Be grateful for what you have

Published 8:15 am Thursday, June 24, 2010

We do it each day without ever realizing it.

Each day we take the simple and common freedoms we have here in the United States for granted. At times we even question whether those freedoms should exist or if they should be limited.

On Sunday, I had a huge reminder that I should value living in America. I watched a documentary called “For Neda”, directed and produced by filmmaker Antony Thomas. The film chronicled the life of Neda Agah-Soltan, a 27-year-old Iranian woman who was killed last year by a government militiaman’s bullet during post-election protests in Tehran, Iran.

The documentary, in part, follows Iranian journalist Saeed Kamali Dehghan who snuck in documentary equipment into Iran to interview Soltan’s family and friends. Dehghan risked severe punishment as the Iranian government often bans and restricts foreign reporters from the country. State-controlled media reports within the country.

Sunday marked the one year anniversary of the death of Soltan.

While she was only one of reportedly 150 people killed, Soltan’s name and image became synomus with the Iranian reformist opposition after a video surfaced on the Internet of her death.

At the time of her senseless death, Soltan was walking down a street in Tehran with her music teacher to where protesters were demonstrating.

It was June 20, 2009 and the eighth day of protests since the re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Many people felt the election was fixed and thousands took to the streets, the majority to protest peacefully. Within days of the beginning of the protests, foreign media was banned from Iran and even Iranian media was removed from the streets and forbidden from covering the protests. After a while, Internet access was even censored and banned.

But this didn’t stop “citizen journalists” from documenting the events of what was called the “Green Revolution.” Every day people took photos and filmed the events in front of their very eyes and posted them on sites like Youtube, Facebook and Twitter. It was the only source of coverage coming out of Iran and the international media took notice.

Along with documenting the protests, hand held cameras and the video features on their phones also captured the atrocities occurring to protesters as police and the Basij, a parliamentary volunteer militia, threw gas bombs and shot into the crowds. As reported by those who witnessed Soltan’s death, it was a Basij militiaman who aimed for and killed her.

According to the documentary, Soltan was an outspoken individual from the start, refusing to wear a chador, the traditional head covering for Iranian women, at a young age. Soltan loved to sing, dance and read what the Iranian government considers “subversive” novels like “Withering Heights” and other well-known novels in the privacy of her own home.

In Iran, women are second to all. They must wear their chador everywhere, even to the beach, to avoid being punished. They cannot divorce their husband, but if their husband divorces them he claims their children and the wife can never see them again.

Like many in Iran, it was the freedom of expressing one’s self that Soltan desired most. That freedom, among others, is something that comes easy to Americans and good portion of the world.

We can protest peacefully without being jailed or harmed; we can read any book we like sitting on a bench in a park without being harassed; we can even go onto the Internet under anonymity and write our opinions.

Be thankful for what you have.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: or call (252) 332-7209.