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Jewish Journal

Who is Neda?

by Brad A. Greenberg

June 23, 2009 | 1:25 pm

Photo: LAObserved

The Los Angeles Times does a remarkable job of profiling Neda Agha-Soltan, the 26-year-old Iranian who was shot and bled to death Saturday on the streets of Tehran. Her death has, in the words of a Time reporter, “changed everything.” Now we know who she was, not just what she’ll be remembered for.

From Borzou Daragahi, one of the Times’ few great remaining foreign correspondents:

“She was a person full of joy,” said her music teacher and close friend Hamid Panahi, who was among the mourners at her family home Sunday, awaiting word about her burial. “She was a beam of light. I’m so sorry. I was so hopeful for this woman.”

Security forces urged her friends and family not to hold memorial services for her at a mosque and asked them not to speak publicly about her, associates of the family said. Authorities even asked the family to take down the black mourning banners in front of their house, aware of the potent symbol she had become.

But some insisted on speaking out anyway, hoping to make sure the world would not forget her.

Neda Agha-Soltan was born in Tehran, they said, to a father who worked for the government and a homemaker mother.

They were a family of modest means, part of the country’s emerging middle class who built their lives in rapidly developing neighborhoods on the eastern and western outskirts of the city.

Like many in her neighborhood, Agha-Soltan was loyal to the country’s Islamic roots and traditional values, friends say, but also curious about the outside world, which was easily accessed through satellite TV, the Internet and occasional trips abroad.

The second of three children, she studied Islamic philosophy at a branch of Tehran’s Azad University until deciding to pursue a career in tourism. She took private classes to become a tour guide, including Turkish-language courses, friends said, hoping to someday lead groups of Iranians on trips abroad.

Travel was her passion, and with her friends she saved up enough money for package tours to Dubai, Turkey and Thailand. Two months ago, on a trip to Turkey, she relaxed along the beaches of Antalya, on the Mediterranean coast.

She also loved music, especially Persian pop, and was taking piano lessons, according to Panahi and other friends. She was also an accomplished singer, they said.

But she was never an activist, they added, and she began attending the mass protests only because she was outraged by the election results.

According to Agha-Soltan’s friends, they hadn’t even joined the protest when she was shot. You can read the rest here.

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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