Hajar Rostami Motlagh told the Voice of America on Sunday that 'Neda died for her country, not so that I could get a monthly income,' amid reports that the Martyr Foundation was offering compensation for the slain young woman if it was proven that she had been the victim of a 'plot by opponents and enemies' of the regime. Any acceptance of said funds by Neda's family would constitute a confirmation of the government's official scenario.
'If it is proven that Neda Agha Soltan was killed as the result of a plot hatched by enemies, and the proper security bodies confirm this, she will be covered by the Martyr Foundation,' said Massoud Zaribafan, head of the Martyr and Veterans' Affairs Foundation, in an exclusive interview with the Iranian Labor News Agency on Saturday.
'The footage shows that Neda Agha Soltan was murdered as a result of a plot by opponents and enemies,' said Zaribafan at a veterans' affairs conference, before conceding that the Martyr Foundation does not have an investigative arm. 'The Intelligence Ministry and other bodies which can discover the truth must tell us what happened.' Neda's family would have to be covered by the Martyr Foundation to compensate for its damages if the existence of a plot was proven, Zaribafan added.
'If these officials are saying that Neda was a martyr, why do they keep wiping off the word "martyr" that the people write in red on her gravestone?' countered Neda's mother in a telephone interview broadcast on VOA. 'Neda died like Sohrab and Ashkan and the other kids,' she said, naming Sohrab Aarabi and Ashkan Sohrabi, two other young protesters who were killed by security forces during the post-election unrest. 'However the other kids were killed, my Neda was killed the same way. There was no plot.'
Neda's mother forcefully rejected any compensation from the government, saying, 'I just want the killer to be found and brought to justice.' (NB The translation of the interview with Neda's mother is available at the end of this article)
This is only the latest episode in a string of bumbling efforts by the Iranian regime to divert attention from the most famous victim of its crackdown following the disputed election of June 12. Neda was shot on the street on June 20, one of the bloodiest days for protesters in Tehran.
The government's reaction was telling. A manhunt was launched for one of the key eyewitnesses of the killing, Dr. Arash Hejazi, who managed to escape to London where he divulged that the alleged murderer had been caught by protesters and released after they took away his identity cards. ID cards belonging to a Basij militiaman have been posted on the Internet and Hejazi has said that the photo corresponds to the man he saw the protesters capture, although he did not see the actual shooting. Out of respect for the presumption of innocence, this blog will not publish the photos or the name of the individual.
The regime initially blamed the BBC's correspondent Jonathan Leyne for orchestrating the murder of Neda for a documentary he was making. Neda's fiance, Caspian Makan, was arrested on June 26 and reportedly released on bail in September.
More recently, when confronted by NBC's Katie Couric with a photo of Neda, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whipped out his own photo... of Marwa Ali Sherbini, a head-scarved Egyptian woman who had been stabbed to death by a racist lunatic in a German courthouse. Ahmadinejad has claimed that Neda was shot by agents of the Mujahedin Khalgh Organization (MKO), an armed resistance movement which is broadly discredited in Iran because of its cooperation with the Saddam government during the Iran-Iraq War.
Translation of the VOA interview with Neda's mother
Hajar Rostami Motlagh, Neda's mother:
I heard about this yesterday, when one of the domestic dailies called me. Then I read about it in another newspaper today. But under no condition... in any case, it's not true that my daughter was the victim of a plot. I will never accept to be covered by the Martyr Foundation. Neda died for her country, not so that I could get a monthly income. If these officials are saying that Neda was a martyr, why do they keep wiping off the word 'martyr' that the people write in red on her gravestone?
Massoud Zaribafan, the head of the Martyr Foundation, said yesterday that the footage of Neda's death shows that she was the victim of a plot hatched by opponents and enemies. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has told foreign media that Neda's death was suspicious. What do you think?
Hajar Rostami Motlagh:
No, Neda died like Sohrab and Ashkan and the other kids. However the other kids were killed, my Neda was killed the same way. There was no plot. Neda escaped and ran into the street to get into the car and she was felled by a bullet 26 meters, 26 steps, from the car.
In any case, they've said that you will be covered by the Martyr Foundation to compensate for the damages. They refer to Neda's death as 'damages.'
Hajar Rostami Motlagh:
Mr. Yazdian, if they give me the world, I will never accept. The world can't even equal a hair on Neda's head. I can't accept such a thing. Neda's gone and nothing, not money or monthly income, nothing can compensate for it. I just want the killer to be found and brought to justice. The important thing is that my Neda has found honor before God, and the people of Iran and the world. That's the important thing for me. To have her registered as a martyr somewhere means nothing to me. I will never do such a thing. I will never be convinced to have Neda's name registered somewhere as a martyr. She was martyred before God and the people, and that's enough for me.
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