Iran’s Neda Soltani blames lazy media for her plight
THE BBC has the story on Neda Soltani NOT Neda Agha-Soltan. In 2009, Neda Agha-Soltan was killed in Tehran. The Iranian protest movement was gathering pace. Shots were fired. An unarmed woman was killed. The horror was captured on video. That video was posted on YouTube. The insurrection had a martyr. And we had a face of Iranian brutality. But the face we got was not that of Neda Agha-Soltan. We got the face of Zahra Soltani, aka Neda Soltani. So keen were large sections of the media to broadcast a face that they ever changed Neda Soltani’s name to Neda Soltan to fit the narrative.
We made a list.
Neda Soltani was an English teacher at Islamic Azad University
She tells the BBC:
On 21 June 2009, I went to my office early in the morning and opened my email account to find 67 Facebook “friend requests”. Over the next few hours I received another 300 requests. I didn’t know then that my photo and name had appeared on websites and TV broadcasts across the world.
Why she’s telling us her story now, is unclear. The media hurt her. Maybe the media can help her?
Back to the story. An email arrived:
In this email I read that a girl called Neda Soltani – which is my name – had been killed on the streets of Tehran the day before. Since no information had been made available about her, this person was trying to find her on Facebook through a process of elimination – ruling out the other Neda Soltanis on the site.
When I got home, I found I had received calls from students, colleagues, friends and relatives saying: “We saw you on CNN, we saw you on Fox News, we saw you on Farsi channels, Iranian channels.”
She replied to many journalists. She told them that she was alive. The photograph was of her. But she was live and well.
I received a lot of hate messages. People accused me of being an agent of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who had gained access to Neda’s Facebook account and wished to distort the face of their hero, this symbol of resistance and opposition…
But it was also very shocking to see my face side-by-side with the video of Agha-Soltan. When I saw people all over the world demonstrating with my photo, putting up shrines, lighting candles – it was just like sitting there and watching my own funeral.
It got worse. The regime wasnted her to say that the death of Agha-Soltan had been faked. It was all a lie that she could expose. She had earlier told the New York Times: “They asked me to say on camera that I was still alive and that the Greek Embassy in Tehran had leaked my picture to the media and that the story was wrong.”
The Iranian regime felt harassed by the attention Agha-Soltan’s death had brought on them from abroad. Within three days, Ministry of Intelligence agents came to my home and summoned me for a meeting. They wanted to find a way to wash their hands of the blood of Neda Agha-Soltan. My name and my face were the only part of the puzzle that they could use to their advantage.
They wanted to imply that Neda Agha-Soltan’s death had not taken place but was a piece of propaganda against Iran, and that the photo had not been taken from my Facebook page but had been released by the European Union. They accused the European Union, the United Kingdom and of course the US.
I refused to co-operate with them.
When they understood that I wasn’t willing to play my part they turned against me. I remember one of the agents telling me: “You as a single individual do not count for us – right now, the national security of our Islamic fatherland is in question.”
My situation was getting very complicated. Many friends and colleagues decided that being in contact with me could endanger them as well. My boyfriend was one of these people – I lost contact with him.
Other friends tried to get me to focus on what I should do. They told me: “You need a Plan B.” But I didn’t listen to them, I was so distressed and afraid. I simply couldn’t believe a photo could ruin my whole life.
The last time the agents came to my house they refused to let me take anybody or anything with me and they took me away. They accused me of betraying the national security of my country. I was charged with being a spy for the CIA and told to sign a confession. I knew very well that such an accusation could end in a death sentence for me in Iran.
She fled Iran.
…I bribed a security official at the airport and left Iran. I had to pay 11,000 euros ($14,000 or £9,000). I went first to Turkey, and it was there that I was introduced to the idea of seeking political asylum. I then went to Greece and in the end, Germany. The German government sent me to a refugee camp where I was provided with shelter and food, and went on to grant my request for asylum.
…Looking back, the people I am most angry with are the Western media. They kept using my photo even though they knew it was not a picture of the real victim in that tragic video. They knowingly exposed me to extreme danger.
I can never be the person that I was before these things happened. I’m still suffering from depression, I am still suffering from nightmares.
She lives near Frankfurt.