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Monday, May 27, 2013

Remembering Neda: The Angel of Iran

"You are neither dead, nor will you die
 You will always remain alive
You have eternal existence
 You are the voice of the people of Iran."
.....a poem for Neda Soltan.......
      Simin Behbahani
      Iran's national poet

  On June 20th, 2009, the world witnessed the gruesome death of a young Iranian woman through a cell phone video. The video graphically showed a beautiful young woman lying  on her back bleeding in an alleyway in Tehran and surrounded by friends desperately trying to save her life. Despite their heroic efforts, she tragically died after being fatally shot in the chest by a Basiji officer nearby.
 Through a two-minute video, the world was introduced to a young Iranian woman named Neda Soltan, who had joined thousands of other protesters in peacefully demonstrating the results of a corrupt presidential election in Iran.
 This intense and graphic video was the turning point in my life. It had a dramatic effect on me as it did on the millions of others who watched it.  I was in tears watching Neda gasping for life with her eyes wide open in fear. Something inside me snapped as I watched it. I immediately felt a "calling" to speak out for Iranians. I was outraged that their basic fundamental right to protest and disagree was being met with such violent opposition by an oppressive government. I was astonished to later discover that Neda's
name means, "calling." It was then that I realized that God was using this video as a "calling" for me to be a voice for Iranians.
 Now four years later, I have authored six books and written several blogs about the plight of Iranians for peace and freedom in their country. One of these books  "The Rose of Nowruz: dreams of hope and freedom, " is dedicated to Neda, for her courage and conviction to be a voice for her people. I have been blessed to become a friend of Neda's fiance, Caspian Makan, a human rights spokesman living in Canada and have shared my book with him. Caspian has dedicated his life to keep Neda's dream for a free Iran alive through postings, pictures and articles on his webpage.
"The Rose of Nowruz" is now being read on pdf files by many of friends in Iran and giving them hope that one day, a Free Iran will be more than just a dream.
 In my book, Bahareh, a concert violinist, witnesses the Ghaste Ershade beating a woman outside of her apartment window because she wasn't wearing her hijab properly in public.
It was this event in Bahareh's life that motivated her to be a activist and voice for her friends suffering under a corrupt regime.
 There is a special song in my book, written by Bahareh, a song dedicated to the day when Iranians can once again walk down the streets of Tehran without fear. As I remember Neda today, I want to share this song with you. They are words of hope, dedicated to a woman, who through her tragic sacrifice, has illuminated the darkness of Iran with an eternal spirit of courage and freedom.

                                              The Rose of Nowruz

 There is a rose that was silenced that was crushed, but it will grow again, the sun will shine again.
 You gave us hope, gave us freedom, gave us life. You life will never end. The rose will live again.
  The sun is gonna shine again. The rose is gonna live again.
 Give me wings of freedom so I can fly. I wanna fly high. I wanna soar.
  Give me wings of freedom or let me die. I wanna touch the sky. I wanna soar!
                 (Dedicated to the angel of Iran: Neda Soltan)

"A Legacy of hatred, oppression and fear."

"I will stop Christianity in this country!"
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad

In January 1863, amidst the bloody confrontation between the North and the South, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed an end to slavery by issuing the famous, "emancipation proclamation." The Emancipation Proclamation immediately mandated the freedom of all slaves in the confederate states and issued a call for to the Army to treat as free all those that had been enslaved.
It was Lincoln who later declared on the bloody battlefield of Gettysburg that true government is, "of the people, by the people and for the people."
President Lincoln truly lived up to the calling of his elected office. He served the people with integrity and respect, leaving behind a legacy of freedom for the blacks and putting an end to an era of hatred and racism. 
Every government official, every elected leader, is sworn to his or her duty to uphold the Constitution and serve their consitutuents with fairness, honesty, and integrity. 
While Lincoln serves as a great example of leaving behind an honorable legacy of truth and freedom, Iranian President Ahmadinejad is the complete opposite.
On June 14, Iran will hold its presidential election. Ahmadinejad will step down after eight years and for millions of Iranians it is welcome relief. Unlike Lincoln, who freed millions of slaves, Ahmadinejad instead leaves behind a legacy of lies, hatred, and death. Lincoln brought freedom, while Ahmadinejad brought bondage and death. Since his presidency there has been more adult and child executions than any other country in the world. More than 500 executions topped the list in 2012 and this year so far 90 executions have been reported. Under Ahmadinejad there have been thousands of house arrests of political activists, journalists, bloggers and lawyers, silenced for speaking their minds and subsequently tortured in prisons all over Iran. The United Nations recently issued a stern warning to Iran for the continued gross violations of human rights, calling on them to conform to the international standards for the treatment of human beings.
Murder, imprisonment, discrimination, hatred, repression, the list goes on and on and one grows weary from reading about the fear and oppression resulting from the policies of Ahmadinejad and the Supreme leader of Iran.
Perhaps the single most "cherished" agenda that Ahmadinejad vowed to carry out was the elimination of Christianity in Iran. A few years after he was elected, Ahmadinejad publicly proclaimed, " I will stop Christianity in Iran." Shortly after that public vow, Christians were rounded up and arrested, many of them on Christmas day and put in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. Ahmadinejad kept his vow. Christians were tortured and beaten for their faith with the purpose of forcing them to recant and return to Islam. Despite the fact that the Iranian Constitution allows for "religious freedom," the present regime ignored their own law and began a crusade to purify Iran from any competing religious minorities.
The streets of Iran were filled with violence and death after the 2009 election. Iranians were outraged at what they perceived as an unfair and corrupt election. Many of the protesters to this day are still under house arrest with no hope of freedom, their voices silenced by a corrupt and intolerant regime. Many of my Iranian friends have told me during our chats online that they have no hope and refuse to vote in the upcoming election.
Lincoln left behind a legacy of hope and freedom to our nation. His famous phrase of true government being "of the people, by the people and for the people," is dream that my Iranian friends hunger and thirst for. They are tired of the violence and death that surrounds them. They have lost all hope for a freedom that you and I take for granted every single day.
As Ahmadinejad finally steps down, what can my friends expect from the next leader?
What kind of legacy will he leave?
Please join me in speaking out and praying for my friends in Iran. They need a true leader who will one day leave behind a legacy of
hope and freedom.
It's never too late to begin speaking out and praying.
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves:
 ensure justice for those being crushed."
    (Proverbs 31:8)