World

Neda shot by Iranian militiaman, doctor tells BBC

An Iranian doctor who tried to save a woman shot on the streets of Tehran during a protest over the country's election says she was slain by a member of the Basij militia, a voluntary paramilitary group.

An Iranian doctor who tried to save a woman shot on the streets of Tehran during a protest over the country's election says she was slain by a member of the Basij militia, a voluntary paramilitary group.

Neda Agha-Soltan, shot and killed near one of Tehran's protest sites on Saturday, has become a symbol of Iran's reform movement. ((Courtesy of Caspian Makan))
Dr. Arash Hejazi, who is studying at a university in the south of England, said in an interview with the BBC Thursday that he was standing a metre away from Neda Agha-Soltan when she was struck in the chest by a bullet.

"She was in a shocked situation, just looking at her chest," Hejazi told the British broadcaster.

"We ran to her and lay her on the ground. I saw the bullet wound just below the neck with blood gushing out.

"I have never seen such a thing because the bullet, it seemed to have blasted inside her chest, and later on, blood exiting from her mouth and nose."

Despite his desperate attempts to save Agha-Soltan, he said she died within a minute.

Hejazi said he initially thought the bullet was fired from a rooftop, but moments later, others on the street seized an armed Basij militia member who shouted to the crowd that he "didn't want to kill her."

After taking pictures of his militia identity card, the crowd let the man go, Hejazi said.

Hejazi said he now fears he will not be able to return to Iran because he spoke out.

Videos of Agha-Soltan's bloody death were first posted Saturday on YouTube but quickly spread across news websites and on social media networks.

According to friends and her family, the 26-year-old university student was not a protester but was stuck in traffic near a large demonstration when she was killed. Since her death, vigils in her honour have been held around the world, and her image has become a global symbol for the Iranian opposition movement.

Hers is believed to be one of at least 17 deaths reported by state media during fierce clashes between anti-government protesters and the police or the Basij.

The feared paramilitary group has been instrumental in the crackdown on demonstrators protesting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed victory in the presidential election.

Armin Abedi, a friend of Agha-Soltan who lives in Toronto, told the CBC this week that she loved music, painting and singing but was definitely not a supporter of Mir Hossein Moussavi, the reform candidate whose defeat on June 12 and allegations of a fraudulent vote count sparked a series of protests.