Agam's Gecko
Monday, June 22, 2009
Neda Agha Soltan
Neda Agha Soltan, a 27 year old philosophy student, died by the hand of the Islamic Republic's Basij militia on Saturday.
Photo: "A Voice for Neda"

er name is Neda. Her name will always be Neda. When she fell and left it behind her, it was raised by hundreds, then thousands, now millions. Not was — her name is Neda.

Neda Agha Soltan was a 27 year old student of philosophy in Tehran. The bare outline of her story can only be provisionally pieced together from the unconfirmed snippets of discussion trickling out of Iran by her compatriots in freedom's cause. Perhaps one day soon, when journalism is no longer illegal in that country, her full story will be told.

It is said that she was standing on the sidelines of Saturday's forbidden protest, watching beside her father teacher. A wobbly cell-phone video shows the two of them together among the crowd. He is the grey-haired man in a blue striped shirt, she wears black.

If the gentle reader has not yet seen what happened to Neda (some news outlets are showing it), and is willing to have his or her heart broken yet again, then click the button while observing my strong content warning. Neda was alive at the beginning of this scene, but not at the end.

Direct Video Link
The original upload carried the following description:
At 19:05 June 20th
Place: Karekar Ave., at the corner crossing Khosravi St. and Salehi st.

A young woman who was standing aside with her father 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 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 2 minutes.

The protests were going on about 1 kilometers away in the main street and some of the protesting crowd were running from tear gass used among them, towards Salehi St.

The film is shot by my friend who was standing beside me.

Please let the world know.
I've gathered from reading many Iranians (who have become like autonomous solo broadcasters) these past days that her name, Neda, means "Calling" or "Voice". The man believed to be her father is calling to her as she dies, which has been translated as:
"Neda, don't be afraid. Neda, don't be afraid. [obscured by others yelling] Neda, stay with me. Neda stay with me!"
Courageous women have been the backbone of these demonstrations, according to many witnesses. I listened to an Iranian professor this morning talk about the phenomenon, which is not new. "Shirzan" is the Persian word he used for them, which he said Iranians will commonly use to describe such women without fear. It means "lioness" or "lion-woman," he said. Women have been estimated to comprise around 40% of the freedom protesters during the past 10 days.

No one knew whether the planned Saturday protest would go ahead or not, following the unveiled threat delivered by Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei on Friday. Everyone who considered going out of their house on Saturday knew that they could be risking their life. Mr. Moussavi had promised a statement in the afternoon, but it never came (his website has come under attack as well). Yet less than an hour after the planned meeting time of 4 pm, everyone who was following any of the many autonomous solo broadcasters (twitterers with a reliable reputation), knew that Tehran's people were in the streets again and were being foiled by huge numbers of riot police and Basijis already occupying their meeting places in the public squares. International media continued for hours saying the streets were quiet, while heads were already being cracked. CNN's not the "first name in news" anymore, and if they keep getting "Khomeni" and "Khamenei" mixed up and refering to demonstrators as "rioters" for defending themselves, they'll be the last name in news before long.

While earnest news anchors were saying that no one had seen Mr. Moussavi on Saturday, those who followed the solo tweet-casters already knew that he had spoken to the demonstrators in Jeyhoon Street. Before long, his words were translated, posted and linked by the Iranian tweeters.

By late night in Tehran the truth was evident to all, finally including international media. A vicious crackdown was underway, an unknown number of the freedom movement had been killed, and protests were continuing in most (if not all) Iran's major cities. Tweets from eyewitnesses circled the earth in seconds, thousands of citizen videos were uploaded to sharing sites, there are no secrets any more — at least, nothing this big can be kept secret when technology and an adept people are present.

I'm in a time zone two and a half hours ahead of Tehran. At around 2 am on Sunday morning here, the screen of the AP satellite feed showed a caption warning agencies to be ready. (paraphrasing) "Standby. White House statement 3:10 pm. Standby." The time corresponded to 02:10 am Bangkok time, in other words, imminent. It was just before midnight in Tehran, and we all knew what had happened during the afternoon and evening there. The White House was finally ready to take a stronger moral stand after these latest brutal killings, I thought. It could have come days earlier, after Basijis had raided Tehran University, beating and killing a number of students in their dorms. Or, a day or two before that when Basijis shot up a crowd around one of their bases, killing at least seven. But better late than never. I waited.

Nothing came across the AP feed after an hour, then after two hours of staying awake refreshing some pages of those solo broadcasters, I crashed out around dawn. Sunday afternoon, I learned what the "Standby" was all about.

I scream
Can't a man enjoy his waffle(cone)?
The White House statement was that the President had taken his daughters out for a Father's Day ice cream. Seriously! And that's not all. Bo got frozen Puppy Pops to go. (The photo is from an earlier ice cream excursion, I can't find any pictures from Saturday's fun.) Take a look at Patterico's juxtaposition of contemporaneous tweets out of Iran and Washington. Hey, did you know that real journalists use Twitter too? It's true! But only click on that one if you don't mind your heart being broken yet again.

Earlier, President Obama had said something which seemed stronger than the previous "concern" and "bearing witness."
"I'm very concerned based on some of the tenor and tone of the statements that have been made that the government of Iran recognise that the world is watching," Obama said on US television on Friday.

"And how they approach and deal with people who are, through peaceful means, trying to be heard will, I think, send a pretty clear signal to the international community about what Iran is and is not."
Well, it nudged the concern and witness ideas ahead a little bit (if ya squint!). A later written statement added the mourning of innocent life lost to the bearing of witness and concern. The toughest line was, "We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people."

Those brave 21st century Iranians need to hear that the free peoples of the world are with them. The placards, chants and comments of the demonstrators have often asked specifically for this, and it would mean a lot for them to hear it unambiguously from the leader of the free world. Whether he makes a strong, principled statement on the urgent need for liberty and the dignity of Iran's freedom-seeking people, or sticks with the current weak expressions of concern, makes no difference to the ruling hardliners in that country. They are blaming Britain, France, USA and all western countries for fomenting the rebellion in any case. To hell with them — speak directly to those millions of Iranians who are demanding their fundamental rights. They are the only ones who count, and the only ones listening anyway.

So far, the Prophet of Cairo seems to be all Barack and no bite. His original "on the one hand, but on the other hand" stance (that dealing with Ahmedinejad or Moussavi makes no difference to him, that they are about the same) certainly did offend many of those risking life and limb for liberty, and they should expect clearer messages from a US president. For better or worse, those who want to live in a free(r) country have gathered together with Mr. Moussavi, demanding the fair election they have yet to receive. That alone means that the two are not the same.

A Life Magazine photojournalist disappeared on Saturday in Tehran. You can view his gallery here, with the following notification:
A NOTE TO OUR READERS: We are saddened to report that the Iranian photojournalist, whose pictures appear in this gallery, is missing. He has not been in contact with us; this morning we received the following email from one of his relatives. We will update this space when we have more details.

THE EMAIL: Hi im [photographer’s relative], when he go outside yesterday for he never came back home and also his friend and a lot of our young brave people, government arrested them [. . .] don’t let them suffer in those bloody hands. With thanks.
Here's a sample of some of the proven reliable Twitter feeds. Most are in Tehran. The last two are hashtag searches (categories). #Neda sprang up on Saturday night. #IranElection is very high volume (beware of rumours and regime dis-information there).
Raymond Jahan (StopAhmadi)
Iranian Student (Change_for_Iran)
Alireza Sedaghat (IranElection09)
TehranBureau.com (TehranBureau)
madyar (madyar)
Iran (IranRiggedElect)
oxfordgirl (oxfordgirl)
persiankiwi (persiankiwi)
If you need to get caught up on the important developments over the weekend, there's no better place at the moment than Hot Air. AllahPundit is keeping on top of things very well, and these were continually updated on Saturday and Sunday. Also very good is NYT's The Lede Blog. The blog of the National Iranian American Council is worth keeping an eye on, for nuggets like this — which stuck in my mind last week (and I had a hard time finding it again). Posted on June 17:
9:47 am: In response to Ahmadinejad calling Mousavi supporters “brushwood and thorns” at the victory rally Monday, Iran’s most famous classical musician has ordered that Iranian government television/radio never play his music again. Mohammad Reza Shajarian told BBC Persian in an interview:
“Don’t broadcast my voice on Seda va Sima [IRIB Music channel] ever again: my voice is like brushwood and thorns, and it will forever remain brushwood and thorns!”


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