By Soheil Hasbi, Tehran (Source: Mianeh)
Activists critical of fiancé of woman who in death became an opposition icon.
A trip to Israel taken by a man identifying himself as the fiancé of Neda Agha Soltan, whose death during last June's crackdown on the opposition drew international attention, has sparked anger among opposition activists.
The fatal shooting of Soltan was captured on video by a bystander and broadcast across the world. She became a symbol of the resistance to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after his disputed re-election.
Caspian Makan, who says he is Soltan's fiancé, was invited to Israel by the private Channel 2 television station and while there also met Israeli president Shimon Peres. He said he made the trip to pursue peace.
The numerous criticisms voiced by supporters of the Green Movement, particularly bloggers and others active over the internet, reflect how a large segment of society in Iran views any relationship with Israel as taboo.
The opposition believes that Soltan was shot by an officer of the basij militia - a claim the government denies. In an interview with Jon Snow of Britain's Channel 4 News, Ahmadinejad said, "They created a false scenario based on political campaigns and it has been proven to us. That was a lie..."
Makan played an important role in providing private photographs of Soltan to the international media and he spent some time in prison following her death. Afterwards, he fled the country and has been reported to be living in Canada.
Due to the Iranian New Year holiday, Iranian officials have not commented on Makan's trip to Israel. Green Movement activists, however, have given free rein to their thoughts and are almost universally critical of the visit.
The strongest reaction came in an article published on the website Jaras - a site aligned with people considered to be expatriate Iranian religious intellectuals.
"The trip of Neda Agha Soltan's fiancé to Israel is a clear example of taking advantage of the Green Movement for personal means. Caspian Makan is neither the ambassador of the movement nor does he have an important rank or role in the movement," it said.
Another article on the same site alleged that Makan was not Soltan's fiancé and that their relationship had been short and had ended before her death. This was rebuffed by Hajer Rostami Motlaq, Soltan's mother, who said in an interview with BBC Persian that they were to be married.
But she did not hide her anger over Makan's trip, "I told him not to ruin Neda and not to take advantage of her name ... Israel does not have a place among the Iranian people and by doing so you have vilified yourself and ruined your reputation."
Neda's mother in mourning
Makan's trip was also a hot topic on one of the most popular Iranian opposition sites, Balatarin. It received 459 viewer comments under just one piece titled "Someone Stop Caspian Makan". The majority of comments said the trip was detrimental to the Green Movement. One person commented, "I don't have a problem with Israel, Jewish people, or Shimon Peres; however, in these critical times, Makan's meeting with Shimon Peres was neither tactful nor smart."
Others have no problem with Makan's actions and believe that as a private individual he has the right to travel wherever he pleases. One political analyst said, "The Iranian people have to understand that each person has to be responsible for his or her own actions. They should not use their own values and beliefs to judge the actions of others."
Some critics go as far as to consider his trip a conspiracy by the Islamic Republic to damage the opposition. According to one comment on Balatarin, "It's possible that the government has sent this man to Israel in order to negatively reconstruct the image of Neda and of the Green Movement." Another visitor to the site said, "Some say that a person is free to go wherever he wants! Now, if Neda had not been killed, would the Israeli president meet her fiancé? Every day I become more convinced that Iran and Israel are working together."
Makan told BBC Persian that he travelled as an independent person and did not represent the Green Movement. "Nor am I Neda's representative ... I made this trip with humanitarian intentions since there is talk of an Israeli attack on Iran and I only meant to voice my objection to war and violence," he said.
He said that he wanted to demolish the image that the Islamic Republic has created of Israel as an enemy because he sees this as a way for the Iranian regime to achieve its goals.
"I have never talked on behalf of the Green Movement ... I am independent and was never a supporter of any group or person," he said.
"The Islamic Republic has constantly fabricated scenarios about the death of Neda Agha Soltan, and even if I had gone to another country rather than Israel, the same stories would have come out of it."
At least Makan's trip to Israel was positive in the sense that it shed light on the attitude of Iranian society, especially the many intellectuals who are active on the internet, towards Israel. According to a sociology professor, "The majority of people, although they are not looking for any kind of trouble, do not have a positive view of Israel."
About Mianeh: Mianeh is a new independent web-based initiative run as a project by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (iwpr.net) the award-winning non-profit media development organisation that works across the globe to platform local voices and promote international learning and engagement. Mianeh aims to be an open space for ideas, news and debate where writers in Iran can reach out to each other as well as to those outside the country who are interested in learning more about the vibrant and dynamic society that is Iran today.
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