The Wrong Face of Neda
TV report shown in German public service TV station ZDF’s evening news programme “heute-journal” on Wednesday, 26 May 2010.
Link to video of complete news programme on Neda Soltani: http://www.zdf.de/ZDFmediathek/beitrag/video/1054084/Das-falsche-Gesicht-der-Neda-Agha-Soltan#/beitrag/video/1053824/ZDF-heute-journal-vom-26-Mai-2010
Link to video of the TV reportage on Neda Soltani: http://www.zdf.de/ZDFmediathek/beitrag/video/1054084/Das-falsche-Gesicht-der-Neda-Agha-Soltan#/beitrag/video/1054084/Das-falsche-Gesicht-der-Neda-Agha-Soltan
English translation kindly provided by Anusche Noring, first published on Facebook
News anchor’s introduction:
Neda. This name immediately brings back memories of the pictures and the anger we witnessed last summer. Neda Agha-Soltan was the Iranian student who was shot dead on the fringes of a demonstration against the Ahmadinejad government. A mobile phone video captured the scene of her death, and Neda became the most well-known martyr of this uprising for freedom. Even today, her picture can still be seen all over the Internet, on posters and T-shirts – yet many media outlets are showing the wrong picture, one which they found on the Internet, the picture of a woman called Neda Soltani. This is not only an example of slipshod research, but for the real, living Neda Soltani, it is a tragedy, it placed her between all the frontlines and, eventually, forced her into political asylum in Germany. Kamran Safiarian reports on what is indeed a deeply sad story in every respect.
These are the pictures that would turn her into the icon of resistance in Iran – Neda Agha-Soltan. The Internet video showing her being murdered spread all over the world, her photograph turned her into a martyr. Neda Soltani, on the other hand, is no martyr. She is now living as a refugee in Germany. Through no fault of her own, she became the double of an icon. To the right, a picture of Neda Soltani. To the left, a picture of the murdered Neda Agha-Soltan.
Neda Soltani: “This is my profile picture from Facebook. After the murder, it was stolen and spread all over the world as being the photograph of the murdered Neda Agha-Soltan. But this photograph here does not show Neda Agha-Soltan, who was killed. This is me, Neda Soltani. And, as you can see, I am still alive.”
Tehran in June 2009. When the 26-year-old student Neda Agha-Soltan was killed, chaos was reigning in the streets. The same was true for many media outlets’ editorial offices. Journalists were eagerly searching the net for pictures of the dead young woman and quickly come across the wrong photo. Posters commemorate the unsuspecting Neda Soltani as a martyr – the beginning of a nightmare.
Neda Soltani: “All of a sudden, photos of me with a black ribbon of mourning popped up everywhere on television and in the papers. I had become a living corpse. That was horrible. I received phone calls by friends and relatives who believed I was dead. They had no idea that the whole thing was just a terrible mistake.”
But things were to turn even worse: Neda was visited by the Iranian intelligence service, and was put under pressure. The regime sensed an opportunity to take advantage of the mix-up to cover up the murder of Neda Agha-Soltan, the student – here some pictures of her funeral.
Neda Soltani: “The intelligence service showed up at my house one week after Neda’s death. They questioned me, they wanted me to confess that I was the Neda who everyone thought was dead. They wanted to use me to cover up Neda’s murder. I just couldn’t take it any more.”
Neda Soltani tried everything she could to clear up the mistake. She deleted her Facebook photo, but this led the opposition to believe in a measure of censorship by the regime. Her photo continued to spread around the world like wildfire, on the Internet and on posters – up until the present day. With the help of her lawyer, she has been fighting for the right to her own photograph ever since.
Neda Soltani’s lawyer: “In Germany, all those who were reprimanded have reacted as far as possible, they have signed declarations of discontinuance [vowing to stop using the picture] and have also changed their visual reporting. In the US, to give you another example, the situation is completely different. In that case, Ms Soltani had initially approached the individual media companies herself and pointed out the mix-up of photos while she was still in Iran, but nobody ever reacted there.”
In the meantime, Neda has fled to Germany for fear of reprisals. But here too, she is met with hostility, with some accusing her of having used the icon Neda to obtain refugee status abroad. Today, she lives near Frankfurt and works as an English teacher. Her only wish is to be able to once again lead a normal life. “I have lost everything in my life”, she says, “my family, my friends, my home country”. Neda has no idea what is going to happen to her in the future. She has given up hope of being able to return to Iran one day.
News anchor’s final comment:
The story of the two Nedas. One that should also serve as a an important lesson to us journalists.