Friday, June 26, 2009

Iran doctor blames militia for killing Neda

Neda Agha Soltan

June 26, 2009

An Iranian doctor who claims he tried to save Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death during election protests made her an opposition icon, said today she was apparently shot by a member of the Islamic Basij militia.

Arash Hejazi, who is studying at a university in the south of England, told the BBC that the crowd identified the man they believed was the shooter shortly after the young woman died from a gunshot wound to the chest.
Footage of Soltan bleeding to death captured in amateur videos posted on the internet and broadcast across the world triggered an outcry over Iranian authorities' clampdown on protests against the disputed presidential vote.

Hejazi told the BBC he was visiting friends in Tehran when he heard there were protests nearby, and decided to take a look. When they reached the main street, they saw anti-riot police coming on motorcycles towards the crowd.

“All of a sudden everything turned crazy,” he said. “The anti-riot police threw teargas among people and the motorcycles started rushing towards people.”

He continued: “We heard a gunshot. And Neda was standing one metre away from me ... We were just standing and all of a sudden I turned back and I saw blood gushing out of Neda's chest.

“She was in a shocked situation, just looking at her chest, which blood was gushing out ... We ran towards her and lay her on the ground.

“I bent over her and I saw the bullet wound right in the chest below the neck with blood gushing out. My experience says that it was the aorta that was hit and the lung as well.”

He added: “Her blood was draining out of her body and I was just putting pressure on the wounds to try to stop the bleeding, which wasn't successful unfortunately, and she died in less than one minute.”

The people around her took her body away in a car, Hejazi said.

The protesters thought the gunshot had come from a rooftop nearby, but later saw a member of the Basij militia on a motorcycle. They stopped him and disarmed him, the doctor said.

“He was shouting, 'I didn't want to kill her'. I heard him,” Hejazi said.

But the protesters did not know what to do with the man so let him go, but not before taking his identity cards and taking his photo.

The doctor returned to his office to wash off the blood on his hands, but recalled: “I didn't sleep for three nights afterwards.

He said he had decided to speak out, despite the potential risks which meant he would probably not return to Iran, because “I don't want her blood to have been shed in vain”.

Iran's hardline media sought today to deflect blame over the killing of Neda, saying that someone with a smuggled gun had opened fire in the street. The doctor rejected this version of events.

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