The World Mourns Neda

Jun 23, 2009 10:22am

Her name was Neda Agha-Soltan. She was 26 and loved pop music. She was killed by the Basij and has become an icon of the resistance.

Her fiancé, Caspian Makan, spoke to Al Jazeera about the last moments of her life:

He also told the sad story to BBC Persian TV:

“She was near the area, a few streets away, from where the main protests were taking place, near the Amir-Abad area. She was with her music teacher, sitting in a car and stuck in traffic. She was feeling very tired and very hot. She got out of the car for just for a few minutes. And that’s when it all happened. That’s when she was shot dead. Eyewitnesses and video footage of the shooting clearly show that probably Basij paramilitaries in civilian clothing deliberately targeted her. Eyewitnesses said they clearly targeted her and she was shot in the chest.

“She passed away within a few minutes. People tried to take her to the nearest hospital, the Shariati hospital. But it was too late. We worked so hard to get the authorities to release her body. She was taken to a morgue outside Tehran. The officials from the morgue asked if they could use parts of her corpse for body transplants for medical patients. They didn’t specify what exactly they intended to do. Her family agreed because they wanted to bury her as soon as possible.

“We buried her in the Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery in southern Tehran. They asked us to bury her in this section where it seemed the authorities had set aside spaces for graves for those killed during the violent clashes in Tehran last week. On Monday afternoon, we had planned to hold a memorial service at the mosque. But the authorities there and the paramilitary group, the Basij, wouldn’t allow it because they were worried it would attract unwanted attention and they didn’t want anymore trouble.

“The authorities are aware that everybody in Iran and throughout the whole world knows about her story. So that’s why they didn’t want a memorial service. They were afraid that lots people could turn up at the event. So as things stand now, we are not allowed to hold any gatherings to remember Neda.”

Those last moments you can see here — viewer discretion advised:

As the Los Angeles Times reported, her final words: “I’m burning, I’m burning!”

“Security forces urged her 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 had become.”

Her singing instructor, Hamid Panahi, was with her, and told his story to the New York Times. “’We heard one gunshot, and the bullet came and hit Neda right in the chest,’ he said. The shot was fired from the rooftop of a private house across the street, perhaps by a sniper, he said.”

The Washington Post reports that at the family’s “modest travel agency, where Agha Soltan once worked, tense relatives declined to comment. According to sources close to the family, authorities have told them not to talk to the news media. The government has cracked down hard in recent days on its most vocal opponents.”

Writes the Post: “An eyewitness reported that about 70 people gathered on Monday, the third day after Agha Soltan’s death, at the Niloufar mosque in the middle-class Tehran neighborhood of Abbas Abad. On the mosque’s doors, a leaflet said: ‘There is no commemoration here for Neda Agha Soltan.’ In the Islamic republic, all mosques are under state control. The mourners, most of them dressed in black, held up posters with a picture of Agha Soltan’s bloodied face during a sit-in outside the mosque because they were not allowed in.

“Some read poetry. ‘Her blood was spilled unjustly!’ one woman yelled.

“Soon a police colonel showed up, saying the mourners should leave.

“‘Why don’t you defend us?’ one mourner asked. ‘Why have you unleashed these attackers on us?’

“Passersby — some of them crying — joined in and handed out dates, a traditional custom in Iran when someone dies.

“After 10 minutes, 20 members of the Basij showed up on motorcycles and started threatening the mourners with clubs.

“The mourners quickly dispersed, taking their posters with them.

“‘We will be back,’ one mourner said. ‘She will not be forgotten.’”

Wrote opposition candidate Mehdi Karroubi 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.”

– jpt

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