By: Mir M.Hosseini
The footage of the death of a 26 year old Iranian girl; Neda Agha Soltan drew international attention after she was killed during the 2009 Iranian election protests. The protests erupted after allegations of widespread fraud at the polls. Neda's death was captured on video 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; quite strangely however the murderer(s) are still at loose.
Neda's death became iconic in the struggle of Iranian protesters against the disputed election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. She then became a symbol of women suffering and oppression in male-dominated Iranian society.
Neda was the middle child of an average family of three children. Neda graduated from Islamic Azad University in Islamic theology. She was divorced, and according to her mother, had difficulty finding a job.
On June 20, 2009, at around 6:30 p.m., Neda Agha Soltan was on her way to participate in demonstrations. As she was watching the protests she was shot in the chest right below her neck.
As captured on amateur video, she collapsed to the ground apparently still conscious. She was tended to by a doctor who tried to stop bleeding. Moments later, Neda lost consciousness and began to bleed heavily. As seconds passed, her eyes rolled to one side. Blood began to pour from her nose and mouth, and screams were heard. Later, she was pronounced dead at Shariati hospital.
There are conflicting witness accounts about where the shot came from; some said from a rooftop while others think the bullet came from a Basij militiaman on the street.
The state-controlled Iranian media was silent while Neda's death was the breaking news worldwide.
On June 22, Iranian presidential candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, who were contesting the validity of the election, called upon Iranian citizens to commemorate Neda Agha Soltan.
The chief of the Tehran Police announced that his department had no involvement in the fatal incident. Meanwhile, riot police armed with live ammunition and tear gas was busy dispersing protesters around the city. The protests followed online calls for tribute to Agha-Soltan and others killed during the demonstrations. A prominent dissident cleric: Ayatollah Montazeri called for three days of public mourning for the death of Neda.
Neda Agha Soltan was buried at the Behesht Zahra cemetery. On June 23, to prevent Neda's family's home from becoming a place of gathering, authorities ordered removal of mourning banners from outside the home. Her family was later forced to evacuate their apartment.
As Neda became widely considered a martyr; Jean D'Arc of our times, on November 16, 2009, vandals removed her gravestone.
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.
State authorities blatantly labeled the incident a foreign plot against the Islamic regime but opposed independent investigations. The theocratic regime has been ignoring if not suppressing demands of a great portion of the Iranian society; a phenomenon that has resulted in social alienation and a costly exodus.