The Women of Iran

Neda Agha Soltan

Neda Agha Soltan

1982-2009

Neda Agha Soltan, an Iranian student, was attending a protest in Tehran today when she was shot in the chest by a Basij militiaman.  Her death was captured in a shocking video that has now been seen around the world.  She may not have desired it, but she has become a symbol.  Her name, Neda, means “The Voice.”

Her death may have been foretold by another Iranian woman, who anonymously wrote on the night before:

“I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed. I’m listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs. I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows. Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! There are a few great movie scenes that I also have to see. I should drop by the library, too. It’s worth to read the poems of Forough and Shamloo again. All family pictures have to be reviewed, too. I have to call my friends as well to say goodbye. All I have are two bookshelves which I told my family who should receive them. I’m two units away from getting my bachelors degree but who cares about that. My mind is very chaotic. I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them. So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mongols but did not surrender to despotism. This note is dedicated to tomorrow’s children…”

After Neda was murdered, she wrote again:

Yesterday I wrote a note, with the subject line “tomorrow is a great day perhaps tomorrow I’ll be killed.” I’m here to let you know I’m alive but my sister was killed…

I’m here to tell you my sister died while in her father’s hands
I’m here to tell you my sister had big dreams…
I’m here to tell you 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 like me read “Forough”… and longed to live free and equal… and she longed to hold her head up and announce, “I’m Iranian”… and she longed to one day fall in love to a man with a shaggy hair… and she longed for a daughter to braid her hair and sing lullaby by her crib…

my sister died from not having life… my sister died as injustice has no end… my sister died since she loved life too much… and my sister died since she lovingly cared for people…

my loving sister, I wish you had closed your eyes when your time had come… the very end of your last glance burns my soul….

sister have a short sleep. your last dream be sweet.

These moving and powerful symbols are emerging from a culture that, to Western eyes, has historically been oppressive to women.  Nonetheless, they emerge as brave and fierce opponents of oppression.  Embedded in their cultural heritage is figure as meaningful to Iranian woman as any Judeo-Christian symbol is to us: Fatima, daughter of the Prophet, wife of Ali.  Through the centuries, just as our Christian symbols have been manipulated to suit the purposes of the powerful, so has Fatima. In spite of this, she has survived.

From Massoume Price’s Lecture “Distinguished Women, Past and Present: Fatima is Fatima” :

Yet at another level she is the fighter and the defender of the true faith and justice. After her fathers’ death the power struggle starts, her family representing the true faith, the pure and the holy blood is pushed aside. It is her speech that stirs, accuses and reveals all that is wrong and how deviations will happen with the greedy leaders who will change the course of Islam for ever and for worse. At the domestic level she is the loyal daughter, the devoted wife, the caring mother and a symbol of endurance. Such themes have been used for centuries to project her image as that of the ideal Muslim woman. The one who will not hesitate to sacrifice all including herself for the sake of her family and the true fate.

© 2009 – 2014, Fred Bubbers. All rights reserved.

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