Most of us can remember where we were at and what we were doing when President Kennedy was assassinated or more recently when terrorists crashed commercial airliners into the twin towers on September 11, 2001. Traumatic events are difficult to forget because of the impact they have on our lives.
I remember I was at home from work on June 20, 2009, relaxing in front of the TV when my life was suddenly changed forever. I was horrified as I watched a video of a young beautiful woman lying in the streets of Tehran bleeding to death. She was surrounded by her friends who were desperately trying to save her life. I remember watching with tears in my eyes hoping and praying that somehow she would survive, but sadly she didn't.
The shocking video of Neda Agha-Soltan's senseless murder in the streets of Tehran during the botched presidential election of Ahmadinejad has been seen all over the world. Viewers have been saddened, stunned and outraged that a beautiful young woman's right to protest was met with such intolerance and violence. As I watched the video and later discovered that the government denied any wrongdoing and showed very little sympathy for Neda's family, I knew then that I had to speak out.
The video of Neda's death has been a life transforming event that has resulted in the publication of my new book, "The Rose of Nowruz: dreams of hope and freedom." In the opening pages of "The Rose" Neda Soltan was one of the women freedom fighters of Iran that I dedicated my book to.
For many Iranians and myself included, Neda has become symbol of hope and freedom. The name Neda in Persian literally means, "voice calling." I find this fascinating because I really feel as though she is calling to me to speak out against the many injustices and human rights violations in Iran.
Since the time I first saw this incredible video I have written five books and have developed many wonderful online friendships with Iranians. Just recently I had the privilege of meeting Caspian Makan, the fiance of Neda Soltan. Caspian has dedicated his life to speaking out against the evils of religion and war and human suffering and is the founder of the Campaign for change and the completion of global human right laws located in Toronto, Ontario Canada. I typed a message to Capsian through Facebook expressing my deep sorrow over Neda's death and sent him a copy of my new book.
Tuesday, January 23, 2013 was another very special moment for me. I saw a photograph that I will never forget. It is a beautiful, touching moment with Caspian gazing up at a picture of Neda. In the foreground is a table covered with red and white paper hearts beautifully illuminated by soft burning candles. In the left corner is a picture of The Azadi Towers and just below Neda's picture sets a baby grand piano. In the center of the table is a birthday cake with the number 30 sitting on top.
I remember softly muttering out loud "Happy Birthday, angel of Iran."
Neda was given the title "Iran's angel" because she was an ordinary young woman who cared deeply about her country and was unafraid to let her voice be heard.
I believe it is very important that you and me never forget her death and all that she stood for.
Neda's name means "voice calling." I pray that we will never stop hearing her voice.