(text on the flag- “do not be a mere imitator with no firm determination… school yourselves… if people do good so should you. But if people do evil shun their evil deeds.”)
Neda Agha-Soltan, 1983-2009
I know it’s been two years but her death resonates with me even today. When Neda died in June 2009 in the streets of Tehran, by a sniper who shot her in the heart, the mobile footage of her dying and the mass demonstartions that followed were shown on television and I remember seeing everything fleetingly in the papers and the news but maybe I was selfish and didn’t think much of it, the chores of my life seemed more important and so, did not pay much attention to the whole ‘episode’. And for that, I am sorry Neda.
More 4 showed a documentary ‘For Neda’ at 10 pm on June 21 and it was then I realized what she and her death signified to Iran, to this world. A young girl who believed in herself, had the courage to pursue her dreams, stood up to what was right and had the determination in her to make a mark in Iran’s oppressive regime. She was like any other Iranian youth, who had a dream to see her country change for the better, where her aspirations wouldn’t be ridiculed by the government, where she could walk boldly on the streets on her way to the music class, where the ‘religious police’ wouldn’t come and bother her to tell whether she was dressed appropriately or not.
Persia once the centre of science and technology, where Persian scientists contributed to mathematics, medicine… where astronomy, art and philosophy evolved… the same Persia today which is the ‘Islamic Republic of Iran’, run by a president and a religious supreme leader who know nothing about Islam by the way; making laws on how to lead one’s life, making people believe what they think is right or wrong. However, I am so happy to see the united Iranians today, standing up against this regime and questioning it’s tactics.
Neda was out on the streets of Tehran demonstarting for days just like the million other people, after the disaster of the June 2009 elections. I should mention that people rallied peacefully but the government (like so many governments of this world) was afraid of the ‘power of the people’ and so started their own dirty game of restoring to violence, to ‘silence’ them! And one day, like any other day in the short but beautiful life of Neda, she was killed, by a government goon.
The demonstrations that followed after her death are days that will be marked in history. Neda meaning ‘voice’ in Persian truly became the voice of the people… the government on the other hand, came up with sloppy stories regarding her death, blaming it on western intelligence spies, calling her death a stunt… and other lies. They did not even let her have a proper burial and the ‘great’ Islamic Republic of Iran did not let her family out of the house on her memorial day, an important day in Iranian culture and religion… so ironical. The government was fearful of a dead person??
Here was a 26 year old woman who adored her family, liked dressing up like any other girl, fell in love, had the courage to seek knowledge, studied the truth about religion (and not what the government led universities wanted her to learn), listened to the pop melodies of Googoosh and took secret music lessons, travelled to places, learnt new languages, read so many books… a curious mind wanting to live her life to the fullest!
I think of Neda with moist eyes- crimson blood streams running down the face, becoming lifeless in the footage that shook the world… but I promise you dear Neda- I shall remember you not with a tear in my eye but with a smile and as an inspiration; to learn to live my life to the fullest, seek what the heart desires and live a life of achievements, big or small.
And for you Neda, I dedicate this painting!
PS: A must read- Marjane Satrapi’s ‘Persepolis’: The Story of a Childhood and The Story of a Return.