She apparently kept teddy bears in her bedroom, even at age 27, but as a teenager, Neda Agha-Soltan rebelled against the Iranian government’s strict dress codes, unafraid to tell authority figures, “no.” Neda Agha-Soltan could be paradoxical. Small details about the Iranian woman are what make the HBO documentary, “For Neda,” so gut-wrenching. Agha-Soltan was shot to death a year ago in what became a defining moment in the Iranian protest movement that still seeks to reform Tehran’s system of government. Did Agha-Soltan die in vain?
That’s a question that “For Neda” asks with a sense of urgency. Agha-Soltan’s family in Tehran is still trying to make sense of the tragedy, which snuffed out a person who was so in love with the future. Agha-Soltan’s family risked their lives to talk before the documentary’s cameras. An Iranian journalist, Saeed Kamali Dehghan, who now lives in Britain, risked his life to return to Tehran and film the family. A year after her death, Agha-Soltan is inspiring people, and having an impact on strangers and loved ones alike.
The Iranian government tried to block “For Neda” from being shown in Iran, but HBO and the filmmakers have arranged it to be viewed on YouTube. I saw the documentary a few hours ago. You can see it yourself below. “For Neda” is a gripping narrative – one of the most elucidating films ever made on Iran. It situates Agha-Soltan’s life into the Iranian Revolution’s historic crackdown on women’s rights. In the days before she died, Agha-Soltan was confronted in the street by three Basiji women who – representing an absolutist view – warned her to stay home. “Dear, please don’t come out so beautiful,” they told her, according to the documentary. “Basiji target beautiful girls, and they will shoot you.”
Looking back, the admonition is eerie and chilling. “For Neda” connects the dots in a way that is unforgettable, tear-inducing, anger-inducing, and inspiring – all at the same time.