Monday, June 20, 2011

2 years ago, "The Voice" was silence

I cant believe its been already been 2 years since the world learn about your death, You will not be forgotten in my heart and prayers, I do hope someday that your nation and mine will live in harmony, may you rest in peace!

Footage of the death of Neda Agha-Soltan
She was born on January 23, 1983 – and died on June 20, 2009) drew international attention after she was killed during the 2009 Iranian election protests. Her death was captured on video by bystanders and broadcast over the Internet and the video became a rallying point for the opposition. It was described as "probably the most widely witnessed death in human history".

Nedā is a word used in Classic Persian and modern Persian to mean “voice”, calling (sometimes understood as a “divine message”, but this is not the etymological sense of and d she has been referred to as the "voice of Iran". Her death became iconic in the struggle of Iranian protesters against the disputed election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Circumstances of deathOn June 20, 2009, at around 6:30 p.m., Neda Agha-Soltan was sitting in her Peugeot 206 in traffic on Kargar Avenue in the city of Tehran.

She was accompanied by her music teacher and close friend, Hamid Panahi, and two others, who remain unidentified. The four were on their way to participate in the protests against the outcome of the 2009 Iranian presidential election.

The car's air conditioner was not working well, so she stopped her car some distance from the main protests and got out on foot to escape the heat. She was standing and observing the sporadic protests in the area when she was shot in the chest.

As captured on amateur video,[13] she collapsed to the ground and was tended to by a doctor, her music teacher, and others from the crowd. Someone in the crowd around her shouted, "She has been shot! Someone, come and take her!" The videos were accompanied by a message from a doctor, later identified as Dr. Arash Hejazi, who said he had been present during the incident (but has since fled Iran out of fear of government reprisals)

"At 19:05 June 20th Place: Kargar Ave., at the corner crossing Khosravi St. and Salehi st. A young woman who was standing aside with her father [sic, later identified as her music teacher] watching the protests was shot by a Basij member hiding on the rooftop of a civilian house. He had clear shot at the girl and could not miss her. However, he aimed straight at her heart. I am a doctor, so I rushed to try to save her. But the impact of the gunshot was so fierce that the bullet had blasted inside the victim’s chest, and she died in less than two minutes. The protests were going on about one kilometre away in the main street and some of the protesting crowd were running from tear gas used among them, towards Salehi St. The film is shot by my friend who was standing beside me."

Her last words were, "I'm burning, I'm burning!", according to Panahi. She died en route to Tehran's Shariati hospital. However, the civilian physician that tended to Neda in the video has stated that Neda died on the scene.

Hejazi, standing one metre away from her when she was shot, tried to stanch her wound with his hands. Hejazi said nearby members of the crowd pulled a man from his motorcycle while shouting: "We got him, we got him," disarmed him, obtained his identity card and identified him as a member of the Basij militia (government paramilitary). The militiaman was shouting, "I didn't want to kill her." The protesters let him go, but they kept the alleged killer's identity card and took many photographs of him. A recent documentary on the shooting contained a previously unseen clip of demonstrators capturing the militiaman seconds after the shooting.

Role of the Internet during 2009 Iranian election protests

A frame from the video of Agha-Soltan's death by gunfire
The videos spread across the internet virally, quickly gaining the attention of international media and viewers. Discussions about the incident on Twitter, using a hashtag of neda became one of the "'trending topics'" by the end of the day on June 20, 2009.

The incident was not originally reported by the state-controlled Iranian media, but was instead first reported on by international media. The video has been shown on CNN and other news networks.

There are three videos depicting her death. One shows her collapsing to the ground, apparently still conscious. The second shows her only after she appears to lose consciousness and begins to bleed heavily. The third video shows her just as she begins to bleed profusely.

In the first video, the cameraman approaches a group of people huddled together in front of a parked car at the side of the street. As he moves closer, she can be seen collapsing to the pavement with a large bloodstain at her feet. Two men, Hamid Panahi and Arash Hejazi, are seen trying to revive her. The elderly Panahi was initially assumed to be her father, but later confirmed to be her music teacher.

As seconds pass, her eyes roll to one side and she appears to lose consciousness. Blood begins to pour from her nose and mouth, and screams are heard.

In the second video, the cameraman approaches her and the two men; the camera passes over them and centers on her face; her stare is blank and she is bleeding profusely from her nose and mouth. Loud screaming can be heard.

The man next to her can apparently be heard speaking in the first video, saying her name:

"Neda, don't be afraid. Neda, don't be afraid. [obscured by others yelling] Neda, stay with me. Neda stay with me!"

The videos were awarded the George Polk Award for Videography for 2009.

Alleged Killer

The man accused of killing Neda Soltan has been identified as Abbas Kargar Javid, a pro-government militiaman, after photographs of the Basiji’s ID cards appeared on the internet, according to The Times.


After being pronounced dead at Shariati hospital, Agha-Soltan was buried at the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery in southern Tehran; she was denied a proper funeral by government authorities.

The authorities had allegedly set aside empty graves for those killed during the protests. Her family agreed to the removal of her organs for transplanting to medical patients.[33] The Iranian government has issued a ban on collective prayers in mosques for Agha-Soltan in the aftermath of the incident.[48] Soona Samsami, the executive director of the Women's Freedom Forum, who has been relaying information about the protests inside Iran to the international media, told the foreign press that Agha-Soltan's immediate family were threatened by authorities if they permitted a gathering to mourn her.

Samsami stated, "They were threatened that if people wanted to gather there the family would be charged and punished."

Grave site immediately following burial.
Caspian Makan (Agha-Soltan's fiancé) told BBC: “Neda had said that even if she lost her life and got a bullet in her heart, she would carry on”.

Time and other news sources have speculated that due to the widespread attention given to Agha-Soltan's story by social media networks and mainstream news organizations, she is already being hailed as a martyr.

There is also speculation that the Shi'ite cycle of mourning on the third (June 23), seventh (June 27), and 40th (July 30) day after a person's death may give the protests sustained momentum, in similar fashion to the Iranian Revolution, where each commemoration of a demonstrator's death sparked renewed protests, resulting in more deaths, feeding a cycle that eventually resulted in the overthrowing of Iran's monarchy.

On June 22, Iranian presidential candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who are contesting the validity of the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called upon Iranian citizens to commemorate Agha-Soltan. Karroubi announced his appeal on Facebook, asking demonstrators to gather in the center of the Iranian capital at 4:00 pm local time. The chief of the Tehran Police announced that his department had no involvement in the fatal incident.

Later that day, riot police armed with live ammunition and tear gas dispersed a crowd of between 200 and 1,000 protesters who had gathered in Tehran's Haft-e Tir Square. The protests followed online calls for tribute to Agha-Soltan and others killed during the demonstrations. Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, a senior Iranian cleric and vocal critic of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called for three days of public mourning for the death of Neda.

Caspian Makan, following Neda's death, was tortured and escaped to Canada. He recently visited Israel as a guest of Israel's Channel 2. "I have come here out of the brotherhood of nations," he told Channel 2.


About 70 mourners gathered outside Niloufar mosque in Abbas Abad, where the Agha-Soltan family attended services. A leaflet posted on the mosque's door read, "There is no commemoration here for Neda Agha Soltan." Many in the crowd wore black. Some recited poems. After about ten minutes, 20 Basij paramilitary arrived on motorcycles and dispersed the attendees.

On June 24, The Guardian reported the results of interviews of neighbours who said Agha-Soltan's family had been forced to vacate their apartment some days after her death.[55] Reuters reported that supporters of presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi stated they would release thousands of balloons on Friday, June 26, 2009 with the message "Neda you will always remain in our hearts" imprinted on them.

On June 23, it was reported that, to prevent Agha-Soltan's family's home from becoming a place of pilgrimage, government authorities told the family to remove the black mourning banners from outside the home.

On Friday, July 31, 2009, 40th day anniversary of the killings of such youth as Neda Agha Soltan, Sohrab Aarabi and Ashkan Sohrabi was held in Tehran where thousands of Iranians mourned for the loss of the victims. Reports also came of gatherings in the thousands in cities of Rasht, Shiraz and Mashad.

Desecration of her grave

On November 16, 2009, supporters of the Iranian regime desecrated her grave and removed her gravestone. Later, on December 31, 2009, supporters of the Iranian Government defaced the portrait on her grave by shooting at it multiple times.

Iranian government reactions

The university branch of female members of Basij held a gathering in Tehran in front of the British embassy, demanding that Arash Hejazi be returned to Iran (as witness or suspect). As they are assumed to be close to the government, it means the government condemns the crime and is pursuing it (their way).

According to an Iranian official, announcing her as a martyr is possible. Iran's ambassador to Mexico, Mohammad Hassan Ghadiri, suggested in an interview on June 25, 2009 that the CIA could have been involved in Agha-Soltan's death. Ambassador Ghadiri questioned how the shooting was video taped so effectively, asserting that the incident occurred away from other demonstrations. He also stated that using a woman would be more effective in accomplishing the goals the CIA is purported to desire. Ambassador Ghadiri said "the bullet that was found in her head was not a bullet that you could find in Iran" (he thought she was shot in head).

The account of Doctor Hejazi was that Agha-Soltan was shot in the chest from the front, as there was no exit wound, and the video evidence showing a wound to the chest.

Hejazi is the man seen in the video placing his hands on Agha-Soltan's chest to staunch her bleeding (as described above under section Circumstances of death).

During his Friday sermon on June 26, the Supreme Leader's appointed speaker Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said "evidence shows that [protesters] have done it themselves and have raised propaganda against the system." Eye witnesses at the scene of the shooting said Agha-Soltan was shot by a member of the pro-government Basij militia.

Iran's police chief, brigadier general Ahmadi-Moghaddam told the press on June 30, 2009 that the Iranian police and Ministry of Intelligence filed an arrest warrant for Interpol to arrest Dr. Arash Hejazi, an eyewitness of Neda's death, for poisoning the international atmosphere against the Iranian government and telling misinformation about Neda's death by giving his account of the incident to foreign news media.

Ezzatollah Zarghami, the head of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, told the press on July 4, 2009 that the videos of Neda's death were all made by BBC and CNN.

In November 2009, Iran's embassy in London sent a letter of protest to The Queen's College, Oxford about the college establishing the Neda Agha-Soltan Graduate Scholarship in Philosophy.

In December 2009, Iranian state television aired a report about Agha-Soltan's death, portraying it as a western plot. The program argued that Agha-Soltan simulated her death with accomplices, and that she was killed afterwards, having no knowledge of her partners' intentions. and this can be seen here.

Claims of forced confessions

According to The Times, quoted from Mr. Makan and Ms. Agha Soltan's parents, officials tried to get them to confess that it was opposition protestors that had killed Neda, and not government militiamen. They were given incentives such as declaring Neda to be a martyr and giving the family a pension if they complied. Mr. Makan and Neda's family refused the offer.

Mr. Panahi was later forced by the government to change his story. The new version of events were retold by Panahi on state television.

Response to the Iranian government

In December 2009, her family accused the security forces of killing her. This was the strongest statement the family of Neda Agha-Soltan made since her death. This accusation followed the spread of an Iranian government-proposed theory blaming a "conspiracy of western governments" for the killing. "I openly declare that no one, apart from the government, killed Neda. Her killer can only be from the government," her father told the BBC's Persian service by telephone from Iran.

June 23, 2009
In a Death Seen Around the World, a Symbol of Iranian Protests
TEHRAN — It was hot in the car, so the young woman and her singing instructor got out for a breath of fresh air on a quiet side street not far from the antigovernment protests they had ventured out to attend. A gunshot rang out, and the woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, fell to the ground. “It burned me,” she said before she died.

The bloody video of her death on Saturday, circulated in Iran and around the world, has made Ms. Agha-Soltan, a 26-year-old who relatives said was not political, an instant symbol of the antigovernment movement.

Her death is stirring wide outrage in a society that is infused with the culture of martyrdom — although the word itself has become discredited because the government has pointed to the martyrs’ deaths of Iranian soldiers in the Iran-Iraq war to justify repressive measures.

Ms. Agha-Soltan’s fate resonates particularly with women, who have been at the vanguard of many of the protests throughout Iran.

“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.”

Opposition Web sites and television channels, which Iranians view with satellite dishes, have repeatedly shown the video, in which blood can be seen gushing from Ms. Agha-Soltan’s body as she dies. By Monday evening, there already were 6,860 entries for her on the Persian-language Google Web site. Some Web sites suggest changing the name of Kargar Street, where she was killed, to Neda Street.

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.”

Only scraps of information are known about Ms. Agha-Soltan. Her friends and relatives were mostly afraid to speak, and the government broke up public attempts to mourn her. She studied philosophy and took underground singing lessons — women are barred from singing publicly in Iran. Her name means voice in Persian, and many are now calling her the voice of Iran.

Her fiancé, 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.

Her singing instructor, Hamid Panahi, offered a glimpse of her last moments.

He said the two of them decided to head home after being caught in a clash with club-wielding forces in central Tehran. They stepped out of the car. “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. On a Facebook posting along with the video, an anonymous doctor said he tried to save her but failed because the bullet hit her heart.

“She was so full of life,” said a relative who spoke on condition of anonymity. “She sang pop music.”

The relative said the government had ordered the family to bury Ms. Agha-Soltan immediately and barred family members from holding a memorial service.

The paramilitary forces were quick to stop memorial services elsewhere, too. More than a dozen bearded men on motorcycles dispersed nearly 70 people gathered outside Niloofar mosque on Monday. Authorities ordered the mosques not to hold services for any victims of the demonstrations over the past few days.

“Go, get lost,” they shouted, as the regular police stood by.

But one police officer, watching the militia, said a prayer aloud with the crowd in her honor: “Peace be upon the prophet and her family.”

As Ms. Agha-Soltan’s family held a private ceremony on Monday, they turned reporters away and refused to speak. “They were not allowed to hang even a black banner,” the relative said.

Funerals have long served as a political rallying point in Iran, since it is customary to have a week of mourning and a large memorial service 40 days after a death. In the 1979 revolution, that cycle generated a constant supply of new protests and deaths.

But the narrative of death has also been important in the lore surrounding the existence of the Islamic republic.

The government portrayed itself in the role of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad killed by a far larger army during the seventh-century struggle within Islam, which gave birth to the Shiite sect that predominates in Iran.

Days for prophets and saints believed killed in the service of the faith dot the holiday calendar, taking up 22 days of the year.

So the very public adulation of Ms. Agha-Soltan could create a religious symbol for the opposition and sap support for the government among the faithful who believe Islam abhors killing innocent civilians.

One poem circulating on the Internet explicitly linked her death to other symbols of the protest movement:

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

She has become the public face of an unknown number of Iranians who have died in the protests. While state television has reported 10 deaths and state radio 19, it is widely believed the total is much higher.

A witness said the body of a 19-year-old man who was killed in Tehran on Sunday was given to the family only after it paid $5,000.

For many Iranians, though, the death of a young woman has special meaning.

“We know a lot of people have died, but it is so hard to see a woman, so young and innocent, die like this,” a 41-year-old who gave his name as Alireza said Monday.

Women were particular targets after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began to strictly enforce previously loosened restrictions. Thousands of women were arrested or intimidated because they did not adhere precisely to Islamic dress code on the streets.

Mir Hussein Moussavi, the leading opposition candidate, campaigned along with his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, and other prominent Iranian women rallied to his side as he promised to improve the status of women.

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.”

Neil MacFarquhar contributed reporting from New York.

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