One year later, Neda Agha Soltan remains the symbol of Iran's revolutionary Green Movement.
June 20, 2010 marked the sad one year anniversary of the death of Neda Agha Soltan at the hands of the ruling Iranian regime. She was 26 and passionate about life, albeit, not very political. Last year’s fraudulent elections that kept Ahamdinejad as president of Iran, stirred Neda enough to join others in demonstrations against the Islamist regime. It pained her to see the curtailment of freedom and gross injustices against her people, and she paid with her life for that simple and pure act of defiance. Her image, captured on a cell-phone camera as she bled to death on a Tehran street, has made Neda the symbol of the Green revolution and the Iranian people’s struggle for freedom.
Caspian Makan, 38, was Neda’s fiancé. He and Neda had planned to marry this summer. A film director, photographer and journalist, Caspian wrote three books, which were confiscated by the Islamic regime. “They wanted me to blame the west for Neda’s death, and I refused,” Caspian said, in an interview this author recently had with him. Following the elections, Caspian decided to take his camera to the streets and documented the regime’s brutality. He said:
The dictatorial Islamic regime in Iran came to power through lies and by spilling the people’s blood. For more than 30 years, its leaders have deprived the youth and the women of their basic human rights, and have resorted to inhumane treatment of the general public under the disguise of religion. Imprisonment, torture, rape, and murder of thousands of people buried in unmarked graves are evidence of the regime’s crimes.
He added, “To insure its survival and to serve its own interests, the regime uses intense censorship, confines the media, and arrests intellectuals, such as professors, students, journalists, artists, lawyers, and even those who work within its own system. As a result of these practices, Iran - a country with a beautiful history - has been transformed into a large prison.”
Caspian argues that the leaders of the Iranian regime are not satisfied with the crimes they have committed in order to stay in power. “They have collaborated with other similar regimes to embark on international terrorist attacks in order to disrupt the security in the region. It has become increasingly apparent that the Islamic regime is hatching a plan for world domination.” According to Caspian, “The Iranian people’s problem has turned into an international problem that needs the help and support of people everywhere.” As Caspian puts it, “The emancipation of the Iranian people from despotism is the key to freedom, peace and stability for all people around the world.”
Asked whether the Green Movement has lost its steam, Caspian points out that some of the leaders of the Green Movement are supporting the regime “behind the dark curtains.” These individuals, according to Caspian, are the “reformers” who ignore the Iranian people’s demands and care only about power. However, Caspian added, “With every passing moment the awareness of the Iranian people increases, while the regime’s power decreases and comes closer to its destruction.” Caspian predicts that the Iranian people will win their demands for a free Iran before the end of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, and perhaps as early as next year.
And what about the role President Obama played in the Iranian drama? Caspian responded rather emphatically by saying, “Unfortunately, unlike previous U.S. presidents, Obama has not declared a clear and explicit position against the tyrannical regime of Iran. The Iranian people expected him to take firm and effective action against the ruling regime in light of the people’s wrath over the election fraud and the brutal repression that followed.”
Would Iran’s foreign policy change if there was a regime change? “One of the reasons for my trip to Israel,” Caspian emphasized, was “to declare to the world that the people of Iran and their future governments will not be hostile towards any nation or state.” He also pointed out that peaceful nuclear energy is the inalienable right of any state - except a tyrannical regime that sponsors terrorism. Such a state, he said, referring to the current Iranian regime, “Is not fit for using such technology.” Should a future Iranian government that “is not on a war path” require nuclear energy, it would be fine as long as it complies with international conventions.
Caspian Makan’s views of Islam are extraordinary, to say the least. Throughout the pre-Islamic history of Iran, according to his research, the Iranian people were humane and peace-loving “The advent and imposition of Islam on our people” Caspian stressed, “created certain extremism and wrong beliefs, which the leaders of the Islamic regime adopted to their advantage.” Caspian believes that the victory of the Iranian people over the hated regime will be accompanied by a change in these wrong beliefs, and result in the separation of religion and state. A future Iranian government, he added, “should respect religion and the worship of God as well as the right of people not to worship at all.” Secularism, Caspian explained, is the building block of democracy. What roles do you see for the Sunni-Muslim minorities in Iran – the Kurds, Baluchis, Turkmen, and Ahwazi-Arabs? “We are all Iranians” Caspian replied, “and all of us have suffered under the repressive laws of this Iranian regime.” Caspian believes that Iranian survival depends on the unity of all the ethnic groups in Iran, against the tyranny of the Islamic regime.
Western governments, in Caspian’s view, can support the people of Iran by refraining from doing business with the Iranian regime: whether it is oil or its derivatives. Moreover, they should isolate and increase the pressure on the Iranian regime and paralyze the regime’s ability to run the country. Caspian recommends that negotiations with Iran on the nuclear issue be suspended until the establishment of a new government in Iran. He is particularly eager to see Western governments fight against the Iranian regime’s draconian methods of censorship. “This is important for two reasons,” he explained, “it will enable the people of Iran to receive news and information from the outside world, and by using information technology tools, they can alert the world community of the crimes taking place in Iran.”
Reflecting on Neda’s legacy, as we concluded the interview, Caspian Makan recalled her words about the importance of everyone taking part in the protest against the regime’s behavior. “Every individual can be effective” she said. And although she enjoyed her life, Caspian recalled how committed she was to participating in the street protests - even if a bullet should pierce her heart. Caspian concluded, “I learned courage and self- sacrifice from Neda and will continue in her path until I die. Neda is a messenger of peace and a symbol of freedom.”