Iranian Woman's Death Seen as Martyrdom

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Some are calling her Iran's Joan of Arc.  Amateur video has emerged showing the brutal killing of a woman identified as "Neda."

The footage is graphic and some may find it disturbing.  It shows the final seconds of a young woman's dying moments after being shot.  People around her tried desperately to treat her.

It is not clear who shot her, but people posting the video claim she was murdered by a member of the pro-government militia.    

Millions in Iran and around the world have seen the clip --making it among the most viewed posts on the video sharing site YouTube.

Neda means "voice" or "calling" in Farsi and her death has become a rallying cry for opposition protesters.

Monday, there were reports that she was buried at Tehran's Behesht Zahra cemetary, which has been called the world's largest cemetery for Islamic martyrs.

A few years ago, CBN News Senior Reporter George Thomas had the rare opportunity to visit the sacred place and to highlight the important place given to martyrdom in Iranian society.  Click play or read below for his report.

For decades, Iran's rulers have praised such acts of death calling them "blessed."  In 1979, Ayatullah Khomeini, the man who led the Islamic revolution in Iran, said that the "tree of Islam should be watered with the blood of martyrs."

On all Thursday's, Ali Saeed is at Behesht Zahra, Iran's famous cemetery. Located southwest of Iran's capital city Tehran, Behesht Zahra means "Paradise of Zahra." 

"We believe that those who have become martyrs are alive and we who are alive are really dead," Saeed explained.

There's a section of the cemetery that's reserved just for martyrs.  There, thousands of young men and boys are buried. They died either during the Islamic revolution or the war with Iraq.

"This is something that you cannot understand.  Martyrs never die and I am praying to become one," he continued.

Saeed prays and recites the Koran to the side of his brother's grave who was killed during the revolution.

"These men are the symbols of all the things that I could not achieve," he said.

Saeed is not there alone. Hundreds of Iranians come to Behesht Zahra each week to keep alive the memory of the martyrs until they can join them. 

Megghdad Hamedinia brought his wife and 19-month-old daughter to the cemetery. 

"I'd like to see the children who come here follow the example of these martyrs," he said.  "My goal is to raise my daughter so that she will follow the same path."

Mahri Riyahi, 15, has came to pray for her cousin who was killed in the Iraq-Iran war.

"I hope that I am worthy enough to be equal as these martyrs one day," she said.

And in a society where women are often treated as second-class citizens, it now appears that thousands of women like Neda are playing a crucial role in these protests.

On the senate floor this afternoon, Sen. John McCain payed tribute to Neda and said her death was, "a defining moment in the struggle of the Iranian people."

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George Thomas

George Thomas

CBN News Sr. Reporter

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