Neda and the

Power of Video

 

" Please let the world know."

                  

It was only 40-second video, about as long as it took for Neda to die on the street in Iran.

But it was a video that within hours would be seen around the world.

The killer was a member of Basij assigned to quell the antigovernment protests. The supreme religious leader of the country had just given a speech saying that protesters should be severely dealt with.

Censorship of all antigovernment stories and images prevailed; the Internet was being monitored and specific sites blocked. Reporters were being locked up and their laptop computers confiscated. 

Her car had been stuck in traffic on a street on the afternoon of June 20, 2009. The traffic jam resulted from the protest over the questionable, if not completely fraudulent, election results in Iran -- results that are keeping the ruling political and religious factions in power.

 It was hot that day, traffic was stalled because of the protest, and Neda was trying to get to her car.  A single shot rang out.  The bullet hit her in the chest.

Although there just happened to be a medical doctor standing next to her at the time, he could do nothing, and Neda bled to death in less than a minute from that single bullet.

The doctor later said,

" It was a tough decision to make to come out and talk about it.... I don't want her blood to have been shed in vain.

" They are going to denounce what I am saying. ...I am jeopardizing my situation because of the innocent look in her eyes (after she was shot)." 

From a BBC interview with Dr. Arash Hejazi, the doctor that was next to her when she was shot. He subsequently fled Iran out of fear of government reprisals.

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The man who made the video of her death on the street that day knew it would be difficult and dangerous to try to evade Iran's censors, so he emailed the two-megabyte video to a friend in the Netherlands.

Had it not been for that cell phone video of what happened, the story of Neda's death might have been suppressed, just as many other stories have been.Neda, Iran

The friend sent it to the Voice of America, The Guardian newspaper in London, and five on-line friends in Europe with the message, Please let the world know.

One of those friends, an Iranian expatriate, who knew only too well what was going on in his country, posted the video on Facebook, while fighting back tears.

Copies of the video spread almost instantly to YouTube and then around the world by CNN.

Iran's Ahmadinejad government would not allow the usual funeral service of Neda.  They banned collective prayers for her in mosques and they threatened her family should they allow a gathering to mourn her death.

When people put flowers on the spot where she died, pro-government forces reportedly dumped garbage on them.

Even so, that 40-second video made Neda something of a world-wide icon for the protest.


These photos of Neda were taken by her fiance shortly before her death. To keep him from speaking out her fiance was put in prison for 65 days after she was killed. He was then put under house arrest and he escaped to another country. Neda's sister and Dr. Arash Hejazi also fled Iran.

Account sources include, the BBC, The New York Times, CNN, The Los Angeles Times, Wikipedia, the Frontline PBS  documentary, "A Death In Iran," and witness interviews.

Related information is in this blog piece. 


The power of video is also dramatically documented in the Oscar nominated documentary, Burma VJ, available from sources such as Netflix.  In this 90-minute gripping production the courageous efforts of a renegade band of Burmese videographers (aka the Burma VJs) refuse to be silenced in the face of life-threatening Burmese media censorship.

 

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