Iranian student protester Neda Soltan is Times Person of the Year
Neda Soltan was not political. She did not vote in the Iranian presidential election on June 12. The young student was appalled, however, by the way that the regime shamelessly rigged the result and reinstalled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ignoring the pleas of her family, she went with her music teacher eight days later to join a huge opposition demonstration in Tehran.
“Even if a bullet goes through my heart it’s not important,” she told Caspian Makan, her fiancé. “What we’re fighting for is more important. When it comes to taking our stolen rights back we should not hesitate. Everyone is responsible. Each person leaves a footprint in this world.”
Ms Soltan, 26, had no idea just how big a footprint she would leave. Hours after leaving home, she was indeed shot, by a government militiaman, as she and other demonstrators chanted: “Death to the dictator.”
Arash Hejazi, a doctor standing near by, remembers her looking down in surprise as blood gushed from her chest. She collapsed. More blood spewed from her mouth. As she lay dying on the pavement, her life ebbing out of her, “I felt she was trying to ask a question. Why?” said Dr Hejazi, who tried to save her life. Why had an election that generated so much excitement ended with a government that claims to champion the highest moral values, the finest Islamic principles, butchering its own youth?
A 40-second telephone clip of Ms Soltan’s final moments flashed around the world. Overnight she became a global symbol of the regime’s brutality, and of the remarkable courage of Iran’s opposition in a region where other populations are all too easily suppressed by despotic governments.