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Neda Soldani ( 1982 - 2009 )  Category ( Heroines ) [suggest a correction]
 

Neda SoldaniA cellphone camera catapulted Neda Soldani onto the international stage so quickly that she arrived half-formed and incomplete.

Her name was variously given as Neda Soldani, Neda Soldati and Neda Agha-Soldani. She was first described as 16, then 26. She was an activist, or she was an innocent bystander. She was shot by an Iranian paramilitary soldier on a motorcycle; she was shot by a sniper.

The first photographs of the dead woman, lifted from a Facebook page, were actually of another young Iranian woman named Neda Soldani.

There was, however, one indisputable fact -- after footage of Soldani dying in a pool of blood on a street in downtown Tehran showed up on YouTube and Facebook on June 20, she became an almost instant symbol of opposition to the current Iranian regime.

Certainly, the video is graphic and disturbing. But it may also have been that the choatic resistance to the disputed election of president Mahmoud Amadinejadneeded a symbol to pull it together, so Neda Soldani became its Joan of Arc.

Gradually, a few facts about her came to light. She had studied at Azad University in Tehran but left to work as a travel agent. She was engaged to a young man named Caspian, and she loved to travel, having taken trips to Dubai, Turkey and Thailand. Her father was a government worker.

According to her music teacher (she was studying piano), who accompanied her to the anti-government march on the day she was killed, Neda only walked into the teeth of the protest when her car was blocked. She was talking on her cell phone, not demonstrating, when she was shot in the chest and collapsed. Some bystanders pulled her into a car and raced to the nearest hospital, but she was dead on arrival.

Neda Soldani was quite attractive, which didn't hurt her martyr status, and was apparently typical of Iranian youth -- torn between love of country and a desire for a fresh breath of air from the outside world. On her last day, she was wearing a headscarf, jeans and sneakers, the outfit of someone with a foot in both worlds.

The Iranian government took her body and only released it to her parents when they agreed to have a quick burial in the Behesht-e-Zaha Cemetery on the outskirts of Tehran. Despite government efforts to prevent it, however, several impromptu memorial services were held in her honor.

There have even been songs written about her, one of them with the chorus "Sleep, sweet lady of Iran."

Image: A frame from the video of Agha-Soltan's death in Iran.


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