ISRAEL: Iranian exile linked to Neda meets with President Shimon Peres
The pictures of Neda Agha-Soltan, whose violent death documented on the streets of Tehran in January became a defining moment and image of the young Iranian opposition, had reached around the world and Israel too. Nearly nine months after her death, another reminder reaches Israel: Caspian Makan.
Caspian Makan claimed to be Neda's beau at the time; they had planned to get engaged, he had told the press then.
Makan arrived in Israel last week. He arrived on an El Al flight and had his Iranian passport stamped at Ben Gurion airport, sure signs he doesn't intend to return to the Iran he fled. He asked to meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres, who was glad to accept, and the two met Monday evening.
"I come to Israel as an ambassador of the Iranian people, a messenger from the camp of peace," the Iranian exile told his Israeli host. "I have no doubt that Neda's spirit and soul feels the sensitivity and warmth I received in this meeting."
The fight will go on, he pledged.
Makan told Peres about Neda. She was a progressive person, a freedom fighter; these traits flowed through her veins and she loved people with every inch of her soul, he said. They had spoken about her goals and "both knew the danger," Makan said.
After she was killed, she became a symbol of freedom across the entire world, Makan said, expressing the hope that "her actions will lead to change in the future."
President Peres said that what happened to Neda proves that although a young woman has been killed, "you can murder a person but not a spirit. One candle can scatter a lot of darkness. And this candle will not be extinguished." Peres expressed confidence that "the progressive and moral Iran will emerge victorious" from this struggle.
Peres, old enough to remember better days between Israel and Iran, told Makan that Israel feels a "historic connection to the Iranian people." Iran is not enriched uranium but an ancient culture, he said, whose honor was restored in the uprising. The struggle, he said, is a moral fight -- "and Neda was a brave soldier in that struggle."
"I know that you carry a burden of immense grief," Peres told Makan,"despite us being members of separate nations, you will feel and find in Israel lots of friendship, warmth and respect for your fight". The president expressed gratitude for the opportunity to express his condolences for the private tragedy-- "and also mention my great hope for your future."
Caspian Makan also told his story to Israeli Channel 2, who accompanied him as he landed in Israel. Asked if young people stood a chance of making change in Iran, he said certainly, yes. "Today, the Iranian people know their rights have been taken from them. They are determined the win and remove the present rule."
One blogger called Makan "Machiavellian," saying his trip to Israel would harm Iran's opposition movement.
President Peres has expressed his support of the young Iranians' protest against the regime before. "Let the young people raise the voice of freedom," he had said in June, praising their courage -- especially that of the women -- "Let them voice their thirst for equality, for freedom."
In a December interview to BBC Persian, Peres stressed that Israel was not fighting the Iranian people but Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "I am sure the Iranian people will judge him," he had said, adding: "Let's invest in the future of our children, not in the future of your missiles or uranium enrichment. They don't have a future."
Peres gave Caspian Makan a gift of a figurine of a peace dove -- and wished the Iranian people a happy Persian New Year.-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem
Photo: Caspian Makan, left; President Shimon Peres, right. Credit: Jossef Avi Yair Engel.