Neda and why you should care

I’m sure you all know this image and the story behind it. If you don’t, you really ought to: On June 16, 1976, south african students began an uprising in the township of Soweto, against the racist apartheid education system that forced them to speak afrikaans only in the classrooms.

In apartheid South Africa, afrikaans and english were the only two languages that were recognised, even though they were spoken by a minority of the population.

12 year old Hector Pieterson was only the second of hundreds to die during the protest. The black and white images of his dead body later became a symbol of the Soweto uprising and of the struggle against apartheid. So much that one was turned into a sculpture.

Fast forward 33 years and students are still being killed for protesting. Not so much in South Africa, but in Iran, a cryptofascist nation, that really need no introduction.

Since the presidential elections a few weeks ago, protests have been building. There seems to be widespread evidence that the vote was rigged to ensure former prime minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi (Twitter feed: #mousavi1388) never got close to power. Or rather, to make sure that Ahmedinejad stayed in his seat.

The girl to the left is Neda. She may have a statue of her own some day.

Neda never made it to 17. Yesterday a sniper made that descision for her. She didn’t die instantly, instead she drowned in her own blood from the gun shot wound. (And before you begin googling for the video: I’ve already seen it so you don’t have to. Really).

She’s not the first, nor the second to die in Iran over the past weeks. She won’t be the last either.

But across the internet and inside Iran, she is fast becoming a symbol of the iranian protest for democray. In fact, some reports suggest that protesters are chanting her name, which means ‘voice’ in farsi.

Iran is pretty much closed down, informationwise. The local press is banned from reporting, bloggers are being arrested, as are ordinairy people who just happen to be photographing demonstrations.

Twitter is the main line of communication to the outside world. So much, that the US government has asked Twitter to hold off an important system upgrade, so that the flow of information wouldn’t get interrupted.

There are several other sources of information. Twitter is probably the least reliable, unless you know who to look (out) for. But you could also try The Lede from New York Times. That’ll get you going.

So – final question – what will happen if Mousavi is elected, as the protesters want? Will women finally be able to kick the hijab, and will men finally be able to roll up their shirt sleaves and listen to whatever music the like? Well, I have no idea, really. But as long as he is picked through fair and free elections, I don’t really care.

Hope I interrupted you long enough to stop and think.