07/23/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Iran's Fine Green Line Between a People's Right to Protest and Violence


Just coming off Father's Day in the US it is hard to witness an Iranian father kneeling over his mortally wounded daughter laid out bleeding and dying on a street in Tehran. In a video uploaded to news organizations a young woman, and student of philosophy, named Neda Agha Soltan was shot to death after being caught up a street demonstration of protesters. As she lay just minutes before her death her father called out to her in great anguish: "Neda, Neda, Open your eyes!" In this desperate expression are the people of Iran who, in great numbers, are opening their eyes and calling for change, more freedom, and connection to the world around them.


With 60% of Iran's population under 30 years of age its youth are very internet savvy. Their cell phones capture images and video that citizen reporters upload to social networking sites and then find their way to news organizations around the world. This means the world community now also bears witness to the events in Tehran. The curtain that governments have tried to keep drawn to inhibit their people from seeing the outside world, as well as the outside world looking in, is becoming more and more transparent, letting more light in with each passing day because of the Internet. President Obama stated, "Martin Luther King once said, 'The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.' I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian people's belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness."

Iranian authorities have now acknowledged that voting discrepancies in 50 cities did, in fact, take place. The Revolutionary Guard, however, has threatened to crush any dissenters. Mir Hussein Moussavi posted on his website Sunday night a call to supporters to demonstrate peacefully, saying, "Protesting to lies and fraud is your right." It is not clear if Moussavi supporters will continue to take their protests to the streets of Tehran in a silent vigil as most powerfully seen last week, or whether the crack down of the Revolutionary Guard will cause more bloodshed to be spilled in this on going fight for change.

The right to freedom of speech was recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly December 10, 1948, but the arc of the moral universe may take a bit longer for the theocracy government of Iran to afford its people. Here in the US we have long enjoyed the right to freedom of speech, which is protected by our Constitution. We have the right to criticize the government and advocate unpopular ideas that people may find distasteful or against public policy, such as racism. Women's rights and equality has largely been part of American culture since 1920. Although we are a nation of immigrants that came here to escape repressive regimes or governments as a society we have largely forgotten what it is like to put our lives on the line to call forth change. We have forgotten what its like for our bones to be broken by batons, teargas to sear our eyes and lungs, have a bullet snuff out our life, or a crushing regime extinguish our hope for change.

The people of Iran are part of the long march of humanity, on its way to the right for free and open expression for all human beings. Green, the symbolic color of the supporters of
Moussavi, stands for life, renewal, and growth. May Neda, and all the Moussavi supporters who have given, and may still give their lives in the name of Iran's freedom, make the fertile ground that this new freedom will spring from. The following simple lines are dedicated to Neda Agha Soltan from the people who witnessed her death.

Neda, you're the "Face of Freedom" in Iran.

You will not be forgotten.

May God Rest you in Peace.

Goodbye to wielding bullets, batons, and teargas to squash human rights
Hello to dialogue, fairness, justice, and conciliation to encourage human rights

Goodbye to suppression and stomping the free expression of people
Hello to the right for all people to express themselves freely and openly

Goodbye to governments and regimes that close their eyes to change
Hello to governments and regimes that open their eyes to change