Arash Hejazi smokes hand-rolled cigarettes, which he keeps in a silver case. He speaks a considered, professorial English, idiosyncratic only because of his Iranian accent. Despite having endured much since the summer of 2009, he exudes the guileless energy of a very young man (he is 37).
You may not have heard Hejazi’s name before, but it’s likely that you already know something of his story. During the Green Movement protests that swept across Iran in the summer of 2009, Hejazi was standing next to a young woman when she was shot. He bent over her prostrate body as she lay dying, in an unsuccessful attempt to save her life. A video of those events was posted online and soon became international news: images of Hejazi and the tragic girl were transmitted into hundreds of millions of living rooms. That girl was Neda Agha-Soltan, and she became a symbol of a new Iranian generation, their dream of freedom, and the brutal suppression of that dream.
The violent death of Neda Agha-Soltan is perhaps the most watched in history. The astonishing video which depicts her murder shocked the world when it emerged during the protests following Iran’s 2009 presidential elections. Neda, and thousands more like her, believed that the published result which indicated a clear and unprecedented victory for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a consequence of flagrant electoral fraud. She was shot dead at point blank range by a Basiji, a member of the Iranian regime’s voluntary militia, on a crowded street during a peaceful protest. The Basiji’s tactic on that day was to scatter clusters of demonstrators by shooting one individual in each cluster. Arash Hejazi is the man who can be seen in that video wearing a white shirt and blue jeans. He is fruitlessly attempting to prevent the transfusion of Neda’s blood from inside her chest onto the Tehran pavement. Continue reading →