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Happy Birthday, Neda -

If Neda Agha Soltan were alive, she would have turned 27 on January 23, 2010. Neda was shot and killed about seven months ago during a peaceful protest in Tehran against the reelection of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. The amateur video of her last moments has been watched by millions of people around the world on YouTube and social networking websites.

Neda Agha Soltan

Vigils and other events are planned today in a number of cities around the world to honor her memory and protest against the bloody crackdown against peaceful protesters in Iran.

Iranian news websites are reporting that members of Neda's family and others gathered today at her grave in Tehran's Behesht Zahra cemetery to pay their respects to the young woman who has become a symbol of Iran's Green opposition movement. Some blogs are reporting that four young people were detained by security forces at Neda's grave. The reports have not been independently confirmed.

Neda's tombstone after a recent vandalization

An amateur video shows a young man -- apparently in the Iranian city of Ahwaz -- releasing 27 green balloons to celebrate Neda's birthday and honor the slain young woman, who is described in the video as "the voice of freedom of the Iranian people." (Neda means "voice" in Persian.)

Iranian officials have claimed that Neda's death was a plot by the enemies of the Islamic Republic to discredit the clerical establishment. Iranian state television recently produced a documentary that claims Neda was a foreign agent who plotted her own death.

Bust of Neda "Angel of Freedom" by Paula Slater

Neda's fiancé, Caspian Makan, told Radio Farda that he has called on Iranians to commemorate Neda's birthday around the world and display white symbols in honor of peace and humanity.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL

Copyright (c) 2010 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

... Payvand News - 01/24/10 ... --

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