On Saturday, "Neda", a young Iranian woman watching the protests in Tehran, was allegedly shot by a Basij, dying in her father's arms. It was captured on video. Some say she may be the new face of the opposition movement.
The video, which was taken right after Neda was gunned down - she was reportedly shot in the heart - is below. It is extremely graphic and very upsetting — a more graphic version is on Facebook - providing a snapshot of life, and death, that is quickly becoming an iconic image for some Iranians, and, our headline attests (the phrase is popping up on posts all over Twitter), a rallying cry for people around the world.
The Iranian election was considered especially important to the country's female population and women have been some of the more visible protesters, even as the the situation has become increasingly violent and dangerous. From pictures on Flickr to images on blogs to citizen reporters on Demotix, images of women of all shapes, sizes, ages and styles are becoming the more-friendly face of the movement for government change. Instead of just men hurling rocks and being beaten (and killed) and standing, congested with tear gas, in front of burning cars, we are viewing the violence perpetrated by the state and its agents against women, some of whom are shown with rocks in their hands... and others, like Neda, innocent of anything other than a desire to make themselves heard.
The stories emerging from the chaos (despite the ban on Western journalists reporting on the protests) include tales of female leadership and courage. From Roger Cohen in today's New York Times:
I also know that Iran's women stand in the vanguard. For days now, I've seen them urging less courageous men on. I've seen them get beaten and return to the fray. "Why are you sitting there?" one shouted at a couple of men perched on the sidewalk on Saturday. "Get up! Get up!"
Another green-eyed woman, Mahin, aged 52, staggered into an alley clutching her face and in tears. Then, against the urging of those around her, she limped back into the crowd moving west toward Freedom Square. Cries of "Death to the dictator!" and "We want liberty!" accompanied her.
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From eyewitnesses in Iran, reporting to the BBC:
There were lots of female protestors - I saw a guard attack one women and then she went back up to him and grabbed him by the collar and said 'why are you doing this? Are you not an Iranian?' - he was totally disarmed and didn't know what to do but her actions stopped him.
From another eyewitness:
In Sattar Khan I saw with my own eyes two ordinary 40-year-old women being beaten severely with electric batons, for nothing but raising their voice in protest.
From an Iranian student to a professor, as printed in the Jerusalem Post:
Girls are extremely active in all these rallies (a little less in night riots where patches of young men are more visible). They courageously charge anti-riot police, chant slogans in front of them, lead the crowd, etc., but they are equally beaten too.
From Nico Pitney's Iran Live Blog yesterday on the Huffington Post, there were a number of accounts of women's actions in the protests. At 3:20:
I witnessed peoples fear of the Basij dissapear, an 80 year old chadori woman with rocks in her hands calling for the exacution of khamenei and all Basij
they were hitting the women as hard if it didn't seem harder.
And at 3:31:
I saw a girl injured by gon shot (in Amir abad St.)! and there weren't enough ambulances .
A young woman provided a first person account to The Guardian Weekly:
Yesterday evening I joined a demonstration at Hatim Nizar street, responding to the call given by our leader Mousavi to hold peaceful protests and march in memory of eight people killed. Most people wore black as we marched the streets silently, the majority of them were young boys and girls.
CNN talked to a woman it calls "Parisa."
"This regime is against all humanity, more specifically against all women," said Parisa, whom CNN is not fully identifying for security reasons.
"I see lots of girls and women in these demonstrations," she said. "They are all angry, ready to explode, scream out and let the world hear their voice. I want the world to know that as a woman in this country, I have no freedom."
The Wall Street Journal also carries a number of first-hand reports of the role women are playing in the protests, like this from "Negin".
At the beginning I thought this was going to be a fight between the lower class and the middle class. What I saw on Monday changed my mind completely. I saw many women, young and old, covered head-to-toe in black chadors shouting and chanting among the demonstrators and joining the young girls who were sitting on the ground in the middle of the street to stop the Basij militia from walking inside the crowd.
That image will never be wiped away from my mind. The women on the front line with their loose colorful scarves had opened their arms, ready to be killed, while others were beaten by the Basij on the side of the road.
Women in have become more than just a symbol for the kinds of reforms people were seeking with the election of Mir Hossein Mousavi: they're leading protests; they're encouraging others; they're allowing themselves to be visible symbols of the oppression of any opposition to the regime; and they're rapidly becoming the face of that opposition. (Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of a prominent cleric - and herself an opposition leader - has reportedly been arrested.) The thing is, the more a paternalistic regime with laws designed to "protect" women from men allows its (male) forces to brutally impose its will on those women, the more it shows the world that its laws are designed for the benefit of men — and only some men at that.
Update: Time magazine has just posted a piece on Neda's murder, what it may mean for the opposition movement, and the country as a whole.
Videos Posted by Shekoo Sab [Facebook via BreakforNews]
Removing The Veil That Covers The Truth [CBS News]
Etehraz's Photostream [Flickr]
Minute To Minute With Revolution [Revolutionary Road]
Running Battles As Iran Battle Reaches Climax [Demotix via The Guardian]
A Supreme Leader Loses His Aura As Iranians Flock To The Streets [NY Times]
'Ten Killed' In Iran Clashes - State TV [BBC]
'Movement By The People, For The People' [Jerusalem Post]
Iran Updates (VIDEO): Live-Blogging The Uprising [Huffington Post]
Iran Protests: 'I Ran For My Life' [The Guardian Weekly]
Women In Iran March Against Discrimination [CNN]
'The Fear Is Gone' [Wall Street Journal via Ianyan Mag]
In Iran, One Woman's Death May Have Many Consequences [Time]
Related: Everything by Andrew Sullivan [Andrew Sullivan]
Earlier: In Iran, "Pretty" Is Sometimes The Protest
10 Reasons Why You Should Be Following The Iranian Elections