Not Uncommon in Many Situations of Domestic Violence

Topics: Behavior

In Ebrahim Noroozi’s heart-wrenching 2013 photo, Victims of Forced Love, a severely disfigured child, covered in burns, reassures her equally scarred mother by softly laying a kiss on her cheek. The photo was taken only months after Somayeh’s husband Amir, poured acid on Somayeh Mehri and her daughter Rana Afghanipour, while they were asleep (Noroozi). Acid attacks are something that is unfortunately common in Iran. The small child’s facial features are hardly recognizable, her eye completely buried under her skin, which is discolored and stretched gruesomely across her face and neck, her hair growing in patches.

Her mother’s nose is flat as if it has melted right off of her face, and her eyes appear sunken and dark.

At first look, the photo appears macabre and disturbing, almost impossible to look at. It’s a symbol of hope, hope that the survivors of severe domestic abuse will be heard and that change will be made. It is a reminder that horrible things like this happen daily, even if they are not talked about, and that almost nothing is being done about it.

Susan Sontag writes in Regarding the Pain of Others, that “for photos to accuse, and possibly to alter conduct, they must shock” (Sontag). Photos may appear to be harsh and horrifying, but that is required in order to gain an active response, in order to reveal to the truth, and in order to remain in our thoughts.

In Iranian culture, acid attacks are a big problem (Dehghan).

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Daily, innocent women are attacked, murdered for using their voice. During a 2014 protest against domestic violence, at least eight women were attacked, having acid thrown on them while they were sitting in their cars, or walking down the street (Deghan). The perpetrators did not even know these women, they were burned simply to make a statement. It was an act of pure hatred because they were standing up for what they believe in. Noroozi photographs give these women a voice and alert the world of the situation. Since the photo’s worldwide fame, there have been multiple protests and gatherings in support of acid attack victims all over the world (Deghan).

Victims of Love brings tears into the eyes of many who view it and brings hope who those who had lived through it. Susan Sontag writes that “Beautifying- tends to bleach out a moral response”, whereas “uglifying- didactic, invites an active response” (Sontag). Many use these graphic photos as beacons of hope, that the world has noticed the wrong that was done onto them, that the world will try to deliver justice they deserve. The purpose of Noroozi’s photo is to evoke change and to show other victims that we want to hear their stories. This is how many shocking photos become iconic, they elicit the need for change, and the world agrees that change needs to happen.

Noroozi states in an interview that “Because this subject is very humanistic and painful, it must be viewed to make people stop these kinds of events happening, and so change the world to be a better place in which to live” ( Canon Europe). This statement further supports Sontag’s argument that these photos are a necessary component of motivating others to take action. He explains that painful subjects need to be photographed in order to gain a reaction from society. Along with a reaction, the frightening photos reveal the ugly truth.

Susan Sontag writes in Regarding the Pain of Others that “poster ready photographs” are the “visual equivalent of sound bites” (Sontag). When photographs are edited to be more aesthetically pleasing or posed to block out someone or something, the original emotional effect is placed behind a curtain and hidden from the world. When that happens, when the photo doesn’t send chills down your spine or cause tears to puddle in your eyes, it won’t inspire action.

Uncensored photos deliver reality, no matter how severe that reality may seem. These victims need to be recognized. When Somayeh awoke to her daughter’s gut-wrenching screams of pain and the feeling of her skin literally melting off her body, she probably thought her life was over. That her husband would get away easy, something not uncommon in many domestic violence situations. That her story would never be told, and she would never live to see her daughter grow up, and start her own family.

Somayeh and Rana’s saddening appearances, along with their tender embrace are what make this photo so breathtaking. When I first came across the photo, I felt uncomfortable looking at it. Almost like I was interrupting a private moment between a mother and daughter. What makes this picture so hard to look at, is the very thing that keeps you from tearing your eyes away. Sontag argues that “Pathos, in the form of a narrative, does not wear out”, meaning that a strong connection to one’s emotions, is unforgettable. The unconditional love you observe in this photo is powerful enough to stop the viewer in their tracks. You can tell they depend on each other and do not need anything else.

Without knowing the full story, you can understand this by just looking at the photo. It’s that understanding that makes this such an iconic, extraordinary photo. In Noroozi’s photo Victims of Forced Love, the graphicness of the photo parallels the domestic violence issue in today’s society. It serves to shine a light on the victims, and let the world know that this needs to be talked about, and something needs to be done to stop it. It gives the victims a face, a voice, and a story, one that has captivated the world.

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Not Uncommon in Many Situations of Domestic Violence. (2022, Nov 15). Retrieved from

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