Debunking a shallow political argument used by the shameless defenders of the Iranian regime in their attempt to belittle the brutality and oppression it afflicts upon its own people.
Rachel Corrie & Neda Agha Soltan
A tendency I find amongst many who defend the present Iranian regime is to divert attention away from the brutality the regime has exercised against its own people by instead pointing the finger at how harshly the Palestinians have been treated at the hand of the Israelis. On a personal level I've seen someone trying to belittle the murder of Neda Soltan by instead opting to point an accusing finger at Israel over the death of Rachel Corrie, who was an American political student activist who was killed when she was crushed to death by an Israeli Army bulldozer in Gaza.
While their deaths were similarly tragic there is a clear differentiation, in the sense that Rachel Corrie was an American citizen who after becoming enthralled in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict found herself highly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, this sympathy coupled with her political activism took her to the Gaza Strip during the Second Intifada, (a very dangerous time to say the least) where she was killed when she attempted to stop the bulldozer that ran over her from demolishing Palestinian houses by stepping in its path.
She was by all means a political activist who was killed while putting herself in harms way thousands of miles from her home, Neda Soltan on the other hand was generally considered to be for the most part apolitical, however she was like most of her compatriots was infuriated at the injustice the regime was presenting them with. Furthermore during the height of the political turmoil following the June 2009 elections in Tehran she was brutally murdered, when driving to participate in a protest in Tehran and upon discovering her car air conditioner had a fault she subsequently proceeded to step out onto the street a few feet away from a large conglomeration of protesters to escape the blistering heat when she was suddenly shot in the chest by a Basij gunman. The rest is history.
My central point is the difference between being as politically orientated as to go out of your way to protest the actions of another countries policy (Corrie's protesting of Israel's treatment of Palestinians) and getting killed while putting yourself in harms way doing so is in stark contrast to being apolitical and getting killed on a public street in the capital city of your own country for the simple act of taking a breath of fresh air. This to me is clearly a night and day difference.
Another underlining point this argument flat out presumes is that the Iranian regime is fit to represent the plight of the Palestinians, while at the same time suppressing its own people from publicly voicing their discontentment with their states foreign and domestic policies. A good example of this took place during the 2009 Al Quds Day ceremony where those in attendance as per tradition all came together in solidarity and chanted slogans stating in effect that they will give their blood and their lives for Palestine and bring an end to the 'Zionist entity' in Jerusalem, demonstrators who showed up at this parade solemnly chanted; “no to Gaza and Lebanon, I will give my life for Iran.”
This in effect clearly showed they were sick of the regime trying to subvert the discontent felt by them by fomenting hate for Israel and staunchly supporting the most extreme examples of Palestinian militancy and terrorism all while ignoring their genuine and heartfelt grievances with how the state in which they live is run.
I'm not going to insinuate or attempt to pretend that in death Neda hasn't been romanticized and used as a tool for the gains of the various democratic and anti-regime groups prevalently attempting to bring about an end to the present regime. But in death she has become symbolic of the cynical cruelty the regime has shown itself capable of inflicting upon innocent citizens.
The First Intifada in the Palestinian territories that begun back in 1987 put an abrupt end to the popular conception of Israel metaphorically being David battling Goliath (Goliath in this case being the millions of neighbouring Arabs hell bent on destroying Israel), this widely held perception was brought to an end by images and video clips of angry discontent Palestinians as young as 8-years-old throwing stones at heavily armoured Israeli tanks and bulldozers in their defiance against Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Neda Soltan in death has similarly stopped cold the present Iranian regimes capability of making any credible or believable claims to be neither legitimate, sane, or even merely humane.
Editor’s Note: Paul Iddon is one of the authors of Uskowi on Iran. His weekly columns appear here on Wednesdays.