There is a new face to the Iranian revolution — a 27-year-old philosophy student captured on video being shot to death in Tehran while a man crouches beside her telling her not to be afraid.
Neda Agha Soltan — whose first name means “voice” in Farsi — died on Saturday after being shot in the chest during a protest march.
Since then, graphic footage of the incident has been watched by millions of people on YouTube and news broadcasts, and Neda has come to symbolize the fight for equality and democracy in Iran.
S.F. (who didn’t want her name used for safety reasons), a University of B.C. student who grew up in Iran, said when she and her friends first saw the video they couldn’t stop crying.
“All the people believe she is the symbol of this movement,” S.F. said. “She is our symbol of freedom. On Facebook lots of us changed our profile to Neda’s picture.”
The amateur videos show Neda taking a bullet to the chest and falling back.
Two men — one of whom is reportedly her father or professor — rush to her side and cover the wound with their hands while blood pours from her nose and mouth.
As onlookers scream, Neda’s eyes turn blankly to the side while the man repeats, “Neda, don’t be afraid. Neda, stay with me.”
S.F. said the state-run Iranian media isn’t reporting on Neda’s death, but some people have access to foreign news broadcasts.
“Lots of people in Iran have satellite and can watch CNN and BBC,” S.F. said. “I talked to them and they know what’s happening to Neda, and they … (tell) us to tell the world about what’s happening there.”
Maryam Moghaddas, who lived in Iran for 22 years before moving to Vancouver, said the video has hit the Iranian community hard.
“It was awful,” she said, breaking down in tears. “And … when she dies her father keeps on saying, ‘Don’t be afraid.’ It’s really painful to watch it.”
Moghaddas said there are many other people who are dying and their deaths aren’t covered like this.
She said if nothing else, Neda’s video has caught the world’s attention, adding she was likely to be on the minds of some of the thousands of people who attended a rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery last night.
The Silent Scream event, which started on June 15, takes place every night until Thursday, in support of those who have been killed in protests in Iran.
Moghaddas said attendance has grown from a few hundred people to roughly 2,000.
She said it’s important to let people in Iran know they are being supported around the world, and to bring awareness here.
“It gives (the Iranians) strength to know they are not alone and we are not alone in this part of the world,” Moghaddas said. “We are a community.”