WASHINGTON (AFP) – The son of the late shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, was Monday carrying in his breastpocket a photograph of the slain protester known as Neda said to have been killed in the Tehran protests.
“I have added her (Neda) to the list of my daughters. She is now forever in my pocket,” Pahlavi told AFP fighting back tears, after calling at a press conference for Western media and governments to stand strongly alongside the protest movement in Iran.
The former crown prince of Iran took from his left breastpocket photographs of his wife, Yasmine, and three daughters, Noor, Iman and Farah, and, in the same clutch of images, one of a veiled Neda.
He held them up silently, and stammered an apology for having tears in his eyes.
A video of a blood-drenched young woman, purportedly killed in protests in Tehran, has been flashed around the world via the Internet since it was posted Saturday.
The woman, known only as Neda, has become a symbol of Iranian defiance of the country’s Islamic rulers and their insistence that hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won this month’s presidential election.
In a speech at the packed National Press Club in Washington, Pahlavi slammed the “brutal violence of the regime’s plain-clothes thugs against unarmed people” and urged global media to continue to be “the international artery” of the Iranian protest movement.
“No one will benefit from closing his or her eyes to knives and cables cutting into faces and mouths of our young and old, or from bullets piercing our beloved ‘Neda’ whose only sin was the quest for freedom — no one but tyrants and their thugs,” Pahlavi said, breaking off his speech as he was overcome by emotion.
According to Iranian state radio, at least 457 people were detained in street clashes in Tehran on Saturday that left 10 people dead, bringing the overall toll from a week of violence to at least 17.
Pahlavi said the toll was probably higher than reported, but added it was hard to come up with an exact number because, sources inside Iran have told him, victims “are often dragged to places where even their own families can’t recover them.”