Neda – the tragic face of Iran's uprising

Joan of Arc she was not, nor the Unknown Protester who stopped the tanks in Tiananmen Square, because that young man, 20 years ago, chose his fate and his prominence, deliberately stepping out of the crowd into the tank's and the cameras' sights.

Not so Neda: the young Iranian woman whose quick, brutal death from a Basiji militia man's bullet during a demonstration on Saturday created the Iranian uprising's first figurehead chose nothing except to be there.

Having found the courage to come out on to the street, she may have quailed: video shot moments before her death show her and her companion looking on from the sidelines as demonstrators surge back and forth. Should they go back? Had they made a mistake coming? She was in jeans and headscarf, the uniform of the city's young women, aged 26 or 27, we understand, therefore under 30, like 60 per cent of Iran's population: a modern Iranian Everywoman. She worked at a travel agency, so she was connected with the great world every day.

This is vague because all journalists have been banished from these terrifying streets. Yet within hours of her death a thousand bloggers and twitterers had immortalised her, ducking and diving through the regime's increasingly demented efforts to isolate their country, transforming her from a blood-soaked corpse into a heart-rending symbol of the uprising.

The launch pad for Neda's posthumous glory was a bare minute of shaky film. She goes over backwards in the throng and the man with the mobile phone spots the movement and leaps towards it. The camera catches her splayed legs, the blood already oozing onto the street. Those near her crowd around to help but the cameraman moves beyond them and for a long moment focuses on her white face which is flat on the pavement, the eyes swivelling but the head deathly still.

Then suddenly the blood surges from nose and mouth and it's like a scene from a slaughter house, the people who have come to her aid scream, but it is somehow poetically appropriate that her companion chooses this moment to cry, "Don't be afraid, don't be afraid, Neda my dear, don't be afraid..." Because she's already dead, and there is indeed nothing more to fear. As one of the bloggers who eulogised her wrote, quoting the 13th century Persian poet Rumi: "When you leave me/ in the grave,/ don't say goodbye./ Remember a grave is/ only a curtain/ for the paradise behind..."

Rarely has the butchery of an innocent – the bullet came from a rooftop sniper – been captured with such cruel completeness; never has such a scene been sent so quickly around the world, despite everything the authorities could do to thwart it. The consequences, too, were almost instantaneous. Protesters vowed to rename the street where she died Neda Street. A protest in her name drew 1,000 people to Haft-e Tir Square in Tehran before police broke it up. Officials prevented her supporters holding a memorial service in a mosque yesterday. One blogger wrote of Neda as "my sister": "I'm here to tell you my sister had big dreams," she wrote. "My sister who died was a decent person ... and like me yearned for a day when her hair would be swept by the wind ... and she longed to hold her head up and announce, 'I'm Iranian'... my sister died because injustice has no end..."

Yesterday the BBC's Farsi service reported that Neda's full name was Neda Agha-Soltan, and that she had been stuck in traffic in her car with her music teacher when she decided to get out "because of the heat" – "just for a few minutes", said her fiancé, Caspian Makan "[and] that's when she was shot dead".

Too much information already. The myth is more glorious without it.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
Sport
Danny Cipriani of England breaks clear to score his second try
rugby
Life and Style
New research says leaving your desk can help you to avoid serious illness
health
Arts and Entertainment
tvSPOILER ALERT: Like a mash-up of 28 Days Later, Braveheart, The Killing and Lord of the Rings, this GoT episode was a belter
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral