Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Questions and Ramifications Over Neda's Shooting

Frontline's latest documentary A Death in Tehran and its related web site revisit the tragic shooting of Neda Agha-Soltan, which took place during a protest last June following Iran's disputed presidential election. Readers are encouraged to view the documentary, made in association with Tehran Bureau, here.

From a law enforcement perspective, the PBS documentary provides intriguing details on Neda's shooting by an eyewitness, Arash Hejazi, a trained medical doctor who was at Neda's side when she perished.

Hejazi states that he heard a single shot coming from "in front", but did not see the shooter. He then states that a crowd had put a suspect under citizens arrest, and that the suspect admitted to the killing but stated it was not his intent to do so. The suspect is frisked and his Basij ID discovered. At this point the crowd deliberates on what to do. According to the eyewitness account, the crowd has no confidence in the police and feels itself threatened by turning him in to the authorities, so they release the suspect.

Basij ID card of shooting suspect

Hejazi's account raises questions. When the suspect was apprehended, what happened to the firearm? A single shot was heard fired in the incident. Did the crowd that apprehended him risk their lives to disarm him? Why didn't the suspect fire at those attempting to subdue him? Had the suspect actually run out of ammunition? Presumably it may have been a handgun fired at not too far a distance, but an approximation of relative distance would be helpful. Again, what happened to the firearm?

Another question is why a Basidji would be operating as such alone in a crowd. Usually you see Basidji operating in small teams. Where were the suspect's team members? Had he become separated, or had his team members abandoned him? Perhaps, as the suspect is reputed to have stated, it's possible this was an accidental discharge.

Taken at face value, that the shooter was indeed this identified Basidji, the incident really exposes the unprofessional nature of the Basij as an instrument of urban riot control, as well as the detrimental effect this can have on the reputation of the Iranian government. Severely undertrained and ill disciplined Basidjis operating alone in a high risk environment is a sure fire recipe for disaster. It would be interesting to confirm that changes have been made by the IRGC and IRIPF, as well as policy related to the distribution of lethal rounds, for subsequent Iranian law enforcement efforts at anti-riot control since the June demonstrations.

Note: I've queried Arash Hejazi by email for additional info on his eyewitness account, and will be updating this post with any forthcoming response.


Anonymous said...

Mobile phone video of suspect shooter and more ID cards; Suspect doesn't seem to resist or try to flee.

Does anybody have more information coming from those who are publishing photos of ID cards on web?
I mean those who have captured the suspect and are holding his ID cards must have seen the shooting scene better than Dr Hejazi (since, they have identified the shooter).
Given the fact that they have published photos on web, they must have access to internet and are educated enough to be able to publish better eye-witness account of the tragedy.

Kemjika said...

Ok, i think the murder of Neda is a bad thing- getting killed for an unfair/stupid reason is really sad and unfair. But, i feel the west (and some people in Iran)are really playing out this woman's murder alot. How many countries have riots/choas occured that people died in? how many of the dead have been as exhaulted as Neda has been? I just sense a special treatment she's the end of the day the masses challenged the power of the leaders, the leaders got desperate(as many in the world do), and resorted to unnecessary force, and this is not new or uncommon,but i don't see how Neda is more special than the 100s of people worldwide who have died in similar incidents...

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kemjika, tragic as it was, we do NOT know for sure what happened and who did it.

We all seem to believe what we want to believe.

Always, always remember the rule..... tell me once I accept, tell me twice I hesitate, insist on it, then I doubt.