Thursday, July 9, 2009

How Neda Soltani became the face of Iran's struggle and a maze created by an israeli artist of the neda soltani tragedy

Neda Soltani, iranian election results, mazes
Neda Soltani was shot by a basij milita man and has become a symbol of the Iranian election fraud.

How Neda Soltani became the face of Iran's struggle

How Neda Soltani became an icon of the protests against the Iranian regime. WARNING: Video contains graphic images Link to this video

Shortly after 5pm on Saturday ­afternoon, Hamed, an Iranian asylum seeker in the ­Netherlands, took a frantic call from a friend in Tehran.

"A girl has just been killed right next to me," the friend said. It had all ­happened quickly. A young woman, chatting on her mobile phone, had been shot in the chest. She faded before a doctor, who was on the scene, could do anything to help.

There was more. Hamed's friend, who does not want to be named, filmed the incident on his phone. Within moments the footage had landed in Hamed's inbox. Five minutes later it was on YouTube and Facebook.

Within hours it had become one of the most potent threats faced by the ­Iranian regime in 30 years.

"He asked me, is it possible to publish everything right now," Hamed said. "I published it on YouTube and Facebook and five minutes later it started to get many emails and messages and it ­published everywhere.

"It shocked me very, very much and I was sure at that time everyone in the world if they see this movie they'll be shocked, and I felt that I must broadcast it because I try to show to the world what is going on in my country."

The killing of Neda Soltani, the grisly images of blood spreading across her face, have become perhaps the defining sequence in the 10-day uprising against the regime in Tehran, a gruesome ­manifestation of Ayatollah Ali ­Khamenei's threat to use force on the tens of thousands of people ­contesting the outcome of the presidential election.

Soltani is being mythologised as a ­martyr to the opposition's cause, a ­rallying call for a protest movement in need of a hero. Her image has been printed on placards brandished during clashes in Tehrantoday.

The footage is disturbing. Her eyes open, Soltani seems to radiate a ­calmness at odds with the panic ­surrounding her as she lies in the road after being struck by a bullet.

For the authorities, it was clearly ­unsettling. They quickly moved to ban the victim's family from holding an Islamic funeral, apparently for fear of creating a figure that could unite and revive the ­battered opposition.

The details surrounding Soltani's death are as sketchy as her own story. She was 26, a philosophy student and a part-time travel agent, according to those who knew her. She was no rock thrower at the ­vanguard of a movement for regime change , but, according to her fiance, Caspian Makan, a young woman who may have ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Makan said she had been in a car in central Tehran with her music teacher when they were caught in a traffic jam. He said the pair had left the car to escape the heat.

It was when she was walking down ­Karegar Street talking on her phone that the shot rang out.

"Neda's aim was not Mousavi or Ahmadinejad, her target was her ­country," Makan said, adding that although she hadn't planned on ­demonstrating, she was sympathetic to the protest movement.

In the footage she is wearing jeans, white trainers, a dark shirt and a ­headscarf, suggesting a middle class and relatively emancipated young woman.

Several men are shown frantically trying to save her life as blood from her wounds rapidly develops into a large pool beside her.

Reports vary on who fired the fatal shot. Some sources suggested it was a Basij volunteer on a motorcycle, while others have attributed it to a marksman on the roof of a nearby house.

Others said she may have been ­targeted because she was using a mobile phone, one of the opposition's most important tools.

Another video said to be of Soltani, taken just before she was shot, shows her standing among a crowd of ­protesters, some of whom are heard chanting "death to the dictator" and "Allahu Akbar".

Like much of the footage that has emerged from Tehran in recent days, the authenticity and circumstances behind the video could not be verified.

But Soltani was quickly lionised by an engaged online community inside and outside Iran. Some have even started writing songs in her memory to accompany the web footage.

One song, by a singer called Pourang Azad, contains the lyrics: "You left and thousands of flowers grew, you left and my patience finished … Your loving look is full of demand. Sleep, sweet lady of Iran."

The incident has taken on an added poignancy from the meaning of Soltani's first name. Neda, an Arabic word used more commonly in literary rather than spoken Farsi, conveys the spiritual meaning of "call" or "voice".

The authorities are acutely aware of the threat posed to them by her killing. They only agreed to release her body on ­condition that her family agreed to a quick burial on Sunday in the ­sprawling Behesht-e Zahra cemetery on the outskirts of Tehran.

A memorial service planned for the Nilufar mosque in the capital's ­Abbasabad neighbourhood was called off after officials expressly forbade it. All other mosques in the Tehran area have been warned against holding ­services in her memory.

But that may not be enough to stop Soltani becoming a martyr, a status revered in Shia Islam, the dominant sect in Iran. Under the creed, mourning ceremonies are held for the dead on the third, seventh and 40th days after their passing.

During the unrest that presaged that 1979 Islamic revolution, processions on the 40th day of mourning for fallen protesters became landmarks that created the momentum to topple the shah's regime.

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

City, province look at getting helicopters

City, province look at getting helicopters

CITY and provincial officials are looking at the possibility at putting both a city police helicopter and helicopter air ambulance into the skies over Winnipeg and southern Manitoba.

No decision has been made as both carry a significant cost, but observers say it's only a matter of time as the city's population grows and if Manitoba wants to keep up with what's happening in other provinces.

"Inevitably, I think we're going to have both of them," Progressive Conservative justice critic and police helicopter proponent Kelvin Goertzen said Monday.

Goertzen said Winnipeg police are examining whether the city can afford a police helicopter and use it the same way police in Edmonton and Calgary use their own helicopters to go after criminals.

Police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said he couldn't discuss the matter.

"We're not in a position to make a comment," he said. "Nothing has been finalized."

Winnipeg Police Chief Keith McCaskill said in a report earlier this year he became interested in looking into the chopper proposal when Edmonton police got authority to get a second helicopter.

Goertzen said a helicopter would be a better use of police resources in a growing city. For instance it could follow a suspect's vehicle from the air rather than using up multiple police cruisers on the ground to do the same thing, reducing the dangers of a high-speed pursuit. In a recent police chase, city police assigned 10 police cruiser cars to the chase.

"There are so many different uses for it," Goertzen said. "Once it's in the air it's not going to be idle very much."

Goertzen said besides tracking vehicles, a helicopter can be used to for other surveillance in high-crime areas.

"There's an advantage to having an eye-in-the-sky," he said.

But a police helicopter won't come cheap. There is the initial $1.5 million to $2 million cost of buying and outfitting one plus the anticipated $700,000 annual operating cost. It's also not the first time city police have considered getting a helicopter. In 2003 a volunteer fundraising campaign collapsed when city hall did not appear willing to absorb the operating costs in the police budget.

Goertzen said the city has changed in six years. "There's no doubt Winnipeg can support it," he said.

Meanwhile, the province is still studying whether Manitoba should get its own helicopter air ambulance.