If there was doubt that Neda Agha-Soltan’s story still has power in Iran, it faded today. Forty days since her videotaped shooting stunned Iran and the world, thousands marched to her grave to mourn her and other victims of the crackdown.
They chanted ‘death to the dictator’ and something new: “ Neda is not dead. It is the regime that’s dead.” Some policemen mocked the protesters with chants of their own, “Go home and make love to your wives. Don't be out there making trouble,” before charging the protesters. Riot police chased mourners through the gravestones. Police forced opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi back into his car. His wife managed to deliver flowers.
Neda’s own mother was pressured to stay at home. She spoke to BBC Persian by telephone.
“Emotionally we are all broken, she said. “What can we say to each other? Our loved ones were too young to die.”
An opposition movement sparked by the disputed June presidential election has been given new force by the brutality that followed it. Dissidents say more than 200 protesters have been killed in detention. Sohrab Arabi died in prison just after his 19th birthday and was buried nearby Neda. His mother, overcome with grief, jumped on top of his coffin during the funeral.
Many other victims were college students like Amir Javadifar, an acting major. A friend told US-funded Radio Farda that Amir’s family wasn’t notified of his death until 12 days after the fact.
“His body was so broken we couldn’t even recognize him,” he said, “his nails were removed, his teeth broken. “
His family had to pay a fee to take his body home.
The regime drew the ire even of hard-liners, when one of the detainees killed, an engineering student named Mohsen Roohulamini, turned out to be the son of a prominent conservative politician.
London-based Iranian blogger Potkin Azarmehr said the killings have backfired against the regime, reenergizing the opposition movement.
“The conception by some people was//the more brutal they crack down, people are going to cower. It’s had the reverse effect//they’re more passionate, they don’t want this blood to be wasted.”
Several Iranian politicians, including conservatives, are now calling for an investigation of prisoner abuse. But the protesters are demanding far more. Today, they modified a chant dating from the 1979 revolution, replacing ‘Islamic republic” with “Iranian republic” -- a repudiation of Iran’s 30-year-old political system.