Iran's other Neda finds political voice
An Iranian woman mistaken for Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death in post-election protests last year became a symbol of Iran's opposition movement, has found her own political voice after being forced into exile.
"I have a personal link to her (the other Neda) because her death somehow caused a serious destruction of my life. Not her immediate death but the consequences of her death," Neda Soltani told AFP.
Shocking images of Agha-Soltan bleeding to death on a Tehran street after being shot during a June 2009 demonstration were broadcast on the Internet and seen around the world.
The 26-year-old student was viewed as a martyr, and in a rush to get images several media mistakenly took a picture of Soltani from her Facebook page and presented it as Agha-Soltan. Within days, the photo was printed on t-shirts, posters and in newspapers around the world.
Soltani, a 32-year-old English literature lecturer from the University of Tehran, had no connection with Agha-Soltan.
Despite her attempts to correct the mistake, the Iranian regime threatened her life and eventually she sought political asylum in Germany.
"The Iranian regime wanted to use the confusion to its own advantage, by saying the tragic death had not taken place," she said.
"Because I did not want to cooperate with them, I was accused of treason and spying. I finally had to leave everything and seek asylum.
"I am really thankful and I must acknowledge my appreciation of the German authorities for giving me a second chance.
"It's a very difficult life because I have to start everything again. I don't have any relatives in Germany, my family lives in Iran.
"Everybody (political refugees) wants to go back home and for me it's even stronger because I am not even here because of the consequences of my own actions," she said.
"I am here because of the fault of the media and the brutality of the Iranian regime, what they have done to me."
Despite previously not being "a political person", Soltani travelled to France to speak at an event on Saturday hosted by feminist movement Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Whores Nor Submissive) in support of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian mother-of-two facing death by stoning.
The sentencing of Sakineh, who was convicted of adultery, has prompted global condemnation. The campaign for her release is particularly strong in France, where a petition was signed by First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.
"I cannot claim that I am a political person. However I can say that after being targeted by such a huge case, I cannot remain indifferent to the politics of my country and what is happening there," said Soltani.
"Sakineh suffers because she is a woman in a totalitarian system."
© 2010 AFP