Neda Agha-Soltan, was a bystander in the dramatic conflict gripping her country. Today, following her slow death from a bullet in the chest, she is the icon of Iranian reaction to the violent suppression by an entrenched theocracy. Her name means "voice" or "message," and she has become a dynamic symbol for Iranians seeking openness in government. She has also altered international reaction, even moving the White House off its mark.
The video of her last frightful two minutes was seen around the world within moments of her passing. The ubiquity of the Internet disseminating the powerful images of Neda's final struggle, elicited additional and essential support almost instantly to the plight of her people.
This unwilling participant has inadvertently stimulated the energy of demonstrators, and has intoxicated events, rapidly evolving them into a full-blown revolution. The success of this revolt is in doubt over the short term, since the ayatollahs are willing and able to take any and all action to retain power. Ali Khamenei has not only gone well beyond the revolutionary Grand Ayatollah Komenei's tenets, and moved himself toward self-deification, but he is determined to convert his theocracy into a family business, as he grooms and prepares his son to perpetuate his very own history making dynasty.
Neda has made an emotional connection with the world. She is being mythologised, partly because the large demonstrating crowds needed a focus, or rallying point, which opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi could not deliver. She has stimulated the popular will. Her biggest contribution may be the impact that she has had on Western leadership. Obama's reticence on making any statement pertaining to the theocratic thugs he wanted to negotiate with, was broken by, "I strongly condemn these unjust actions." While this may be typically indecisive, it is a statement that says, "I'm moving off the fence, because I now have no choice, and doing otherwise would show Americans that I lack resolve." Although this comes well after denouncements of the violence by European leaders, American voices and feelings toward the violence on the streets of Iran have finally been heard officially.
The Iranian leadership cares little what Obama or any other leaders have to say. They are staying on course to retain power at all cost. Only force will alter their determination. At this point they may fear that the retaliation against them might be as extreme as the program of assassinations they very effectively implemented themselves in 1979 against the Shah and his regime.
Neda's graphic entry into martyrdom will put an end to the placating of ruling Iranian thugs by a European leadership which has enjoyed business as usual for a generation, sanctions or not. Westerners will no longer idly accept the mollifying that has populated the foreign policy agenda of both Europe and North America on Iran. The ayatollahs and mullahs are prepared to decimate their own population, and will kill many Iranians in the days ahead. We may find Khamenei verbally pretending to give voice to the opposition, however, the systematic aggression will continue, and dissenters will disappear.
Some write that there are divisions among the ruling elite that will grow deeper as the demonstrations and the killings continue. Reality suggests that all members of this despotic regime are complicit in the pilfering of the country's treasury, and they will in the end go down together. There should also be little doubt of the extreme measures they are capable of perpetrating on other countries once they acquire nuclear potency.
Neda Agha-Soltan has become the perfect symbol for demonstrators who innocently sought a voice in their governance. Reaction to the squashing of that voice is energizing a revolution. The world now waits in anticipation for the day when Iran's military declares itself "neutral," and a new leader from within, or from exile, surfaces, marking a new era for Iran, and for the whole of the Middle East.
James Raider writes The Pacific Gate Post