Ahmad Batebi was born in May 1977 in Shiraz. While he was studying theater at the University of Tehran, he became involved in human rights-related activities. Yet he gained international fame for his appearance on the July 17, 1999 cover of The Economist, holding up a shirt splattered with the blood of a fellow protester.
The photo, which has been called “an icon for Iran’s student reform movement”, was taken during the Iranian Student Protests in Tehran. It dramatically portrayed the reality of the Iranian regime’s human rights violations to the world. Following its publication, Batebi was arrested by Iranian security forces and sentenced to death. However, public outcry from Iranians and international human rights groups meant that his death sentence was commuted to a 15-year imprisonment.
After serving approximately nine years of his prison sentence, Batebi’s physical and mental health had deteriorated significantly. He was reported to have suffered two strokes over the course of a few days. While temporarily released from prison to receive medical attention, he fled to Iraq. With the assistance of human rights groups, Batebi was granted asylum in the United States on June 24th, 2008.
Batebi has since founded a human rights organization, Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI), and worked with Voice of America News on the organization’s Persian service.
During the coronavirus pandemic, he founded coronabefarsi.com, an online Persian-language COVID-19 information hub.