x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Tragic icon an 'innocent bystander'

The fiance of Neda Agha-Soltan, whose shooting during protests in Tehran was captured on video and turned her into a symbol for the opposition

A young Iranian woman whose death during protests in Iran has made her a symbol for the opposition was an innocent bystander who was targeted by the militia, her fiance said. Video of the final moments of Neda Agha Soltan, with blood pouring from her nose after she was reportedly shot in the chest in Tehran on Saturday, has been flashed around the world on the internet. Her fiance, Caspian Makan, told the London-based BBC Persian television on Monday that she had stumbled into the running battles between opposition supporters and Iranian security forces.

He said: "She was near the area, a few streets away, from where the main protests were taking place, near the Amir-Abad area. She was with her music teacher, sitting in a car and stuck in traffic. "She was feeling very tired and very hot. She got out of the car for just a few minutes. "That's when she was shot dead. Eyewitnesses and video footage of the shooting clearly show that probably Basij paramilitaries in civilian clothing deliberately targeted her. Eyewitnesses said they clearly targeted her and she was shot in the chest.

"She passed away within a few minutes. People tried to take her to the nearest hospital, the Shariati hospital. But it was too late." Mr Makan said Ms Agha Soltan's family struggled to persuade the Iranian authorities to release her body. "She was taken to a morgue outside Tehran. The officials from the morgue asked if they could use parts of her corpse for body transplants for medical patients," he said. "They didn't specify what exactly they intended to do. Her family agreed because they wanted to bury her as soon as possible.

"We buried her in the Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery in southern Tehran. They asked us to bury her in this section where it seemed the authorities had set aside spaces for graves for those killed during the violent clashes in Tehran last week." The fiance told the Farsi-language broadcaster that Iranian authorities banned Ms Agha-Soltan's family from holding a memorial service for her at a mosque because they were afraid it could become the focus of opposition protests.

"The authorities are aware that everybody in Iran and throughout the whole world knows about her story. So that's why they didn't want a memorial service. They were afraid that lots of people could turn up at the event." Iranian state TV has said that 10 people were killed and more than 100 injured during demonstrations on Saturday, the eighth day of the political crisis sparked by the disputed presidential election results.