A mother should never have to bury her daughter. Bad enough when it’s a sudden illness, suicide, car accident, or drug overdose. Worse still when at the hands of another, for doing something that so many of us take for granted, like exercising what should be a basic human right: speaking out against an oppressive government regime, and taking part in a peaceful protest. Here in the U.S., we can’t even imagine fearing for our lives for speaking our minds, or what it’s like to live in a place where one’s freedom of speech is completely denied.
Neda Agha-Soltan was a 27-year-old Iranian student and aspiring musician and singer. She lived with her parents, brother and sister in an apartment in Tehran. She was frustrated by the lack of freedom and rampant discrimination against women in her native country, but had never been an especially political person, until she, like many others, were angered by the disputed election between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mir-Hossein Mousavi. As her mother, Hajar Rostami-Motlagh, stated in an interview with Rooz online (a Persian and English news site mostly staffed by exiled reformist Iranian journalists):
“Neda was upset that day. She called and said that she had gone to several polling stations to vote but hadn’t been able to. She explained that Mr. Mousavi’s representatives weren’t present at any of the stations. When Neda investigates and asks to see Mr. Mousavi’s representative, they tell her, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s representative is here, come and vote. She got upset and asked how is it possible for a polling station not to have representatives from any candidates other than Ahmadinejad. Because of that she didn’t vote.”
On June 20, Neda had gone with her music teacher to join in a demonstration against the disputed election. They were at a distance from where the main protest was going on, just observing, when she was shot in the chest by a member of the government Basij militia from a nearby rooftop. She died shortly after. She was not the first in Iran to be killed while engaged in peaceful protest, but what made her death unique was that it was captured on video, uploaded to YouTube, and subsequently broadcast around the world. Neda came to represent the countless people who have suffered at the hands of this and other oppressive regimes.
But this horrific event didn’t stop with her senseless death. People loyal to the government desecrated her grave, public gatherings to mourn her death were broken up by security forces, her family was forced out of their home, and those who spoke out against the government’s insistence that Neda’s death was part of a foreign plot were reportedly tortured. Though this member of the Basij was caught at the scene by fellow protesters who took his ID, he was released and a year later, has still not been brought to justice.
To commemorate her death and bring attention to injustices that have continued unabated in Iran, The Airborne Toxic Event is partnering with Amnesty International for a series of special events. Like others moved by her story and many other stories of the Iranian people’s struggles for basic rights and freedoms, they were inspired to do something to support the cause, and have written a song called “Neda”, which they will release along with a video, proceeds to benefit Amnesty International’s work on human rights in Iran.
The Neda Project
~ Tuesday, June 8: “Neda” released on iTunes, proceeds to benefit Amnesty International’s work on human rights in Iran.
~ Tuesday, June 8: A video for the song will be released, which will retell the events surrounding the death of Neda Agha-Soltan and the historic protests in Iran against the disputed presidential election.
~ There’s also going to be some kind of ‘online march’ as a show of solidarity within the next few weeks. See Airborne’s site for more information.
Mikel Jollett and Nazanin Boniadi of Amnesty International announce The Neda Project:
If you’re unable to make it to the show, you can make donations directly to Amnesty International for human rights work in Iran (select “Iran”).
For more information…
NY Times article
Amnesty International â€“ Iran: Stop Using Basij Militia to Police Demonstrations
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
Interview with Neda’s mother by Rooz online (on Amnesty International UK Blogs: Women’s Action Network Blog)