Voices for Non-violence in the Muslim World: Rudabeh Shahbazi

Rudabeh Shahbazi

Rudabeh Shahbazi is a multimedia journalist at abc15. She spoke on Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman killed during the 2009 Iranian elections and the significance of social media in spreading awareness.

-Neda became symbol of the “Velvet Revolution”
-There was fresh enthusiasm for democracy in Iran, thought change was possible like in America with President Obama
-Record numbers went out to the polls, but Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won, soon after there were allegations of rigging
-The opposition wanted their voices to be heard through peaceful, non-violent demonstrations
-Calls for recount, but the government prepared for reactions and the Basij cracked down
-YouTube videos, cell phone cameras and other technology made it easy for world to see what was going on
-Religious chanting and slogans in demonstrations
-Neda Agha Soltan-26 year old philosophy student, also aspiring musician, concerned with way religious education taught her
-She was reluctant to go out and protest, wasn’t endorsing any candidate, just wanted to protest against hardliners, though her fiancee told her not to
-World watched her die and she became the defining moment of the uprising, the new face
-She was buried immediately, secret govt, report not released, family was not allowed to hold a wake or public ceremony, funeral
-The government tried to make people forget about her
-Neda’s killer was a temporary Basij member, protests held to capture and release him, he said “I didn’t want to kill her.”
-Government explanations of her death: CIA conspiracy, journalist setup, protesters pulled the trigger, alive in Greece, terrorists, music teacher gave false confession of walk through on state TV
Role of citizen journalism: authorities block communication, technology allows world to watch
-Witnesses: Arash Hejazi: Doctor/publisher who tried to save her sees himself on CNN, is scared and threatened, exiled in London can never go back to Iran, chose to be ethical voice
-Neda was likened to Joan of Arc
-The day she died, so did 30 other protestors officially counted, but she was the famous one
-5th most Twitter comments about her the next day as #neda, 7,000 entries on Persian Google for her name
-”Velvet Revolution” or “Lipstick Jihad” by women-slight protests of wearing makeup, hijab showing pieces of hair
-Government idea that “West-toxification” affecting people
-Khomeini said “Nothing is more important than propaganda”
-Western pro-democracy money sent to undermine the regime, speaking out could bring down Ahmedinejad’s government
-This showed that the state was not to be scared of, but the people
-Matyrdom in Islam important
-22 holidays in Iran, the government evokes Hussein (branch to Shiite)
-Islamic revolution cried out over deaths and martyrs
-Islam abhors killing innocent civilians
-Her grave become a pilgrimage site
-Family offered money from government if they prove protectors killed Neda
-Guards watch her grave to protect it from desecration

Interesting to note, that the name Neda means “voice.”

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