Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Stay, Neda, Don't Go

Following her slaying, Neda Agha-Soltan, 26, has come to symbolize the Iranian opposition's struggle against a brutal regime. Though Neda was not especially political, she believed in human rights and had attended an anti-government protest with her music instructor. Neda, a singer of pop music despite the fact that women are barred from singing publicly in Iran, and her instructor stepped out of a hot car after being stuck in traffic. A gun shot hit her, she fell to the ground, said "It burned me," and died.

The Iranian government instructed the family to bury her rapidly and did not permit family members to hold a memorial service. Basiji paramilitary forces dispersed mourners who congregated around Niloofar mosque. While the government has barred public displays of mourning for Neda, has it called for an investigation into this arbitrary, cruel murder?

CNN pieced together a portrait of Neda:

The second of three children, Neda lived with her parents in a middle-class neighborhood east of Tehran.

She was a happy, positive person. Though she studied philosophy and religion at the Azad Islamic University, she was more spiritual than religious. She also loved music...

Her demeanor was typically calm, even serene, but she had a quirky, playful sense of humor. ...She liked to travel, having visited Turkey three months ago with a tour group. And she believed in human rights, her friend said. That may have explained why she was at an anti-government demonstration in Tehran on Saturday afternoon.

Iranian voices speaking about Neda are especially poignant:

“I am so worried that all the sacrifices that we made in the past week, the blood that was spilled, would be wasted,” said one woman who came to mourn Ms. Agha-Soltan on Monday outside Niloofar mosque here. “I cry every time I see Neda’s face on TV.”

...Mehdi Karroubi, an opposition candidate for president in this month’s election, called her a martyr on his Web site. “A young girl, who did not have a weapon in her soft hands, or a grenade in her pocket, became a victim of thugs who are supported by a horrifying intelligence apparatus.”

...Her fiancĂ©, Caspian Makan, contributed to a Persian Wikipedia entry. He said she never supported any particular presidential candidate. “She wanted freedom, freedom for everybody,” the entry read.

...A woman called Hana posted a comment on Mr. Karroubi’s Web site: “I am alive but my sister was killed. She wanted the wind to blow into her hair; she wanted to be free; she wanted to hold her head high up and say: I am Iranian. My sister died because there is no life left; my sister died because there is no end to tyranny.”

A poem gave voice to Neda's importance to the opposition movement's struggle for freedom. An excerpt:

Stay, Neda —
Look at this city
At the shaken foundations of palaces,
The height of Tehran’s maple trees,
They call us “dust,” and if so
Let us sully the air for the oppressor
Don’t go, Neda

Finally, a video of the last moments of Neda's life. Warning: this video is graphic.

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