Iran after its disputed June elections is a dark and foreboding place.
A face of the uprising was Neda, a pretty young woman shot dead by Islamic Republic goons.
This feature in yesterday’s Observer features an interview with her partner, Caspian Makan. It’s an amazing piece of journalism, revealing the reality for dissenters, the desire for change and the resilience of the struggle:
Caspian Makan has been run over by the blind, careering juggernaut of history. Just five months ago his girlfriend was killed on the streets of Tehran, one of some 80 deaths reliably reported during the tumultuous demonstrations that followed the disputed presidential elections. Most victims’ relatives and friends have grieved in private – but Neda Agha Soltan, Caspian’s girlfriend, died live on phone camera, an almost unbearable 90-second sequence that turned her into an icon. Uploaded on to the internet, within hours her face became the face of protest.
But symbols destroy lives. In the days and weeks that followed, Caspian has lost not only the woman he was planning to marry, but also his country, his family, his friends and his career. Anyone and everyone who had anything to do with Neda’s death are now toxic to the Iranian government. Members of her family have been bullied, threatened and even detained. The doctor who is caught on camera trying to save her life is now exiled in Britain. The music teacher who was with her when she died has been rolled out on Iranian television, patently required to deny what he saw: that Neda was shot by a member of the religious militia.
And Caspian disappeared. In the days after her killing, he spoke out on foreign satellite stations and then vanished. Finally it was confirmed he was in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran – the frightening symbol of the Shah’s oppressive regime smoothly transferred into the hands of the Islamic Republic’s secret police. He was held for more than two months, some of that time in solitary confinement. In September he was released on bail pending trial – perhaps being prepared for one of the extraordinary show trials that have been broadcast on Iranian TV over the past months, in which leading supporters of the opposition have been obliged to recant their actions. Urged on by family and friends, Caspian decided he had to escape.