Monday, June 22, 2009

Martyred Neda: Never an Activist, Outrage Drove Her to Protest

Just 3 out of 40 students in my morning class had seen the video of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young Iranian woman who was murdered in broad daylight on Saturday. But as activists and bloggers know, she has long since become a symbol of the aspirations for a free Iran.

Here's the Fox News story, "
Neda Soltan, Young Woman Hailed as Martyr in Iran, Becomes Face of Protests." And from the Los Angeles Times, "Family, Friends Mourn Iranian Woman Whose Death Was Caught on Video":

The first word came from abroad. An aunt in the United States called her Saturday in a panic. "Don't go out into the streets, Golshad," she told her. "They're killing people."

The relative proceeded to describe a video, airing on exile television channels that are jammed in Iran, in which a young woman is shown bleeding to death as her companion calls out, "Neda! Neda!"

A dark premonition swept over Golshad, who asked that her real name not be published. She began calling the cellphone and home number of her friend Neda Agha-Soltan who had gone to the chaotic demonstration with a group of friends, but Neda didn't answer.

At midnight, as the city continued to smolder, Golshad drove to the Agha-Soltan residence in the eastern Tehran Pars section of the capital.

As she heard the cries and wails and praising of God reverberating from the house, she crumpled, knowing that her worst fears were true.

"Neda! Neda!" the 25-year-old cried out. "What will I do?"

Neda Agha-Soltan, 26, was shot dead Saturday evening near the scene of clashes between pro-government militias and demonstrators who allege rampant vote-count fraud in the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The jittery cellphone video footage of her bleeding on the street has turned "Neda" into an international symbol of the protest movement that ignited in the aftermath of the June 12 voting. To those who knew and loved Neda, she was far more than an icon. She was a daughter, sister and friend, a music and travel lover, a beautiful young woman in the prime of her life.

"She was a person full of joy," said her music teacher and close friend Hamid Panahi, who was among the mourners at her family home on Sunday, awaiting word of her burial. "She was a beam of light. I'm so sorry. I was so hopeful for this woman."

Security forces urged Neda's friends and family not to hold memorial services for her at a mosque and asked them not to speak publicly about her, associates of the family said. Authorities even asked the family to take down the black mourning banners in front of their house, aware of the potent symbol she has become.

But some insisted on speaking out anyway, hoping to make sure the world would not forget her.Neda Agha-Soltan was born in Tehran, they said, to a father who worked for the government and a mother who was a housewife. They were a family of modest means, part of the country's emerging middle class who built their lives in rapidly developing neighborhoods on the eastern and western outskirts of the city.

Like many in her neighborhood, Neda was loyal to the country's Islamic roots and traditional values, friends say, but also curious about the outside world, which is easily accessed through satellite television, the Internet and occasional trips abroad.

The second of three children, she studied Islamic philosophy at a branch of Tehran's Azad University, until deciding to pursue a career in the tourism industry. She took private classes to become a tour guide, including Turkish language courses, friends said, hoping to some day lead groups of Iranians on trips abroad.

Travel was her passion, and with her friends she saved up enough money for package tours to Dubai, Turkey and Thailand. Two months ago, on a trip to Turkey, she relaxed along the beaches of Antalya, on the Mediterranean coast.

She loved music, especially Persian pop, and was taking piano classes, according to Panahi, who is in his 50s, and other friends. She was also an accomplished singer, they said.

But she was never an activist, they added, and she began attending the mass protests only because of a personal sense of outrage over the election results.
Hat Tip: Memeorandum. Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times.

Also, don't miss the Iran coverage at Atlas Shrugs: "Iran: The Bloody Revolution Marches On: - Attacking Protesters, Islamic Ruling Murderers Calling Victims Murderers UPDATED ALL DAY."


Rusty Walker said...

What kind of feedback are you getting from your students, Dr. Douglas?

Are they sympathetic? Do they realize the freedoms that the American people take for granted are the very freedoms for which these Iranian students are fighting (Many of them your student's age!)?

dave in boca said...

Donald, I talked to Todd Schnitt for about ten minutes on his popular radio program, which is based in Tampa, but has a lot of new stations in CA & across the country. I told him and his listeners [he's rated at close to half-a-million now, I've been told] that Neda will be mourned in the Shi'ite fashion on the third, seventh, and fortieth day of her martyrdom---sustaining her memory and memorializing the terrible death of this beautiful young woman.

The LA Times has a series of photos of this young lady, who died way too young, and she had some friends among Iranian expat families in LA. [My cousin took me to see the Shah's twin sister's mansion in Montecito, I believe, decades ago & there must be hundreds of thousands of Iranians in S. Cal from what I've been told by Iranian friends in DC.

What a waste of a promising life, and Neda represents the yearning for freedom among young Iranians, whom I'm told admire the US more than any other country's youth in the Middle East.

And when I was the Oil Daily's Int'l Editor, I met many very bright young Iranian Oil Ministry officials, who were strictly professional. And Fouad Ajami, who wrote an excellent piece in today's WSJ, used to be my mentor on Iran [he is a Lebanese Shi'ite, second generation from Iran] when I was his landlord [!?!] back in DC after I got married and moved into my spouse's condo, renting my bachelor's pad to Fouad.

Also, I co-wrote a piece with Shirin Hunter for The Middle East Journal right after the fall of the Shah. Shirin is from Tabriz, like Mousavi, the putative victor of the rigged elections, and she like him has strong Azeri ties....

I also told Schnitt's audience that the Iranian reverence for martyrdom will sustain the protests during and after the periods of mourning for Neda.