Iranian Boy From Iconic Attack Photo Gets New Chance at Life

Emad and his mom came to the Iranian parliament to try to get help for treatment for his illness and found themselves in the middle of an attack

Reuters
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Two-year-old Emad is evacuated during an attack on the Iranian parliament in central Tehran, Iran, June 7, 2017.
Two-year-old Emad is evacuated during an attack on the Iranian parliament in central Tehran, Iran, June 7, 2017. Credit: TIMA AGENCY/REUTERS
Reuters

When Emad and his mother entered the Iranian parliament this month, they were hopeful they would get help to treat his advanced illness.

But the two-year-old boy and his mother found themselves in a perilous situation when four gunmen and suicide bombers attacked the building and started indiscriminately shooting at people.

Emad lives with his parents and two siblings in a small rented house in the northern city of Gorgan.

His father, Mohammad Hossein Esmaeilnejad, has been out of work for two months, a disability in one of his legs making it difficult for him to find a new job.

Zahra Khorasani, Emad's mother, told Reuters they had spent all their savings on finding treatment for the child's rare disease.

Emad, two, and his parents wait for a taxi after visiting a doctor in north of Tehran, Iran, June 19, 2017.
Emad, two, and his parents wait for a taxi after visiting a doctor in north of Tehran, Iran, June 19, 2017.Credit: TIMA AGENCY/REUTERS

"Emad has been in surgery three times. I have spent all my money and borrowed from everybody I can. No one lends us money any more," she said.

Emad suffers from Mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS), a rare disease caused by the body's inability to produce specific enzymes.

On June 7 this year, Emad's father went to post office to send a letter to the president and ask for help.

"That day I prayed to God: 'If you fix things, it will be great. If not, I will not ask anyone for help again'," Esmaeilnejad said.

Emad's mother took the boy to parliament to make a desperate plea for support. "Someone told me to go to parliament to ask for help. I prepared a letter and went there," Khorasani said.

Two-year-old Emad's mother, Zahra Khorasani helps him get changed at their relative's home in south of Tehran, Iran, June 18, 2017.
Two-year-old Emad's mother, Zahra Khorasani helps him get changed at their relative's home in south of Tehran, Iran, June 18, 2017.Credit: TIMA AGENCY/REUTERS

But as mother and son waited in the reception area, Islamist suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the building, shooting at people with pistols and assault weapons.

"Everyone was running away. Everyone was trying to find a way to save themselves. Some made it. But many were killed," Emad’s mother said.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Tehran attacks in which 17 people were killed. Gunmen simultaneously attacked the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in southern Tehran.

"I told myself I might live or die. Whatever God wants will happen," Khorasani said.

She is happy that her son could not hear the traumatic gunshots because of his poor hearing.

Two-year-old Emad's doctor Mr. Khorasandy checks his ear in north of Tehran, Iran, June 19, 2017.
Two-year-old Emad's doctor Mr. Khorasandy checks his ear in north of Tehran, Iran, June 19, 2017. Credit: TIMA AGENCY/REUTERS

Emad's mother grabbed him and ran. In one of the corridors, security forces gave them bullet proof vests and evacuated them from the building.

Pictures of Emad, being passed by security forces through a window from an upper floor, were widely published in local and international media and won attention for the boy's condition.

"The health minister visited us. He was very friendly," Emad's father said.

The minister has ordered Emad to be immediately treated at government cost. He has even agreed to send Emad abroad if necessary.

Esmaeilnejad said the photo solved half of his problems. "But the rest of problems are still there. I am unemployed and have no home," he said.

Two-year-old Emad's doctor Mr. Khorasandy checks his ear in north of Tehran, Iran, June 19, 2017.
Two-year-old Emad's doctor Mr. Khorasandy checks his ear in north of Tehran, Iran, June 19, 2017. Credit: TIMA AGENCY/REUTERS