Borzou Daragahi reports out a very good story in the Los Angeles Times on Neda Agha-Soltan, who was 26 when she was gunned down Saturday on a street in Tehran and died on videos shown around the world. He reconstructs who she was, what happened Saturday evening and her last words. Excerpts:
To those who knew and loved Neda, she was far more than an icon. She was a daughter, sister and friend, a music and travel lover, a beautiful young woman in the prime of her life.
"She was a person full of joy," said her music teacher and close friend Hamid Panahi, who was among the mourners at her family home on Sunday, awaiting word of her burial. "She was a beam of light. I'm so sorry. I was so hopeful for this woman."
Security forces urged Neda's friends and family not to hold memorial services for her at a mosque and asked them not to speak publicly about her, associates of the family said. Authorities even asked the family to take down the black mourning banners in front of their house, aware of the potent symbol she has become.
But some insisted on speaking out anyway, hoping to make sure the world would not forget her. Neda Agha-Soltan was born in Tehran, they said, to a father who worked for the government and a mother who was a housewife. They were a family of modest means, part of the country's emerging middle class who built their lives in rapidly developing neighborhoods on the eastern and western outskirts of the city.
Like many in her neighborhood, Neda was loyal to the country's Islamic roots and traditional values, friends say, but also curious about the outside world, which is easily accessed through satellite television, the Internet and occasional trips abroad.
The second of three children, she studied Islamic philosophy at a branch of Tehran's Azad University, until deciding to pursue a career in the tourism industry. She took private classes to become a tour guide, including Turkish language courses, friends said, hoping to some day lead groups of Iranians on trips abroad.
Travel was her passion, and with her friends she saved up enough money for package tours to Dubai, Turkey and Thailand. Two months ago, on a trip to Turkey, she relaxed along the beaches of Antalya, on the Mediterranean coast.
She loved music, especially Persian pop, and was taking piano classes, according to Panahi, who is in his 50s, and other friends. She was also an accomplished singer, they said.
But she was never an activist, they added, and she began attending the mass protests only because of a personal sense of outrage over the election results.
Her friends say Panahi, Neda and two others were stuck in traffic on Karegar Street, east of Tehran's Azadi Square, on their way to the demonstration sometime after 6:30 p.m. After stepping out of the car to get some fresh air and crane their necks over the jumble of cars, Panahi heard a crack from the distance. Within a blink of the eye, he realized Neda had collapsed to the ground.
"We were stuck in traffic and we got out and stood to watch, and without her throwing a rock or anything they shot her," he said. "It was just one bullet.
Blood poured out of the right side of her chest and began bubbling out of her mouth and nose as her lungs filled up.
"I'm burning, I'm burning!" he recalled her saying, her final words.
Read the whole story. Somebody should also get word to Lee Abrams and Sam Zell that Daragahi is over there and this is why. Zell, notoriously, has ridiculed foreign news in the LAT as just something "journalists like to cover" and Abrams is the idiot aide-de-camp who didn't realize reporters actually go the places they write about and dodge bullets.
* Photo update: This image is the one being used by the New York Times, credited to Agha-Soltan's fiance Caspian Makan and Associated Press. Earlier photos may not have been her.