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At the height of the protests following Iran’s controversial presidential election this summer, a young woman named Neda Agha Soltan was shot and killed on the streets of Tehran. Her death — filmed on a cameraphone, then uploaded to the web — quickly became an international outrage, and Agha Soltan became the face of a powerful movement that threatened the hard-line government’s hold on power.
With the help of a unique network of correspondents in and out of the country, FRONTLINE investigates the life and death of the woman whose image remains a potent symbol for those who want to keep the reform movement alive. The film also explores a number of unanswered questions in the aftermath of the greatest upheaval in Iran since the 1979 revolution: How many were arrested and killed as the security forces attempted to contain the growing protest movement? To what extent was the presidential vote manipulated? What is the future of the movement that seems to have been silenced?
Read the official press release after the break.
FRONTLINE INVESTIGATES THE CONTROVERSIAL IRANIAN ELECTION AND THE DEATH OF ONE YOUNG PROTESTER SEEN AROUND THE WORLD
A DEATH IN TEHRAN
Tuesday, November 17, 2009, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS
At the height of the protests following Iran’s controversial presidential election this summer, a young woman named Neda Soltan was shot and killed on the streets of Tehran. Her death–filmed on a camera phone, then uploaded to the Web–quickly became an international outrage, and Soltan became the face of a powerful movement that threatened the hard-line government’s hold on power.
In A Death in Tehran, airing Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS (check local listings), FRONTLINE revisits the events of last summer, shedding new light on the life and death of Neda Soltan and the movement she helped inspire.
In response to the international outcry over Neda’s death—including President Obama’s confirmation that he’d seen the “heartbreaking” video on YouTube–the regime set about attempting to rewrite the story, pointing a finger at the CIA and outside agitators, the same forces they blamed for the mass street protests and allegations of vote rigging that led to the greatest upheaval in Iran since the revolution of 1979. FRONTLINE uncovers some video of Neda’s killer–a member of the Basij militia who’d been brought into Tehran by the regime’s Revolutionary Guards to stamp out the “Green Revolution. ” A medical doctor in the crowd who had watched Neda die now watched as the crowd considered its own violence against the Basij militia member:
“They started to discuss what to do with him, ” the doctor recalled. “They grabbed his wallet, took out his ID card and started shouting, ‘He is a Basiji member; he is one of them,’ and started swearing and cursing him, and he was begging for people not to harm him or kill him. … They believed the police wouldn’t do anything to him as the Basiji are really powerful and he would have easily have got away, so in all of the chaos they decided to release him. ”
The Iranian government admits 11 protesters were killed on June 20, but doctors from three Tehran hospitals confirmed at least 34. Other bodies were buried by security forces without first being identified. In October, the regime tried to script the end of the story for Neda. But instead, Neda’s mother made a very public stand. The government offered her financial help if she would blame Neda’s death on opponents of the regime. All she had to do was to agree to call Neda a “martyr ” for the Islamic Republic. But she refused, telling FRONTLINE: “Neda died for her country not so I could get a monthly income from the Martyr Foundation. If these officials say Neda was a martyr, why do they keep wiping off the word ‘martyr’ which people write in red on her gravestone? ”
A Death in Tehran is produced in partnership with Tehran Bureau, a unique online source of independent reporting, essay and comment on Iran. Tehran Bureau’s popularity during the post-election protests prompted FRONTLINE to partner with the site in order to stay on top of one of the major stories of our time and to continue to integrate the Web into FRONTLINE’s public-interest mission by using all platforms to incubate and publish stories.
A Death in Tehran is a Ronachan Film production in association with WGBH/FRONTLINE and the BBC. The producer is Monica Garnsey. The senior producer for FRONTLINE is Ken Dornstein. FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation. FRONTLINE is closed-captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers and described for people who are blind or visually impaired by the Media Access Group at WGBH. FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of the WGBH Educational Foundation. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is David Fanning.
Promotional photography can be downloaded from the PBS pressroom.
Diane Buxton (617) 300-5375 [email protected]
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