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June 23rd, 2009
07:37 AM ET

Neda's story lives on

By CNN's Carol Costello and Bob Ruff

The power of a single image can move mountains – and governments.

In 1970, during the Vietnam War, John Filo snapped a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph that may have tipped public opinion against that war.

John Filo’s black and white image showed 14-year-old Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling in grief over a Kent State student gunned down by Ohio National Guardsman who had been sent to the campus to quell an anti-war demonstration.

At the time many Americans already were numbed by repeated images of their soldiers dying in Vietnam, but the sight one of their sons or daughters gunned down at home was too much to take.

During World War II, Joseph Rosenthal also won a Pulitzer Prize for snapping a photograph of Marines raising the American flag after winning the battle of Iwo Jima. The photo helped raise badly needed war bonds and boosted the morale of a war weary nation. They even turned the photo into a statue at the Arlington National Cemetery.

But it doesn’t always work out that way.

When a single man literally stood up to a column of Chinese tanks in in 1989 to protest the killings at Tiananmen Square, it seemed as though the entire world rose as one to condemn the Communists’ brutal crack down on the student democracy movement.

But twenty years later tight Communist control of that country remains in place.

So what do we make of Neda, the Iranian student who was in the middle of a demonstration to protest the Iranian presidential election, and who died before the world’s eyes thanks to a camera phone which captured the gruesome moments?

For Azar Nafisi, author of “Reading Lolita in Tehran”, a best-selling book about the erosion of women’s rights in Iran, “Neda being silenced is now becoming the voice of all those other Iranian women and men who over the past thirty years have been fighting for their freedoms.”

For Peter Daou, a Democratic consultant who wrote about Neda in the Huffington Post, it’s not quite that simple. He told CNN’s Carol Costello, “whether it becomes an iconic moment, whether a still shot out of that is the photograph that everyone sees...years to come , it’s really hard to say, but it certainly congealed the movement further, and...really refocused and reenergized people.”

Will Neda go down in history as a martyr as influential as the victims of Kent State? Or will her impact of her death on the Iranian rulers be as futile as the defiant protester who challenged the Chinese tanks?

Filed under: Iran
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. mike-sey

    Neda Warrior falls into the technology trap when he/she makes the claim that these events are not Kent State because U-tube, Face-book etc did not exist then.
    This is the same idea that propelled America into thinking they could "win" Vietnam because they had the technology the French did not, and then into thinking Iraq would be a slam dunk because the USA had the drones, satelites etc . Afghanistan , it was confidently said, was not Vietnam and technology would defeat an enemy that had seen off the Russian and British invaders – and where are we today?
    The same technology that spread Neda's photo plus a little old fashioned boots-on-the ground repression has reduced the U-tube flood to a trickle. The media has moved on; Michael Jackson has pushed Neda into the media's bank of archival footage, and her picture is probably only still displayed as a fading poster on some campus dorm-room walls alongside that of Che Guevara.

    July 22, 2009 at 5:05 pm |
  2. viddeo

    Neda is our hero

    July 22, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  3. Tom

    For the past two days I have watched CNN and other American news stations express anguish and sympathy over Neda's death. Today, I wondered how many Neda's has American attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan created? The news is just coming across the wires that US drones killed at least 60 people attending a wedding. I wonder how many tears America and the EU will shed over these deaths.

    Neda's death is tragic as are all deaths; however, is being dishonored by those who manipulate it for their own political agenda.

    June 23, 2009 at 8:43 pm |
  4. Keyvan

    Thank you for your detailed report on "Bullet Fee". We, here in the OC California, look to CNN for your excellent coverage on Iran and enjoy all of the wonderful experts who assist you with it. We're particularly impressed with Octavia's contributions, especially on the morning following last Friday's prayers. We also want to thank you for utilizing Rudi – her frank and uncompromising stance on the situation underscores the pivotal role our women are playing in this important and historic struggle.

    p.s. The retreat of Rezai & others who will surely follow was fully expected – now that they find it increasingly difficult to hide behind our boys & girls any longer.


    June 23, 2009 at 6:26 pm |
  5. Jackie


    Gregg Teslovich June 23rd, 2009 9:22 am ET
    "" When showing the video of Neda’s death CNN faded out the reality of her final moments to protect our sterile sensibilities. This makes her death less meaningful and removes the truth of such a horrific event.
    This policy not only dishonors her but also by hiding the factuality of how violence in any form actually changes a life to a death contributes to it’s continuance. Perhaps that is why the military and repressive governments invoke the policy of denying reporters access to the same truth. CNN SHOW SOME COURAGE.""

    June 23, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  6. Jackie

    I don't think our "sterile sensibilities" have anything to do with the way the video was edited by CNN. The term "sterile sensibilities" doesn't even make sense. We have all seen more shocking footage on the news, or in the theater. We are not a nation of virgin eyes and ears. The policy, if anything, protects her in her last moments from your prying eyes. In no way does this policy advocate murder. That is just an outrageous accusation. Her death isn't less meaningful because this report didn't sensationalize it and leave it raw the way you like it, it is less meaningful because people like you are hung up on how the video looks rather than the impact the death of this girl, Neda, has in Iran. Have some RESPECT for the dead, and for a nation struggling for freedom.

    June 23, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  7. Michael

    I'm surprised I haven't seen this on CNN yet. Use YouTube more, I don't care if CNN isn't a fan of Google.

    Iran Election Protest Neda's Sister Speaks About Iran

    Iran: Police attacks the protesters with tear gas (June 20) – Iranian Riots & Police Brutality

    June 23, 2009 at 11:45 am |
  8. Chuck Kulig

    I was 19 when 4 students were shot and killed by Ohio National Guardsmen at Kent State University on May 4, 1970. I remember the "Kent State Massacre" and I remember the cover-up by our government that followed. 2 weeks later 2 students at another campus were killed under similar circumstances. The events unfolding in Iran are very similar. Not the causes, because those always vary – but the Iranian government 's reaction to protest is shockingly similar.

    Those in power will always be willing to kill their own people to protect the status quo. Sadly, in 5 years no one will remember Neda, much less how or why she died. If you want to prove me wrong, name the 4 students that were killed at Kent State (without using Google to look up their names).

    June 23, 2009 at 10:19 am |
  9. William

    These are people fighting for their freedom. How is this being reported the Arab world press?

    June 23, 2009 at 9:50 am |
  10. Gregg Teslovich

    When showing the video of Neda's death CNN faded out the reality of her final moments to protect our sterile sensibilities. This makes her death less meaningful and removes the truth of such a horrific event.
    This policy not only dishonors her but also by hiding the factuality of how violence in any form actually changes a life to a death contributes to it's continuance. Perhaps that is why the military and repressive governments invoke the policy of denying reporters access to the same truth. CNN SHOW SOME COURAGE.

    June 23, 2009 at 9:22 am |
  11. Keyvan

    Is there a reason why CNN and other news channels are shying away from reporting on the “Bullet Fee” that the Iranian government charges families of executed individuals in order to release to them the bodies of their loved ones? In Neda’s case, the amount was 8.5 million Tumans (about $8000), but I understand CNN would not want to report on anything that is not absolutely verified. Unfortunately Neda was not alone. Here’s a story about another family’s nightmare and how their only child, a 19 year old young man, was gunned down in cold blood by snipers. Of course, in order for the family to have their boy’s body released to them, "they" were charged a $3000 “Bullet Fee”! I truly hope that CNN does the right thing as always and reports on this one way or another.

    Thank you,

    June 23, 2009 at 9:11 am |
  12. Shirley

    I can"t explain how I felt seeing that beautiful young woman, lying in the street, dying right in front of our eyes. I can only hope I can come up withe words to explain such monsterous things to my children. I am only one person, one little person. Neda was one person.

    June 23, 2009 at 9:03 am |
  13. NedaWarrior

    This is not Kent State, it is a World-Wide revolution for Freedom. Please remember that Kent State did not occur in the era of the Internet, YouTube and Twitter. The events in Iran are being seen instantaneously around the World, and any person that saw the video of Neda dying on the street will take up the cause.

    June 23, 2009 at 8:20 am |
  14. Todd Kelsey

    Carol, Bob, please see my ireport about Iran at:

    June 23, 2009 at 8:10 am |
  15. mike-sey

    Thanks for finally getting Neda's story straight – it differs from the accounts that have been running for days.

    As to the power of photos like the iconic Kent State foto, the first mention of this event on CNN,, lets not forget what happened subsequently. Richard Nixon was massively re-elected and continued to prosecute the war and crackdown on dissent.

    Ohio Governor James Rhodes who ordered in the Guard and referred to the protesters as unamerican and worse than brown shirts, night-riders and the vigilantes. " They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America. I think we're up against the strongest well-trained, militant , revolutionary group that has EVER assembled in America," he said the day before four students were gunned down.

    Unable,constitutionally to run for Governor, he returned four years later and was re-elected Governor for two more term by the good people of Ohio.

    Given that, It seems a stretch to suggest that the students' deaths helped bring an end to the war or the regime behind it , at least not anytime soon.

    Something to consider before reacting too gleefully or getting wildly speculative over the continued protests in Iran.

    June 23, 2009 at 8:09 am |
  16. NedaWarrior

    I am now one of the millions of Warriors for Neda from around the World, and she is our new Hero! Neda will never be forgotten, as much as the Tyrant "Leaders" in Iran, would like her to be. Any person that has tasted Freedom, or now lives in Freedom, will take up the banner for Neda and breathe new Life into the Revolution. Tyrants and Basij of Iran, please know that the World is watching You, and the killing of Neda and every other Freedom Fighter in Iran, will never be forgotten. A new day has dawned in Iran.. and it will soon bring Freedom!!

    June 23, 2009 at 7:58 am |
  17. Tom

    Could Neda have been killed by the organizers of the protest in order to create a martyr for the cause? I have seen no evidence that the government deliberately killed her.

    June 23, 2009 at 7:53 am |
  18. Ulises Gonzalez

    No matter what Neda is a martyr and hero for all Iranian women. Her voice is being herd beyond the borders of Iran. I am only waiting to see what Amnesty International and the United Nations has to say against the crimes being committed in Iran.

    June 23, 2009 at 7:52 am |
  19. jenny

    To Neda.
    You will live on in our hearts. All over the world a light should be in every window . Stand up for a woman who was murdered.For no reason.
    She stands now for every person who is not heard.
    Let her death not go un noticed . Lets keep her alive for every person in Iran who is being attacked.
    You will never be forgotten. Nor should you.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. May you know you will not be forgotten......

    June 23, 2009 at 7:52 am |