Neda Agha-Soltan: A Christian?
Readers probably recognize this photo of Neda Soltan, the 26-year-old Iranian woman who was struck by a bullet in the heart on June 20, 2009 during the recent demonstrations in Iran. If you missed the earlier reports, see the Wikipedia entry on the "Death of Neda Agha-Soltan" for information and links.
Truth is hard to come by in a case such as this, for the Iranian government has clamped down on reports and has claimed that foreigners killed her. I certainly don't accept this official Iranian claim. Initially, I assumed that Ms. Soltan had simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and had gotten struck by a stray bullet, for she was apparently not directly involved in a protest at the moment, nor was she especially close to where clashes were occurring. Many reports that I've seen, however, insist that she was deliberately targeted by the Basij, a paramilitary volunteer militia formed to protect the Islamist Iranian state and monitor the Islamic practices of Iranian citizens. But I couldn't understand why someone as innocuous as Ms. Soltan would be targeted.
Now, the buzz on the internet has been growing that Ms. Soltan was a Christian, based on the evidence of what appears to be a Christian cross on the necklace that she is wearing in the photograph above. Click on the photo to enlarge the image, and decide for yourself, but it does appear to be a cross to my eyes -- as well as to the eyes of my wife.
From the fact that Ms. Soltan had studied at Islamic Azad University, majoring in philosophy and religion, I had assumed that she was Muslim, but supposing that she were a convert from Islam to Christianity, then a motive for her execution would become more plausible, for Muslim-background Christian have previously been targeted by Iran's Islamist government (e.g., Hossein Soodmand in 1989, Mehdi Dibaj in 1994, and Ghorban Tourani in 2005), and the popular disorder during the demonstrations may have provided the Basij a perfect opportunity to strike.
So . . . was Ms. Soltan a Christian . . . and was she targeted? I suspect that we'll be hearing more about this soon enough, though definitive answers might be difficult to obtain.