Iran’s ‘Angel of Freedom’ Neda Soltan Vowed to Protest Against Injustice
Tuesday , June 23, 2009
Relatives and friends of Neda Soltan, the 26-year-old protester who’s become an international symbol of Iranian resistance, wanted her to be remembered for her love of music and passion for travel.
“She was a person full of joy,” the Los Angeles Times quotes her music teacher and close friend Hamid Panahi, who was among mourners at her family home. “She was a beam of light. I’m so sorry. I was so hopeful for this woman.”
Details continue to emerge Tuesday about the murdered protester nickamed “Angel of Freedom,” after graphic videos of her apparent murder at a Tehran protest hit the Internet.
Images of Soltan’s bloody death on Saturday have galvanized the country and many insist on speaking out about this young woman and who she was, despite authorities banning anyone from mourning her.
Neda was reportedly gunned down during protests in the capital city. Videos posted on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter show her bleeding from the nose and mouth as a crowd tries unsuccessfully to stanch the flow and save her life.
The video also shows a moving clip of a man identified as Panahi cradling her head and yelling out, “Neda, don’t be afraid. Neda, stay with me. Neda stay with me!”
The second of three children, Soltan studied Islamic philosophy at a branch of Tehran’s Azad University before deciding to take private classes to become a tour guide, hoping to ultimately lead Iranians on trips abroad, the L.A. Times reported.
She was reportedly passionate about traveling and had gone with friends to Dubai, Turkey and Thailand. The young Iranian was also an accomplished singer who was taking piano lessons, according to Panahi.
Soltan was not a hardcore activist, but had started attending the mass protests because she felt deeply outraged by the election results.
“She couldn’t stand the injustice of it all,” Panahi told the L.A. Times.
A close friend of Soltan, who the L.A. Times identified only as “Golshad,” said Neda’s parents had asked her not to go to the protest, fearing it was too dangerous.
“I told her, ‘Neda, don’t go,'” the Times quotes Golshad. “She said, ‘Don’t worry. It’s just one bullet and it’s over.'”
Friends say Soltan, Panahi and two others were stuck in traffic on their way to the demonstration sometime after 6:30 p.m.
When they stepped out of the car to get some air, Panahi heard a crack and then realized Soltan was on the ground.
“We were stuck in traffic and we got out and stood to watch, and without her throwing a rock or anything they shot her,” the Times quoted Panahi. “It was just one bullet.”
“I’m burning, I’m burning!” Panahi recalls Soltan’s final words.
Doctors, fellow protesters and medical staff at Shariati Hospital made heroic efforts to rush Soltan to surgery and save her, but she was reportedly dead by the time she arrived at the emergency room.
Mehdi Khalaji, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Affairs, told FOXNews.com that Neda has become “one of the pillars of this movement now,” and the bloody images of her dying in the street are its “main icons and symbols.”
Her family scheduled a memorial service to be held in a mosque in northern Tehran, but the government forbade ceremony. She was buried quietly at Tehran’s Behesht Zahra cemetery on Sunday with only her family present, says Soona Samsami, executive director of the Women’s Freedom Forum, who has been relaying information about protests inside Iran to international media.
All mosques were given a direct order from the government barring them from holding any memorial services for Neda, and her family was threatened with grave consequences if anyone gathered to mourn her, said Samsami.
Soltan’s loved ones were outraged by the authorities’ order not to eulogize her.
“They were threatened that if people wanted to gather there the family would be charged and punished,” Samsami told FOXnews.com.
Much of the attention and blame for Neda’s apparent murder is now being focused on Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose threatening speech Friday preceded the violent protests Saturday at which apparently Neda lost her life. Khamenei is now the prime target for protesters’ outrage, Khalaji said.
“For the first time since the election it seems that people are including in their slogans ‘Down with Khamenei,’ and ‘Death to Khamenei,'” he told FOXNews.com.
Iranian authorities have vehemently denied that police used lethal force to quell protests. They suggest loyalists to the exiled, outlawed opposition group Mujahedin Khalq may be responsible for the killing, the L.A. Times reported.
Her fiancé, Caspian Makan, said in an interview with BBC Persian that she had not supported any candidate in the allegedly fraudulent elections. Neda wanted “freedom for all,” he said.
FOX News’ Melissa Tabatabai contributed to this report.