Monday, June 22, 2009

Mourning Neda

It has been just a few short days since graphic video was captured of an Iranian woman named Neda, being gunned down in the streets of Tehran and dying on camera. Neda's last moments have become a symbol of the brutal crackdown on all protesters that has been imposed by the Iranian Security forces and the Basij.

A blogger, who is reportedly in touch with Neda's family, gave a little more background on her story (translated by a reader at the Huffington Post):

she was born in 1982, apparently her full name was Neda Agha-Soltan, and she was at the protest with one her professors and several other students. She was, they said, shot by a basiji riding by on a motorcycle. Also, she was apparently buried today at a large cemetery in the south of Tehran. ABC News' Lara Setrakian writes, "Hearing reports Neda was buried in Behesht Zahra cemetery earlier today, memorial service cancelled on orders from authorities."

CNN, who stumbled out of the gate on their Iran coverage but have since recovered, ran this report on Neda yesterday (Graphic Content is contained in the video below):

TIME magazine has also written a piece entitled: In Iran, One Woman's Death May Have Many Consequences. From that piece:

Iran's revolution has now run through a full cycle. A gruesomely captivating video of a young woman — laid out on a Tehran street after apparently being shot, blood pouring from her mouth and then across her face — swept Twitter, Facebook and other websites this weekend. The woman rapidly became a symbol of Iran's escalating crisis, from a political confrontation to far more ominous physical clashes. Some sites refer to her as "Neda," Farsi for the voice or the call. Tributes that incorporate startlingly upclose footage of her dying have started to spring up on YouTube.

Although it is not yet clear who shot "Neda" (a soldier? pro-government militant? an accidental misfiring?), her death may have changed everything. For the cycles of mourning in Shiite Islam actually provide a schedule for political combat — a way to generate or revive momentum. Shiite Muslims mourn their dead on the third, seventh and 40th days after a death, and these commemorations are a pivotal part of Iran's rich history. During the revolution, the pattern of confrontations between the shah's security forces and the revolutionaries often played out in 40-day cycles.

Melody Moezzi, a Huffington Post contributor, appeared on CNN last night to discuss the significance of Neda and the impact that civilian deaths will have on the opposition movement:

It is also being reported that Karroubi, a reformist candidate who has backed Mousavi, is calling on people to gather in Tehran at 4PM today to mourn Neda. This comes as the Revolutionary Guard has vowed to crush any further protests today.

There are already reports that police are using force to break up any demonstration or protest that attempts to form:

Riot police attacked hundreds of demonstrators with tear gas and fired live bullets in the air to disperse a rally in central Tehran Monday, carrying out a threat by the country's most powerful security force to crush any further opposition protests over the disputed presidential election.


Witnesses said helicopters hovered overhead as about 200 protesters gathered at Haft-e-Tir Square. But hundreds of anti-riot police quickly put an end to the demonstration and prevented any gathering, even small groups, at the scene.

At the subway station at Haft-e-Tir, the witnesses said police did not allow anyone to stand still, asking them to keep on walking and separating people who were walked together. The witnesses asked not to be identified for fear of government reprisals.

Just before the clashes, an Iranian woman who lives in Tehran said there was a heavy police and security presence in another square in central Tehran. She asked not to be identified because she was worried about government reprisals.

"There is a massive, massive, massive police presence," she told the Associated Press in Cairo by telephone. "Their presence was really intimidating."

There is also reporting now coming in, that the rally to mourn Neda is being broken up by the Basij. ABC's Lara Setrakian tweets:

e-source: "People are trying to gather in 7 Tir square, but being dispersed before they can gather momentum. Many many Basijis"#iranelection

TehranBureau tweets:

there is no other option: everyone has to get involved to help us.

UPDATE: Neda was apparently employed at a travel agency in Iran and was engaged to be married. BBC Persia has an interview with a man claiming to be Neda's fiance. This has yet to be translated. Iran's government banned Neda's family from holding a public funeral on Monday.

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