LONDON – An Iranian doctor who claims he tried to save Neda Agha Soltan as the young Iranian protester bled to death on the streets of Tehran said Thursday that she was shot by a member of Iran's pro-government Basij militia.
Video images of 26-year-old Soltan, with blood pouring from her mouth and nose as a few Iranian men struggled to save her, have became a powerful symbol of the protests taking place over Iran's disputed presidential election.
Dr. Arash Hejazi told the British Broadcasting Corp. that he was one of those men who tried to save her.
Hejazi, who is currently studying in England, said he was briefly visiting friends in Tehran when he heard the protest Soltan was taking part in and went to see it.
Suddenly, he said, police began to fire tear gas and race forward on motorcycles.
"We heard a gunshot. Neda was standing one meter away from me. I turned back and I saw blood gushing out of Neda's chest," he said. "We ran to her and lay her on the ground. I saw the bullet wound just below the neck."
Hejazi said he tried to stop the bleeding, but she soon died.
The protesters first thought the gunshot had come from a nearby rooftop, but later spotted an armed member of Iran's Basij militia on a motorcycle, and stopped and disarmed him, the doctor said.
The man shouted "I didn't want to kill her," but the furious protesters confiscated his identity card and took photographs of him before letting him go, Hejazi said.
Thousands of Iranians have protested since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected in a June 12 vote that the opposition claims was marred by massive fraud. Pro-reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi has said he was the true winner and has pushed for a new election, despite refusal by the Iranian government, which has promised to crack down on further protests.
Hejazi, who said he now primarily works at a publishing house he has created, said he knows he is putting himself in jeopardy by talking about what happened. But, he told the BBC, "It was a tough decision to make to come out and talk about it, but she died for a cause. She was fighting for basic rights ... I don't want her blood to have been shed in vain."
He added: "She died on the streets to say something."