Neda's Mother Discusses Life While Protesters Commemorate DeathS

Today marks the 40th day after the death of Neda Agha Soltan, and protesters are gathering in Tehran to mourn. Meanwhile, Neda's mother tells the BBC that "the world sees her as a symbol."

The 40th day after a death is significant in Islamic tradition, and 40-day cycles of mourning for martyrs were a key part of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Today protesters are gathering at Neda's grave and several other locations in Tehran. "At least 2,000" people have come together at a prayer location called the Grand Mosala, despite being denied permission to hold a rally there. Witnesses report that Iranian police are using tear gas, arresting Moussavi supporters, and smashing car windows in an effort to quell the protests. Reportedly among the protesters is Neda's mother, Hajar Rostami Motlagh, who spoke with the BBC in an interview published today.

Of her daughter's motivation for joining the gathering at which she was shot, Motlagh says,

It was all about being young and feeling passionate about freedom. She wasn't political. She didn't belong to any party or group. She didn't support any faction. Every other young Iranian was there - and she was one of them. [...] You can't blame young people for going out and wanting to feel free.

Throughout the interview, she seems to take care not to ascribe political motivations to Neda, or to reveal them herself. When asked if her daughter's death politicized her, she says,

No, not really. No. I can't tell you if her death has turned me into a political person. I am still in shock. In pain. I can't think about anything except her.

And when the interviewer asks if it's important to her that Neda's death be investigated, she answers, "Yes, because Mr Ahmadinejad has ordered an investigation." She does mention that while she has not spoken to opposition candidate Mir Husein Moussavi, "Mr Karroubi - the other opposition figure" has visited her. She says, "he was very supportive and I found that comforting." Despite her general avoidance of political statements, Motlagh does say,

knowing that the world cried for [Neda] … that has comforted me. I am proud of her. The world sees her as a symbol, and that makes me happy.

Today, Neda is a symbol of Iranians' outrage at an unfair election, and at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who will be officially approved as president in a ceremony Monday. But for Motlagh, today's mourning will obviously be personal as well as political. The most heart-wrenching part of her interview is when she talks about meeting with the mothers of other young people slain at postelection gatherings. She says,

Emotionally we are all broken. What can we say to each other? Our loved ones were too young to die… what can three mothers in the same situation say to each other? All we can do is just sit there and cry.

Interview: Mother's Tribute To Neda [BBC]
Iran Election Protests: The Dead, Jailed And Missing [Guardian]
Updates On Post-Election Protests In Iran [NYT]
Iran Protests To Honour The Dead [Guardian]
Iranians Gather In Tehran To Commemorate Unrest Victims [Reuters]
Iran Police Clash With Mourners [BBC]
Ahmadinejad To Be Approved As President August 3 [Press TV]