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In death, ‘Neda’ becomes face of protest

Video by Alix LE BOURDON , Nadia CHARBIT

Text by Leela JACINTO

Latest update : 2009-06-23

Amateur footage of an attractive young woman, identified as "Neda", succumbing to her wounds on a Tehran street has come to encapsulate the Iranian state's crackdown on the opposition and could turn into the regime's worst nightmare.

The amateur video footage was horrifying, the accompanying audio track, harrowing. In a matter of minutes, an attractive young woman, dressed in jeans, succumbs to her wounds as the camera captures bystanders desperately trying to save her.

 
Within hours, she was being proclaimed the face of the revolution. The haunting images of her dying moments have come to encapsulate the Iranian state’s crackdown on opposition demonstrations.

 
Much like the footage of a Chinese tank rumbling towards a lone demonstrator in Tiananmen Square in 1989, the video of the Iranian woman’s death looks set to enter the annals of history.

 
Nobody at this stage knows who shot the video, which was allegedly taken on Saturday. But it rapidly went viral over the weekend as video posts made the rounds on popular sites such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

 
FRANCE 24 -- like many international news organisations -- received the footage from some of our readers shortly after Saturday’s brutal crackdown on the opposition.

 
The video -- which shows a young woman lying stunned on the ground moments before her eyes turn vacant as blood seeps over her face and she succumbs to her gunshot wounds -- is so disturbing, most major news outlets aired edited versions of the footage.

 
The woman has been identified as Neda Agha Soltani on the Internet. Her age has been varyingly put at 16, 19 and 27. Given the tight media restrictions inside Iran, with the international press relying on witnesses on the ground to cover the story, it has been difficult to corroborate the details.

 
‘I am Neda’

 
But the lack of information has not stemmed the Neda phenomenon.

 
Amateur poets -- seemingly moved by her youth, beauty and horrifying slide to death -- have posted verses about the world’s best-known victim of the controversial Iranian election.

 

In a country with a rich literary heritage, where long-dead poets such as Hafez enjoy the popularity of rock stars, the verses on the Web include odes to “the beautiful one” and rants against fate’s cruel ways.

 
Thousands of miles away from Tehran, protesters in California took to the streets Sunday, bearing “I am Neda” posters.

 
The regime’s worst nightmare

 
On Monday, websites such as Twitter were flooded with messages about a memorial service at Tehran’s Haft-e Tir Square.

 

These were followed by reports that Neda’s family had cancelled the memorial service after receiving warnings from the security services.

 
Twitter, which has been at the forefront of the coverage of the aftermath of the June 12 election, then featured posts urging people to defy the odds and gather at the square.

 
By Monday evening, it seemed that Neda’s persona had worked. Despite a strongly worded warning by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, about 1,000 demonstrators gathered at Haft-e Tir Square.

 
In death, Neda could be the Iranian regime’s worst nightmare.

Date created : 2009-06-22

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