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June 21, 2009


Neda Iran.jpg

This frame, distributed by Getty Images, was pulled from the gruesome YouTube video of the woman reportedly killed by the Basij at a Tehran protest rally on Saturday.

Of course, the way her eyes happen to focus in the direction of the camera after being hit — as if she’s still sentient — is what makes the image so powerful. That, and her name (Neda, which I’ve seen translated as “the voice” or “the “calling”) makes for the most potent image of the standoff so far.

Roger Cohen writes eloquently about the role of women on the front line of the people’s resistance. The fact that a woman, shot through the heart, was martyred this way seems to shatter the possibility of reconciliation. In her gaze, she can be seen to demand accountability and an accounting. And then, if there is an afterlife, she bears witness to the suppression of the Iranian people from “the other side.”

Neda video 1, 2 - graphic.

(image: creator unidentified. AFP/Getty Images from YouTube. caption: A screen grab taken on June 21, 2009 from a video posted on YouTube allegedly shows Iranian men trying to help a wounded woman named “Neda” after getting shot in the chest during a protest in Tehran on June 20, 2009. At least 10 people were killed in the latest unrest to shake Tehran, state television said on June 21, as the opposition stepped up its defiance of Iran’s Islamic rulers over the disputed election)

  • bystander

    Via Andrew Sullivan:

    The detainees, according to these reports, have confessed to being members of Mojaheddin-e Khalq, an Iraq-based dissident group that is widely unpopular due to its alliance with Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War. The official media also claimed that many of those arrested had confessed to joining the demonstrations after being contacted by individuals in Britain who allegedly asked them to go into the streets and vandalise property and burn buses.
    Britain has become a favoured scapegoat of the regime during the current crisis, no doubt because of its constant intervention in Iran’s internal affairs during the first half of the 20th century, culminating in the overthrow – with help from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – of former Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq and the restoration of Reza Shah Pahlaevi.

    My heart aches for this young woman. Her death is a genuine tragedy. But, she is Iran’s tragedy, not ours. We can have empathy until it runs out our ears, our hearts can ache until they break, but we are powerless. This feeling of powerlessness is unfamiliar to us, but we need to accustom ourselves to it. There isn’t a blessed thing we could have done to prevent Neda’s death, or the deaths of other young women which may follow hers. It is horrible. It is awful. It is unconscionable. It is wrenching. But, it is not ours. By intervening, we can cause an innumerable number of deaths above and beyond those which have happened (or, will happen), but we can prevent none of them.

  • gmoke

    The image that hit me hardest was when blood begins to come from her mouth and her nose. Then a man, her father?, kneels by her head and touches her face, wailing and calling her name.
    As little pain and as much freedom as possible for all concerned. That young woman did not deserve to die that way.

  • Rhodo Zeb

    I don’t even know what this means.

  • Rhodo Zeb

    A non-youtube link would be much appreciated. China is not taking this well.
    There will be repercussions for this. Large repercussions.

  • G Hazeltine

    Are you people real? Probably not. We are killing a score or two or three a week in Afghanistan. Have killed on the order of two million in Iraq. How many in Angola, Mozambique, Chile, El Salvador? How many in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam? The sister of a Salvadorian who worked for me once described finding their 17 year old sister, kidnapped from the house the night before by the death squads we armed, on the street a block away, shot through the head. “It was by the grace of God.” The grace of God? Yes. All they did was shoot her. No rape. No sexual mutilation, with knives. A clean shot to the back of the head. She died alone, with, one supposes, blood running from her mouth and nose. Her father did not ‘kneel and touch her face.’ He was a union organizer, and had already been ‘disappeared.’
    It’s hard to be civil in the face of this garbage. If this woman died, that’s a shame. But the scale of our crimes, it is nothing. Nothing. That Michael Shaw provides the fodder for it is a great disappointment.
    Michael has photos of Gaza which put this one in some slight perspective.
    He did not post them. Gaza was ‘difficult.’ This I guess was easy.

  • Saleema

    Of course this was easy. I’m not trying to diminish this woman’s death and her suffering, or the suffering of the Irani people…but we Americans don’t see our sins but point at others’. If only our media took on deaths caused by our country just like this, maybe then we can move away from these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    I’m with the protesters. I offer prayer (here: ) for the Iranis, but at the same time I wonder why is this receiving the kind of coverage than other conflicts in which “our” side is the “good” side, no matter what, and they are glossed over?
    Especially, when it comes to Israel, we tip-toe across the issue, lest they get offended and we get accused of anti-semitisim.
    But, may Neda rest in peace and may her voice never be forgotten.
    As for the photograph, I think she knew she was about to die, and that her death was being captured on video, and that’s why her look is so intense, as if pleading with us not to forget her. I think she will be a iconic image for decades to come. Neda’s voice will not be a voice in the wilderness. Her cry will be taken up.

  • Saleema

    War in Context has a beautiful photograph of Neda.

  • Michaeldg

    Hazelton- are you real? Iran has been on a path that will lead to a huge and massively bloody war. It’s president denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off a map and is illegally pursuing nuclear weapons. Do you think this will lead to anything short of a Middle-East war that would result in hundreds of thousands or even millions of deaths? The Iranian people are demanding to get off the suicidal path their current leaders are on. They are demanding the freedom and democracy that their parents won by overthrowing the dictitorial rule of a American backed puppet. You think this is all trivial?
    I can’t imagine not having this photo here to discuss today. Only those blinded by ideology would think that this woman’s blood is not worth our time and sympathy.

  • Johanna

    Agree with above. To me the most heartrending thing is her father’s cry of grief. She is gone, but his sorrow will go on for the rest of his life. That poor poor man. We witnessed what was surely the most terrible moment of his life, one from which he may never recover. The current Iranian regime is truly bad. It must come to an end, and it looks like sooner rather than later.

  • Rhodo Zeb

    The sins of the US are legion. I am well aware of our history in Latin and South America, the death squads we armed, and then trained in torture techniques at the School of the Americas.
    But what has that got to do with this? What, pray tell, is your point?
    Or perhaps you don’t have one, other than to complain and criticize.

  • Karen H.

    It’s difficult to summon any analytical detachment when looking at the video and still shots. I’ve seen a dead person before in real life, but I’ve never seen the process of dying in any real form. Jarring and painful to see it here. As everyone “martyrizes” this young woman, I can’t help but think the obvious: given the choice she’d prefer her once boring and unexceptional life. And the expression captured in this still reflects that for me. I don’t know if her expression tells me she’s bewildered or shocked or caught in a moment of detached annoyance with being recorded or if her eyes are reflexive of what happens the moment the light goes out. It’s horrible. I don’t want to know her or feel her reality or be an involuntary witness to her last thought. A violation on top on a violation on top of the shock of what’s happening in Iran.
    These types of photos must exist in older conflicts, what’s missing are the ruling norms that kept them from the public before. Citizen journalism is the norm now and it doesn’t censor itself.

  • Saleema

    Enough of the Zionism crap. This isn’t about you or your beloved Israel.
    This is about internal Irani politics and lack of democracy.
    Moussavi, if elected, will continue to pursue peaceful nuclear strategy for civilian use.
    All the people who ran for the election were vetted by their religious supreme leader.
    Obviously you didn’t read about how the Iranis were chanting in the rallies and protests that the Iranis have become like Palestinians and it’s time to rise up….
    Moussavi, or if an Irani athiest are elected, their solidarity with the Palestinians will continue.

  • Michaeldg

    Oh, is refuting Holocaust denial or objecting to genocidal threats now “Zionist crap”? Is the UN, which has concluded that Iran is indeed pursuing nuclear weapons, suddenly magically transformed into a Zionist mouthpiece?

  • thomas

    Both the video and the still are just unbearably heartbreaking.
    Neda’s murder is a reminder: power is not a game. And people who have it are f***ing serious about keeping it.

  • ltyr2001

    Does the name “bystander” give any indication of the mindset of the poster?
    Perhaps we aren’t a part of this particular fight, but we are definitely part of the bigger struggle against Islamic fascism. You can rest assured of that. And in that struggle, I think this image, and thousands more may show cracks in the giant facade of jihad!
    Poor Neda, and prayers for her poor father! To have your own child die in your arms like that…terrible!

  • Babak

    Neda yeh ghahremane va dar tarikh mandegar shod, Marg bar khamenehi , marg bar ahmadinejhad , marg bar tamame basijian IR-IRAN

  • Rhodo Zeb

    You are a liar:
    threatens to wipe Israel off a map and is illegally pursuing nuclear weapons.
    Both tenuous at best. The threat was a mistranslation, as Juan Cole has documented, and the illegality…
    Haha Israel wouldn’t know anything about that, now would they?
    So stop yer joking round.
    Thanks for playing.

  • Johanna

    All I understand of what Babak said is the “marg bar” part. They have been screaming “marg bar” for the past six or seven decades. Now its marg bar the dictator. Sometimes it’s marg bar the great satan. I think we should contemplate with gratitude our political culture, in which “death to” is not what is screamed, and routinely, at mass demonstrations. Unless Juan Cole has an explanation of why “marg bar” does not translate as “death to” but REALLY means “I strongly object to”, or “down with.” Yes, he will probably come along with such a correction.

  • Amanda Rivkin

    Nothing about this video has been verified beyond the woman’s death. It is important to allow dignity in death and remain dubious of any political or poetic claims until the facts are in and verified.

  • FRwritings on twitter


  • williamcobbett

    The whole Iran affair is merely the latest step forward in the march of the New World Order. Sadly this young woman has died to entich George Soros, Dock Cheney, and the Bush family. I pity the child-like innocence people on the demonstrations, who really believe that the west will offer them any more than it has given Iraq and the Afghan peoples.

  • williamcobbett

    But you can bet that the Westren media will use it to ‘open up’ Iran, just like Iraq and Afghanistan have been ‘opened up’.

  • ids

    Didn’t see the video. Feel terrible. Picture reminds me of Kent State. Referring to Time as the source for reconciliation now being shattered- is that a joke?

  • Saleema

    Iran demonstrations aren’t about taking Iran off of any foreign policy path, particularly about Israel. Get over yourself. The world does not revolved around Israel and Zionism.

  • Saleema

    Aljazeera is always criticized for showing graphic images like that, and the Muslim world too, but in this case the Western media, can’t stop showing it over and over again.

  • eric-notmytribe

    I have to admit I didn’t see this coming from the Bag. Beating the war drums against Iran. Wow.

  • Ray Heinsohn

    Most evil in this world is not caused by those who set out to do evil; it is caused by those who observe, stand by, and do nothing. As long as you think you are powerless, you are. Intervention…how can we afford not to intervene.
    The only thing despots understand is power… this Iranian government has shown us that from day one. Conflict here is ultimately inevitable.

  • world citizen

    People of the world heard your heavenly message of freedom, dear Neda. The International Criminal Court must issue arrest warrants for the murderous dicatators in Iran, Khamenei, Ahmadi-Nejad and their criminal cohorts.
    Neda belongs to the world. The world seeks justice !!

  • gmoke

    This woman’s death in Iran does not diminish the impact of the deaths in Afghanistan, Angola, Mozambique, Chile, El Salvador, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Laos, Haiti, Darfur, Rwanda, the Balkans, Chechnya, Tibet, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, Israel, Mexico…. Her death adds another body to the count and name to be remembered.

  • g

    Your description of the phenomenon of being able to capture these scenes is… quite amazing. I feel the same way, thought I cannot put it into words as skillfully as you have.

  • g

    I can understand how you feel, but I disagree. This happened to an innocent person in the public street. It was done by her government. Such an act should not be hidden. Images should be treated with respect, but they should not be hidden.

  • Rhodo Zeb

    What? Are you a native English speaker?

  • Rhodo Zeb

    Yes, we just quietly let places like School of the Americas train thugs in torture techniques to be applied to people in foreign countries.
    Oh, and we make and export lots of guns that fuel conflicts around the world.
    So much more civilized. *Sniff*
    Where is my tea? Jeeves! Get to work!!

  • Rhodo Zeb

    …conflict is inevitable
    Well, sure, *conflict* is happening every day in Tehran now. But that doesn’t mean the US needs to get involved as far as militarily or even sanctions (which we have long-standing sanctions against Iran already in place).
    The US directly getting involved undercuts the demonstrators and will push some, maybe many, to support the regime.
    The only thing despots understand is power…
    Umm, that’s a statement that lots of dumb people would make. People who have failed miserably in recent years. Just sayin’

  • margaret

    The violence of language in some of the posts reflects the violence which we seem to have become used to as a means of living day by day. I cannot help but feel that tragic images such as this from Iran are meant to inflame Americans and Europeans to go to war against Iran. I think we will suffer, all of us, from further violence…violence to our psyches, as violence solves nothing.
    Why can’t we be honest and live together in peace?

  • yg

    what’s with this column you excerpted but didn’t comment upon? are you suggesting you buy the “confessions” that have been coerced? you seriously believe and side with the regime calling the protesters nothing but a bunch of terrorists?

  • yg
  • yg

    I pity the child-like innocence people on the demonstrations
    i’m pretty sure the iranians protesting are smarter than you.

  • Rhodo Zeb

    Thanks yg, appreciate it.
    Horrible video, but important to watch.

  • Charles

    I watched the video, but I don’t have he gumption to listen to the audio.

  • umlando

    What is “Islamic fascism?” What’s in Iran is a fundamentalist, totalitarian state. When we call everyone we dislike “fascists,” we sap the strength of the word.
    “fundamentalist” – based on literal interpretation of canonical texts
    “totalitarian” – [of a government] holding all power and denying it to individuals not acting as agents of the government
    “fascist” – (political philosophy) advocating the state’s control of economic affairs
    Neda was apparently killed by basij, state-backed enforcers of selective laws and customs. They have nothing speficially to do with fascism, despite their similarity to brownshirts. Their purpose is to quell dissent, not to promote state corporatism.

  • Bones AK

    “These types of photos must exist in older conflicts” They do – look to Capra.
    “Citizen journalism is the norm now and it doesn’t censor itself” AND the ruling establishment is finding it very hard censor it also, THAT is good thing.
    Neda will become the man in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square. It is now 17 yrs later for China and and he still hangs over China (as he should) and Neda will hang over Iran (as she should)!

  • Johanna

    According to the Guardian U.K Neda’s family has been forced out of its apartment and most shocking of all, her body has not been returned to them for burial. It seems like the streets are being “pacified” and it will be as the president said — we can only witness. I notice there has been nary a word on this site about his response, which was strangely slow, and finally adjusted to a sterner tone at his press conference. He seemed so curiously untouched by what went on, though, and his most recent statement about being “appalled” was delivered without any affect. This most worldly and cosmopolitan of presidents seems, paradoxically, to be the least engaged by dramatic world events of any president I have seen.

  • [email protected]

    Whoever shot her, had a scope. Knew she was beautiful. Knew her name meant, the voice. Whoever shot her, knew there were cameras on her. Two. Two cameras on her. Whoever shot her, whoever THEY were, knew this would cause such a reaction from the public. They knew we would react this way. THIS is another attempt by THEM to manipulate and control us through our emotions by upheaval. We must stand by our convictions of common sense and out hope for peace and not let THEM sucker us into going to war against anyone.

  • yg

    no problem. good to hear this format was playable. hard to find an alternative clip that wasn’t heavily blurred, from beginning to end.

  • yg

    He seemed so curiously untouched by what went on, though, and his most recent statement about being “appalled” was delivered without any affect.
    yes, i was struck by that too. on one hand, his keeping a lid on his emotions bothers me. it’s something i’ve objected to before. his dispassion in the public mask he wears at first makes him feel like an enigma. but i’m pretty sure he’s not apathetic to the events. it’s just that he doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve. while some of this caution, i think, is for strategic reasons* (he still has to worry about a strategy on working to prevent iran developing a nuclear arsenal,) on the other hand, i can appreciate this low key approach.
    lesser politicians would exploit events like this for personal gain. see mccain. obama is doing the complete opposite. he respects the death of this woman for the tragedy it is and isn’t exploiting it like republicans have by ratcheting up the rhetoric. he isn’t being a narcissist and using her death to make it all about him. he isn’t using this murder for personal or political gain. it takes discipline to keep one’s emotions in check, to ensure keeping a cool head and long range objectives in mind. this is exactly what a good leader should do and be. this is the exact opposite of bush, who was an unthinking lunk, who reacted instinctively and emotionally with little sense and consideration for long term consequences.
    this even-keeled approach by obama also debunks the conspiracy theorists, like israeltucker below, who claim that the US is exploiting the iranian uprising in order to pave the way for future invasion. if that was the plan obama had in mind or sanctioned, wouldn’t he more emotional about hyping the events?
    *depending on the circustance, not an approach i always agree with. i think it was wrong to fail to denounce china’s regime, post tiananmen square, because it served in “our” interest to develop trade with that country. we traded support for a movement for democracy for the sake of corporate greed. that was unconscionable.

  • Johanna

    The school of the Americas — where’s that, next to Roswell? Hey, maybe it was a US soldier who shot the unfortunate Neda. Yeah, probably was. Just to “fuel conflict”. uh huh. make the ayatollahs look bad.

  • Johanna

    Okay. But why was the chinese massacre any worse than what went on this week in Tehran? I think the Iranian regime actually learned a lesson from Tienanmen. They did not want to deploy massive brute force, so instead had sharpshooters pick off selected targets. You could be at the demonstration one minute and dead in the street the next. It only takes a few such cases, they learned, to frighten people off. You don’t have to mow down a crowd to do it. The regime then came down like a ton of bricks on her family, depriving them of their apartment, their chance to bury their daughter and sit in mourning while receiving the consolation of visitors. Taught people a lesson, as the supreme leader said this week he wished to do to the protestors. I still think Obama could have been “even keeled” AND quicker, far quicker to denounce the regime’s brutality.

  • yg

    there is also the reason most of the experts have pointed out. had obama sided with the demonstrators early, that would have sunk nationwide iranian support for the movement, wounding their cause, because of the paranoia created by past history of US meddling, undermining their native grown democracy by assassinating their former president and installing a dictatorial puppet regime to do the US bidding. iranians are extra sensitive to even the slightest hint of manipulation engineered by americans.
    it would have felt good for obama to side with the demonstrators early on, but that wouldn’t have done them any favors.

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