Iran protests against Neda-scholarship
Published in weekly magazine “Der Spiegel” on November 12, 2009
A scholarship established at the University of Oxford is bothering the Iranian regime. It was named after the student Neda Agha-Soltan, who after her death in Tehran became a figurehead of resistance. The embassy in a remonstrative letter is further expanding their crude conspiracy theories.
Iran has denounced a scholarship of the University of Oxford, named after the student Neda Agha-Soltan, who was shot dead in Tehran in June, as a “politically motivated action”. The scholarship for students of philosophy will “harm the scientific reputation of the university” and create discord with the academic institutions of the world, writes vice ambassador Safareli Eslamian in his letter to the university.
Neda Agha-Soltan had been shot on June 20 on the sidelines of the uprising against the controversial re-election of the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A video of the dying woman spread rapidly on the internet, in next to no time making the 27 year-old student of philosophy a figurehead of the struggle of resistance and a symbol for the brutality of the regime.
The university in response highlighted the fact that the scholarship was a matter of the university’s Queen’s College. A statement published on the website of the college explains that the scholarship is above all intended to support Iranian students, and is sponsored by two British patrons. The scholarship is supposed to pay the students’ tuition fees.
The college also named the first stipendiary: Arianne Shahvisi, 22, student of philosophy. According to the college, she feels very honored to receive a scholarship that is dedicated to Neda. “It means a lot to me as a young woman of Iranian origin, and as a student of philosophy”, she was quoted. She offered her condolences to Neda’s family and added: “I hope to be able to do justice to the name of their brave and gifted daughter by successfully completing my studies in Oxford.”
“Neda embodies the hopes and dreams of peace of the Iranian people”
In his letter to the University of Oxford, vice ambassador Eslamian renews claims that Neda’s death had been staged in an attempt to harm the Iranian regime. Iran’s president Ahmadinejad had announced to have the issue investigated, however, he had soon identified the perpetrators: Western intelligence and the opposition, according to him, were responsible for the death of the young student.
The physician, who was the first person to rush to her aid when she was fatally shot, had claimed that it was a member of the Islamic Basij militias who shot her. “I heard him saying ‘I didn’t mean to kill her'”, said Arash Hejazi in an interview with BBC. The militia, a paramilitary combat group, is loyal to the conservative leadership of Iran. During the demonstrations, Basij members were riding right through the crowd on their motorcycles, violently beating the supporters of the opposition.
According to “Times”, Hejazi, who tried to save Neda’s life, welcomes the decision to grant a scholarship named after the shot student. Neda embodies “the hope and the dreams of peace of the Iranian people.” However, he is worried that the regime might punish her family. Hejazi himself works at Oxford, at the Brookes University.
“This brutal regime kills their own youth to maintain their power”
In his letter, the Iranian ambassador even suggests that Hejazi was part of the plot alleged by the Iranian regime. (According to him,) Neda was shot in a remote street “far away from the protests, where her murderer had been filming her and her companions for 20 minutes before the incident happened.”
Hejazi (according to the ambassador) had come to Tehran two days prior to Neda’s death, with the intention to hastily return to Great Britain. The letter is quoted by “Times” saying that “there is further evidence showing that it was a prefabricated scenario”.
The physician, in a moving mail exchange with the writer Paul Coelho during the days after Neda’s death, had expressed his fear that something might happen to him. Four days after Neda had died in his arms, he returned to Great Britain, where he lives with his family. In a conversation with “Times”, Hejazi expressed his anger about allegations of the regime that he participated in a murder conspiracy. “I know five people who were present in this incident and who can testify what happened. But they live in Iran, so I can not name them”, he said.
An Iranian academic whose name is not disclosed told “Times” that the letter of the ambassador shows how gravely Neda’s death has damaged the Iranian regime. “These pictures have destroyed his legitimacy in Iran and made evident what everyone was thinking: that this is a brutal regime that kills their own youth just to maintain their power.”
(translator’s note: for complementary reading refer to http://arashhejazi.com/en/2009/11/ahmadinejad-versus-oxford-university-and-neda/)