The doctor who got death threats after trying to save the life of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman who became the symbol of the anti-government protests in Iran in 2009.
Arash Hejazi smokes hand-rolled cigarettes, which he keeps in a silver case. He speaks a considered, professorial English, idiosyncratic only because of his Iranian accent. Despite having endured much since the summer of 2009, he exudes the guileless energy of a very young man (he is 37).
You may not have heard Hejazi’s name before, but it’s likely that you already know something of his story. During the Green Movement protests that swept across Iran in the summer of 2009, Hejazi was standing next to a young woman when she was shot. He bent over her prostrate body as she lay dying, in an unsuccessful attempt to save her life. A video of those events was posted online and soon became international news: images of Hejazi and the tragic girl were transmitted into hundreds of millions of living rooms. That girl was Neda Agha-Soltan, and she became a symbol of a new Iranian generation, their dream of freedom, and the brutal suppression of that dream.
On 20 June 2009, Neda Agha Soltan was shot in the heart by a sniper and lay bleeding to death in a backstreet of Tehran. Within hours of her death this young Iranian woman’s dying moments, captured on mobile phones, were appearing on computer screens across the world.
Anthony Thomas’s film tells Neda’s personal story and attempts to find out who this young woman was, how she became a powerful symbol to millions and what she was fighting for.
The film not only shows the plight of the Iranian citizens who peacefully fought to free their country from its current government regime, but also the ongoing struggle the women of Iran face every day in an attempt to live a life free from oppression.
The only way to get to the heart of the story was to work inside Iran, at a time when foreign film-makers are forbidden entry, and Iranians themselves risk arrest and long-term imprisonment if caught filming without official approval.
The film won the Foreign Press Association’s Best TV Feature/ Documentary Award and was among 2011′s Peabody Awards winners list.
Thank you Arash, I want to thank you for making me appreciate my freedom to be and do whatever I want and feel. Thank you for letting me know lot of things about your beautiful country. Thank you for letting me know about the story of your country, of its culture through the innocent but critic eyes of a little smart boy, of an adolescent and of a young man as you was and I am. Thank you for letting me knowing Neda, the Voice of freedom. Last but not least thank you for letting me cry, on a plane, reading the last page of your beautiful book “The Gaze of the Gazelle” just few hours ago, reading words of hope for the present.
Nothing personal just wanted you to know how much you impressed me with your words. Again thank you
(A very nice feedback from an Italian reader of The Gaze of the Gazelle)
Sorry but I write with translator, my name is Romina, I am writing from Italy (ancona-marche). I read the book In the Eyes of the Gazelle (the Gaze of the Gazelle: Negli occhi della gazzella), it was so beautiful!
I tried to understand better what you meant, jihad, Basij, imams, mullahs, jinn, Shari’a, Tudeh and other terms … I have seen many pictures, women with hijab, your wonderful mountains, the lights of Tehran in the evening, the moon, the stars, Iran is really a beautiful world!
I found pictures of Neda when she died, and I have them saved on my PC, sometimes I look at those beautiful eyes that only the Iranian women have … Her smile is forever caught in the middle, then it’s your book, which hit my soul, I would like to thank you for the gift that you gave me, your story, your writing about your life, your emotions … I can never forget!
I thank you very much for what imprinted on my heart!
I’m talking to my friends about your work, I would like to share this excitement with them!
I hug you my friend!
with great affection
In his book, The Gaze of the Gazelle (Negli Occhi della Gazzella)… [Arash Hejazi's] the autobiography becomes a story of a generation that grew up under the Orwellian eye of the Islamic Revolution. Hejazi says that he has written these pages ‘to heal’. Neda is the beginning and end of the story.
Parts of President Barak Obama’s speach on the Middle East on 19 May 2011:
Thus far, Syria has followed its Iranian ally, seeking assistance from Tehran in the tactics of suppression. This speaks to the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, which says it stands for the rights of protesters abroad, yet suppresses its people at home. Let us remember that the first peaceful protests were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalised women and men, and threw innocent people into jail. We still hear the chants echo from the rooftops of Tehran. The image of a young woman dying in the streets is still seared in our memory. And we will continue to insist that the Iranian people deserve their universal rights, and a government that does not smother their aspirations.
Citation: Hejazi, Arash, ‘You don’t deserve to be published’ Book Censorship in Iran, LOGOS: The Journal of the World Book Community, Volume 22, Number 1, 2011 , pp. 53-62(10), DOI: 10.1163/095796511X562644
Censorship is as old as human intellect. It has been practised in almost every country at some level throughout history: from 399 BC, when Socrates was forced to drink poison, to the horrors of the Inquisition, and the oficial coining of the concept with the publication of Index Librorum Prohibitorum by the Roman Catholic Church; from the obligation of English publishers to register their books with the Stationers’ Company in the 16th century until the case of D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover; and the Nazi book-burning campaign and the absolute offfĳicial control of the governments of the USSR, China, and Eastern European countries over published material.
It has always been a highly controversial issue as well, especially since Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) requested the member states of the UN to enforce freedom of speech in their countries. The concept of censorship has been defĳined by various authors and organizations, but no agreed defĳinition has yet been given; therefore the term covers a wide range of activities which sometimes overlap with other concepts, such as moderation, regulation, sensitivity, and intervention. However, for the purpose of this research, the term censorship only refers to restrictions imposed by an authority or authoritative body on a creative work, which impedes the availability of the original work to its potential audience prior to or after its publication, or forces the creator to modify or omit parts or all of the work against their free will. Therefore,
editorial intervention does not fĳit the criteria, as it can be prevented by the free will of the author. The only exception is self-censorship which can be categorized under censorship by fear; one of the most powerful restrictive tools which may have the power to act as an authoritative body, inflicted by conditions outside the author’s control.
The importance of addressing censorship as an issue becomes more evident when considering that, despite the abolition of most of the traditional and historical tools for imposing restrictions on freedom of speech by the coming of information technology and the internet revolution, it is still being practised, and controls a wide range of the mind’s expressions, including books.
Therefore, it seems that raising awareness towards the consequences of censorship has never been more important since the Enlightenment, and the censorship practised in Iran today is a good example…
The highlights of General Roozbahani’s interview with Aftabnews on Monday 09 May:
- The police will enter the war with West’s cultural invasion and moral corruption with all its might.
- We will strictly prohibit dog-walking after the legistlation is passed through the parliament. Dogs creat insecurity for the citizens and sometimes they bark!
- Not observing the Islamic Hijab (cover) is against the civil rights.
- The usage of satellite dishes has created problems for the country and is against the civil rights.