerbaijan, and it is divided between the provinces of East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan. In 2002, drought began to threaten Lake Urmia, and in 2014 more than 75% of the lake was dry. The reason for this drought was not the vengeful character of nature, but rather the nature of human irresponsibility. By digging wells, building dams on rivers which used to pour into the lake, and by throwing stones into the depths of the lake’s heart, we have narrowed the breathing of the lake.

Today, after 18 years, my father is not among us. But Lake Urmia is there.