Billboard honouring Iranian army uses photo of… Israeli soldiers

A billboard in Shiraz, Iran as part of Sacred Defense week, commemorating the Iran-Iraq war.
A billboard in Shiraz, Iran as part of Sacred Defense week, commemorating the Iran-Iraq war.


A city in southern Iran recently put up a giant billboard in one of its main squares to praise Iranian soldiers, but the billboard’s designers committed a faux-pas that was soon uncovered – they chose a photo of soldiers from Israel, Iran’s arch-foe in the region.

This week is “Sacred Defence” week in Iran. It commemorates the people who defended Iran against the attack unleashed by Saddam Hussein’s forces in 1980, the start of an eight-year war in which an estimated 190,000 Iranian soldiers died.

To mark the occasion, the municipality of Shiraz decided to put up a billboard with a poem praising the soldiers’ bravery.

However, the billboard's designers made an odd choice of photograph to go with the poem. It shows three soldiers, their backs to the camera. But a reverse image search (learn how to do one here) turns up the original photo, in which there are four soldiers – three men and a woman. The female soldier has been edited out of the version used on the Iranian billboard, no doubt because her hair is uncovered, and women in Iran wear hijabs.


Image used on the billboard in Shiraz, Iran. 

Original image showing Israeli soldiers.


In the original photo, the young soldiers look out onto a populated landscape. But the designers of the billboard have erased this landscape and replaced it with a dramatic backdrop of clouds and rock.

This strange editing was quickly discovered by eagle-eyed Iranians, who posted before-and-after comparisons on social media.

In Shiraz, hardliners angered by this discovery did not wait for the city officials to take the offending billboard down: they took matters into their own hands and dismantled it themselves on September 26.

Hardliners taking down the billboard on September 26. Photo shared by many Iranians via the messaging app Telegram. 


The head of Shiraz’s city council has announced that an investigation has been launched to determine how this billboard ended up showing photos of Israeli soldiers.