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For Neda

A new HBO documentary debuts a year after the June 12 Iranian elections.

7:00 AM, Jun 12, 2010 • By EMILY ESFAHANI SMITH
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The next day, the streets of Tehran were lined with rows and rows of revolutionary guards, police, and Basij militiamen. Neda’s mother begged her to stay home that day, but Neda told her, “I have to go. If I don’t go out, who will?” Once on the streets, Neda described the scene to her mother over the phone, “it’s like hell…They are chasing us and beating us.”

“What grabbed my attention,” according to Arash Hejazi, an Iranian doctor protesting nearby Neda that day, was “she was so active—shouting death to the dictator, acting, supporting others, moving around, while her music teacher [her companion that day] was trying to pull her back but she didn’t want to give up.”

Ominously then, a group of security forces charged the crowd with batons in their hands. Everyone, including Neda and Hejazi fled. Then, they heard the gunshots. Hejazi turned back. Neda had stopped running and was staring in shock at the blood that was gushing out of her chest. She collapsed and after a minute died on the street with Hejazi and her music teacher helplessly hovering over her in panic.

In the days that followed, thousands of grieving Iranians gathered to publicly mourn Neda’s death, despite the regime’s threats and crackdown. No wonder the ghost of Neda continues to haunt the Iranian government. Iran’s Intelligence Ministry plans to release a documentary of its own in the next few days showing that Neda’s death was staged. This would be at least the seventh official and conflicting account of Neda’s death from the regime.

That the regime needs to resort to such theatrics is almost good news. It is more proof, if proof is needed, of how powerful a symbol Neda is to the Iranian people. The regime’s insecurity is palpable. Neda did not die in vain.

Emily Esfahani Smith is a writer in Washington, D.C.

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