Martyrdom Has a Name and Face

20 Jun

Every revolution, whether successful or not, has an iconic moment. It might end up being a symbol, like the lone man standing in front of a tank in Tienanmen Square. It might be Vaclav Havel giving a speech in Wenceslas Square. It might end up being a turning point, like Ceausescu’s final speech.

The cold-blooded murder of a young girl today in Tehran at the hands of the volunteer Basij militia is an iconic moment. A young woman martyred because she was watching the demonstrations on the sidewalk next to her father. She was taken out by a sniper, and someone’s camera captured her last breath.

It’s an extraordinarily moving and disturbing video, mostly because our news media tend to sanitize news for mass consumption. We tend to look at things like war, rebellion, revolution, and fighting as an abstract idea rather than something that causes people’s blood to run. Because we seldom see the blood.

I won’t embed the video, but I’ll link to it. It’s not for the fainthearted. It’s not for people who can’t stand the sight of blood or who suspect they might be haunted by the image for a long time. But it’s real life, and frankly you’ve seen a whole lot worse simulated on the big and small screen.

This is what real life looks like. This is what martyrdom looks like. This is a turning point in the Iranian revolution, where an innocent is murdered by the government in cold blood for the crime of standing on the corner.

On Twitter, people say her name is Neda. In Farsi, it means “voice” or “call”. May she rest in peace and may her murder not be in vain.

The NY Times’ Lede blog has a rundown of today’s news out of Iran, and one commenter notes:

Make special note of that unarmed innocent Girl shot and bleeding from her mouth, nose, eyes, ears…..hundreds of copies just went up on Youtube. The tide of the ‘79 revolution was turned overnight by a similar front-page photo of a Soldier at point blank range shooting an un-armed protester.

Sullivanpublishes Mousavi’s speech today, which is a response to Ayatollah Khamenei’s reactionary speech yesterday.

President Obama has also issued a new statement in response to Khamenei’s speech, and the threat and reality of increased anti-protest violence by the government.

9 Responses to “Martyrdom Has a Name and Face”

  1. Adam K. June 20, 2009 at 9:51 pm #

    I’m just hoping that the Iranians don’t give up hope.

    Its such a weird situation. The protests were only about having a free election; I’m not convinced that the people of Iran, given the opportunity, will take this all the way to a full free republic without a major theocratic component.

    But who knows.

  2. Frieda June 20, 2009 at 11:19 pm #

    In many respects this is a tragic parallel to Kent State where innocent bystanders were killed.

  3. Russell June 22, 2009 at 7:25 am #

    BP, I think there’s already been more bloodshed in Iran than in any of those three events you posted. Unfortunately, Iran’s control of the media has been pretty successful at preventing most of those images from getting out or even being recorded. I agree, let’s hope this little girl’s death is not in vain.

    Like Adam pointed out, it’s still not clear where this protest is heading or how far Iranians are want to take this. At present, their protest is still isolated to this one election. It has not been about anything really revolutionary, no dismantling of oppressive institutions, no setting up of a new societal order, no one has called for the ouster of the Supreme Leader or the Guardian Council, no new legal realities. The fact that many are ignoring the Supreme Leader and continue to protest, even in the face of threatened and real violence, forecasts that this probably could go further, but at this point, the Supreme Leader is still in charge and no one has even hinted at changing that.

  4. Russell June 22, 2009 at 10:10 am #

    Sorry, Tiananmen Square had about 2,500 dead according to estimates from the Red Cross. Iran has seen hundreds of deaths already, but I don’t think it’s reached that level yet.

  5. hank June 22, 2009 at 10:21 am #

    Frieda–if you remember Kent Stateyou’re an old hippie. If you’re not old enough to remember, you couldn’t buy a clue with a 100.00 bill.
    —Kent State my ass.

    It is refreshing to see crowds demonstrating in the Middle East shouting Death to —Something other than America.

    As for the limp-dick in the White House running away from last Tuesday’s “We don’t want to be seen as Meddling” speech, Perhaps he listened to Reagan’s Solidarity Speech from 1981 and decided to grow a pair of balls—Even if it DID take the Euopeans to shame him into it.

  6. Colin June 22, 2009 at 10:30 am #

    I don’t get how Kent State isn’t analogous. In both cases, state forces shot and killed unarmed protesters. The violence seems greater overall in Iran, but then we should remember that Kent State was just one example of state violence against protesters in the Vietnam era.

  7. Russell June 22, 2009 at 10:41 am #

    I believe the US government immediately apologized for the shootings at Kent State. It was a mistake initiated by a nervous Guardsman (weekend warrior), not the actions of a professional sniper acting on the direct orders of the government. Kent State was an unfortunate 13-second mistake, not a planned, targetted response carried out over days and weeks.

  8. Colin June 22, 2009 at 11:18 am #

    And Jackson State? And Fred Hampton? And COINTELPRO? All spontaneous accidents, and quickly apologized for? When people protest, the state gets antsy. When that protest starts to shake things up, the state fights back. And when the protesters are vulnerable or marginalized in some way — like being young, or the wrong race, or if cameras are being kept off the streets — that state response is often violent. But that happens everywhere — even in the good ol’ USA.

  9. Russell June 22, 2009 at 11:41 am #

    Oh yeah, I don’t disagree with that.

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