Posted by: cgratton | June 23, 2009

YouTube Video of Woman Killed Becomes Symbol of Iranian Revolution

It can be called the shot heard ’round the world, a chilling video of a young Iranian woman suddenly gunned down by a single bullet and killed instantly in the streets of Tehran.  In less than a minute she is dead, but the aftershocks of the video are still surging around the world.

The video, which was released over the weekend, is now being regarded as a pivotal symbol of the brutality currently plaguing the streets of Tehran, and the woman in the video, Neda Agha-Soltan, as the face of the anti-government movement.  Taken by a witness close by, the video graphically shows Neda fall to the ground after being shot in the chest.  Blood pours from her nose and mouth; her eyes roll back into her head; and soon, her limp body takes its last breath.

Neda did not back either presidential candidate, her family tells reporters.  She was 27 years old.

Neda did not back either presidential candidate, her family tells reporters. She was 27 years old.

Neda, which means “the voice” in Persian, is now being called the voice of Iran—the voice of the movement—and her very public death gives a face to the unknown number of Iranian civilians who have died so far in the conquest for political retribution.

But most importantly, Neda is being hailed as a martyr.

Martyrdom is deeply entwined in Shi’ite politics and religion—Iran was founded by martyrs, and the ceremonies that surround martyrdom fueled the flames of the 1979 protests.

Today’s strife now has its own martyr, and the Iranian people now have a modern day religious symbol to fight even more passionately for.  They are once again reminded that just like Neda and the many other honored Shi’ite martyrs, it is better to fight and die for your beliefs than to live in the face of injustice.

This picture, which surfaced on Twitpic, reportedly shows Nedas grave

This picture, which surfaced on Twitpic, reportedly shows Neda's grave. Neda's family was denied a proper funeral by government authorities.

The video serves as a glaring example of the senseless brutality being conducted by government forces attempting to quell the mounting intensity of the post-election protests. But these efforts are having an extremely adverse reaction.

Outrage quickly swept through the streets of Tehran after the man who shot the video e-mailed it to a friend outside Iran who then sent it to European newspapers.  Soon, the video was up on YouTube, Iranians were forwarding it in text messages to each other, Facebook groups and a Wikipedia page were quickly created in her honor, calling her “The Angel of Iran,” and messages of mourning were generating a fury on Twitter.

This instantaneous transfer of information has exposed the world to vivid images, images that sound an alarm for many that: yes, this violence is really happening, and yes, it is really as bad as everyone is making it…and frighteningly, even worse.

For me (and undoubtedly countless others), the video brings home the reality of suffering, violence and chaos happening at this moment in Iran.  Yes, I have read the papers and have watched the news, just as I have read the papers and watched the news on countless other international tragedies.  But the traditional filter of the broadcaster or writer has diffused a sense of reality and humanity to the situation, softened the blow of compassion through “fair and balanced” journalistic practices.  Pictures and video footage in papers or on news broadcasts sharpen our understanding, bring us closer to grasping the depth of what is really going on, like the photo of the running children from the Vietnam war, or the airplane carrier full of U.S. soldiers’ coffins from Iraq.  Still, the information is always passed through the media filter, given the professional, ethical (and strategic) green light, which simultaneously robs the story of some of its immediacy and humanity.

But new media is eliminating this middle man, as seen most clearly in the story of Neda’s death.  This video is the raw information, untouched by the hands (or biases) of seasoned professionals.  As I mentioned in my last post, the video doesn’t follow a traditional news format—something that many are criticizing about the coverage of these protests.  True, it doesn’t provide us with the journalistic “inverted pyramid” of information, so we the audience can decifer our own understanding of the story.  But does it even need to?  I think our eyes can figure out the underlying meaning of the story on this one.


    (For The Iranian People)

    Your beautiful face and voice speak to us
    in the streets, on the rooftops of Tehran,
    O Neda, O Neda!
    Voice of the stars, voice of the earth, voice of the people…
    Your death will be remembered
    where you have fallen, the street is swelling
    with protesters who have taken up your banner.
    Who will ever forget seeing you die bravely
    among those marching in rage against the dictator,
    against the tyrannies in your country!
    Your name is now the “call” to humanity,
    It is our voice for all time.

    Luis Lazaro Tijerina
    Burlington, Vermont

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