The Iranian regime’s characteristically awkward brutality recently handed the country’s opposition Green Movement its second female icon since protests began two years ago over allegedly rigged elections. The first one, in 2009, was Neda Agha Soltan, a 26-year-old whose death at the hands of Iran’s security forces was caught on camera, and broadcast on YouTube. Two years later it’s Haleh Sahabi, 54, a civil liberties activist and the daughter of late Iranian dissident Ezzatollah Sahabi.
She was serving a two-year prison term for participating in the 2009 protests, but was temporarily released to attend her father’s funeral on June 1. However, the regime is wary of funerals tied to dissidents and their families, fearing they might turn into anti-government gatherings after it banned the opposition from holding official rallies. And according to eyewitness accounts that the government disputes, when Haleh Sahabi set out to attend the mourning ceremony, she was attacked by plainclothes security agents who tried to stop the procession. In the scuffle, Sahabi suffered a fatal cardiac arrest. Her death has triggered an outpouring of sympathy and outrage from Iranians at home and abroad. She has already been dubbed Iran’s Antigone, after the Greek heroine who was killed for burying her brother.