Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Neda Agha-Soltan - An Unlikely Martyr

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- The young woman who last weekend emerged as a powerful symbol of opposition to the Iranian government embraced life in many ways, but there was little about her that would have led her friends to predict she would become a martyr, one of them told CNN.

Neda Agha-Soltan, 26, rose to prominence within hours after a crudely shot video documenting her final moments was uploaded to the Web shortly after she died Saturday from a single gunshot wound to the chest.

"It's heartbreaking," President Obama said Tuesday in Washington, referring to the video of the woman the world has come to know simply as Neda, which means "divine calling" in Farsi. "And I think anyone who sees it knows there's something fundamentally unjust about it."

Since Saturday, the Iranian government has sought to minimize the impact of her death, but one of her friends on Tuesday described her to CNN in an attempt to inject life and context into what has been -- for much of the rest of the world -- just a few seconds of powerful, if grainy, video.
Much about her remains unclear, but here is what CNN has learned from at least one source:

The second of three children, Neda lived with her parents in a middle-class neighborhood east of Tehran.

She was a happy, positive person. Though she studied philosophy and religion at the Azad Islamic University, she was more spiritual than religious. She also loved music. She once studied violin but had given it up and was planning to take up piano next. She had just bought a piano, but it had not yet been delivered.

Her demeanor was typically calm, even serene, but she had a quirky, playful sense of humor. A friend recalled that once, when Neda was visiting her friend's house, she picked up a white Teddy bear, took off her big, purple-studded earrings and put them on the bear. Then she removed a necklace from around the neck of a friend and put it around the bear's neck, taking delight in the bear's transformation.

She liked to travel, having visited Turkey three months ago with a tour group. And she believed in human rights, her friend said.

Neda’s death is really heartbreaking. She was a victim of turmoil happening in Iran. She was so young, so full of dreams but everything is gone now...


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