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Neda: More Than An Icon

(AP Photo)
Daniel Farber is editor-in-chief of

As details surface about Neda Agha-Soltan, the 26-year-old killed during the Iranian demonstrations, she becomes more than just an icon for the protest movement. She was a vibrant young woman who worked part-time in her family's travel agency and enjoyed Persian pop music, singing and playing piano.

Hamid Panahi, Neda's music teacher said, "She was a person full of joy. She was a beam of light. I'm so sorry. I was so hopeful for this woman," the Los Angeles Times reported based on interviews with her friends. "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."

The LA Times story reported that Ms. Agha-Soltan was not an activist, and " began attending the mass protests only because she was outraged by the election results."

And now, the Iranian government is apparently claiming that rioters were responsible for Ms. Agha-Soltan's death. The government-run Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN) reported that a "reliable source" confirmed after examining the bullet and the way Ms. Agha-Soltan was shot that rioters were responsible for her death, and that a number of people had been arrested in connection with her death.

According to an Al Jazeera interview with Caspian Makan, Ms. Agha-Soltan's fiance, she was in an area near the main protests with her music teacher, in a car mired in traffic. She was feeling hot and got out of the car for a spell and was shot in the chest, dying in a few minutes as people around her filmed and photographed her death.

Makan further described in a BBC Persian TV interview what he heard happened when she was shot and the days after:

"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."

See also:

Iran's 'Neda', An Internet Icon

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