Kathy Riordan

Kathy Riordan
Florida, United States
April 27
One woman's view of life and the universe. Follow @katriord on Twitter.


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JUNE 24, 2009 12:07AM

Not That 'Neda' - How the Wrong Photo Became an Icon

Rate: 44 Flag

When the graphic video of a young girl dying on the streets of Tehran was first uploaded to the Internet last Saturday, there was no name attached to it.  All we knew was the face of a young girl struggling for her last breaths after a sniper's bullet exploded in her heart, as others attempted to save her.

Later we learned her name was 'Neda.'  

Hamed R., the Iranian expatriate living in The Netherlands who was first to put the video online and bring it to the attention of the media, told those inquiring he thought her name was possibly  'Neda Soltani.'  Not long after that people posted the name online;  it was only a few steps from there before someone discovered a photo attached to the name 'Neda Soltani' and started using it in tribute to the young woman who'd died. 


The photo erroneously attributed to the young Neda who died in the video.  This photo belongs instead to a living woman with the same name.


It was a photo of a young woman in a brightly colored headscarf, said to be a passport photo, and the resemblance was close enough people believed it was the Neda who'd met an untimely death on the streets of Tehran.  It was put on posters, used at memorials, and incorporated into online tributes.   

Problem is, it wasn't the same Neda.

Dr. Amy Beam, one of the first to see the disturbing images in the video last weekend, was so intrigued to learn the identity of the young girl that she decided to do her own sleuthing.  Finding a 'Neda Soltani' online, she sent a message.   That Neda responded to Amy, telling her she was not the woman in the video, but when she did, her photo appeared on Amy's Facebook page.  Others saw it attached to the name, and without realizing it was the wrong photo, started using it all over the Internet.

The living Neda Soltani was disturbed to suddenly see her image being used everywhere, online, on television and in the press, and solicited Amy's help in alerting the media to get it removed, no easy task.  Some people have taken the photo and started using it as their own avatar online, and for many, it has become inseparable with the martyrdom of a young girl.

Because of the confusion, the 'real' Neda Soltani in the photo can no longer use her Facebook page or display her photo, and has fought an uphill battle trying to get individuals and the media to stop using it.  

In recent days we've heard from family and friends of the young woman who died  in the video, whom we've come to know was Neda Agha-Soltan, and they've supplied several photos for use in the press.  Unfortunately, however, many people in both social and mainstream media are continuing to use the photo of another Neda, a living Neda, and making it into an icon of a movement.


Family supplied photo of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman who died in the video on the streets of Tehran. 



For an index to all my articles on Iran and Neda, see:  On the One-Year Anniversary:  A Year of Iran and Neda 


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The right human face, like other Persians I have met.
Damn, that would have to be a 'EEK' moment in life, find out you're face is representing a dead person. Wow.
Thanks for sharing. It's all so sad.
There are no ordinary feelings,
just as there are no ordinary spring days
or kicked-over cans of paint. Dean Young.`
There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.
- George Santayana.

I am saddened.
Thanks. share.
share burdens.
The real photo, with her hand on her face and her bangs and her bangle and her casual smile and her look --like the world is full of wonders and love to come-- and the flower print-blouse and the green of life all around her -- is one of the saddest things I have ever seen, because we know the horror of her violent death, in the crowded street. She has become one of the martyred innocents, imprinted forever in our consciousness.
Thank you for this post. Excellent reporting, and not something I have seen in the media at large. Rated.
I have not been able to bring myself to watch the video. I doubt I ever will. This story is sad enough.
That's the problem with a Martyr, people don't really care about the person, just the exploitation of the tragedy. Thanks for putting a face to the name and lets hope she isn't forgotten.
ohhhhh, her stunning beauty.

Such sadness.
Illuminating piece. Illuminating picture. Tragic.
Rated, with gratitude.
They also have reported her age incorrectly. Some say 16 others 26.
A tragedy no matter what face you give it.
Let us pray that it isn't compounded by right wingnuts pushing the US into an "active" role of any form. This is an issue that must be worked out by Iranians in order for it to have any credibility.
Thanks for putting up this important piece of information.
ps - I have "digged" this story (if that is a verb?) I think it important enough that I am asking that you do the same.
Ironies on many levels.
Thanks for the post. This definitely needs to be out there. It is disrespectful towards both Nedas to be labeled as someone they are not.
Oh seeing the face of this lovely young woman, so sweet and hopeful makes this all the more tragic. Putting a face to intense tragedy forces us to avoid the usual distance. The ruthlessness of what has happened and continues to happen is tragic. Thank you for posting this.
The true photo says it all. Thank you for focusing on this story...I suspect millions have still got it wrong. It would be nice if the behemoths like CNN would check their facts.
Thanks so much for this!
She was most likely picked out by a government sniper because she was in Western style dress without a scarf.
Phaedo and T.S.--If you look at the video closely, she IS wearing a black veil. It's slipped backwards on her head when she's laying on the ground dying.
Take this with a grain of salt, as the video is pretty poor quality and as far as I can tell unverified by her family, but this is supposedly a cell-phone camera video of Neda and her father taken by a bystander a few minutes before she was killed. She is to the left of her father, who is the gray-haired man in the blue striped shirt who appears in both videos.

She doesn't look to me any different in dress or demeanor than any of the other women at the protest.

Great work the EP is well deserved! Send he entire piece to Rachel Madow c/o MSNBC. She (her producer) is sure to air a piece of this magnitude...

Excellent reporting. I feel horrible for both Nedas.
T.S., I have another blog post on this site for updates on the Neda story, including information regarding the fact that her age was misreported initially as 16. You can access it here:
Thank you for posting about this. I hope others follow your excellent example. It's horrifying enough for the family without the confusion and misunderstanding over the photo.
Thank you for posting about this. I hope others follow your excellent example. It's horrifying enough for the family without the confusion and misunderstanding over the photo.
I have avoided the video as well. Deaths like these are senseless. The irresponsibility of the media is unforgivable.
Thank-you for your clarification. It's nice to allow the other Neda to reclaim her face for living purposes.
If you haven't done it already, I would like to suggest that you consider signing this open letter to the Secretary General of the United Nationas, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon regarding the Iranian elections:

I have some very good Persian friends and they are all
in shell shock at what is happening.
The Song Of Neda.
"Unlike Christianity and Judaism, Islam has gone through no reformation. And because women are considered second class citizens, they have no voice or influence in their religion. There is no choice."
Thank you so much for this update! I have corrected my blog, and hopefully others will too. Good looking out.
it's not new to us...maybe because most middle east people, Europeans and Americans looks the same...most of them have look a like...unlike Asians, they have different faces.....
Thank you for helping to set the record straight. This is such a tragic event. It doesn't need to be compounded by mistaken identity.
Another layer of this tragedy revealed. So sad. And, of the post, so well done. Rated, from someone who has something in his eye...
I have been haunted by that video ever since I saw it! Especially when she looks right into the camera, as she draws, what appears to be, her dying breath. Very sad, and one more instance of the brutality man is capable of bestowing on another.We need to know her correct name so we can pray/chant/ meditate/ reflect upon her demise.
Yes, the real photo breaks my heart. And what a strange world in which we live when someone's image can be...commandeered in such a massive way.
Not only the photo was wrong.

There is so much other strange and inconsistent information about the case that you need to think seriously about the possibility, which Iranian ambassador to Mexico hinted. That it might have been a cia operation.

"Ghadiri (through translator): This death of Ms. Nada is very suspicious. She was shot from behind. The location was where there was not much demonstration, there was no police presence and the gun that shot and killed her was a smuggled gun. It was not a government-issued gun."



Another quote from the same article:

"My question is: how is it that this Nada was shot from behind and several cameras take that. And this is done in an area where there was no important demonstration. If the CIA wants to kill some people and attribute that to elements of the government, then choosing a girl would be something good for them because it would have much higher impact."

Please read as well:




Obama is actually going to influence Iran's political situation with the grant applications actually came under the Bush Administration.

Please see:

When I first saw the video I found it quite shocking. I remember working with Lampen salesman who come from Iran and told me that the situation on the streets there was quite intense. He also said that his Lampen Shop there was was visited by the police and that they threatened to close it down. I hope the situation there will change soon.
I also read another story on Neda Agha-Soltan. Still feel very sory for her. Hope her family is alright.
I like your reporting. Although the article is old its quit interesting to read as well. Keep it up.