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Top 10 recent protest symbols

Time Magazine

iran woman killed protest Neda

A Shot Heard Round the World
Most media coverage of the protests that greeted Iran’s widely disparaged presidential election results were already being captured and transmitted by cameraphone and text message, so it’s perhaps only fitting that the last moments of 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan’s life were captured on a grainy cellphone video. The 40-second clip, which has become an internet sensation, is a graphic testament to the protests’ brutal suppression: Neda, searching the camera with helpless eyes, struggles for life after being shot in the chest during a Tehran street demonstration, as bystanders crowd around desperately trying to help. Her name, which is Farsi for “voice” or “calling” has become a rallying cry for the growing opposition movement and a symbol of their resistance.


burning monk Vietnam

The Ultimate Sacrifice
Sometimes an image has the power to change the world. On June 11, 1963, Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc sat down crosslegged in the middle of a busy street in Saigon, his robes soaked in fuel, and set fire to himself; his body was quickly engulfed in flames. The haunting and horrifying protest against the persecution of Buddhists by the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese regime got results: as more monks began to emulate Thich Quang Duc’s example, President Ngo Dinh Diem fell from favor. In November 1963 he was removed from power by a coup d’etat and executed.


Saddam Hussein statue Iraq

The Fall of Saddam
While the advisability of the U.S. invasion of Iraq will long be a matter of debate, the overthrow of one of the world’s most notorious dictators was inarguably a moment of jubilation for many Iraqis. On April 9, 2003, as U.S. troops moved into Baghdad, Iraqi citizens slipped a noose around the neck of a statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square and dragged it from its plinth, with the assistance of a detachment of U.S. Marines and their armored vehicle. The towering statue subsequently beheaded and dragged through the streets. The effusive demonstration was a stunning symbol of the nation’s liberation from Saddam’s brutal regime.


Kent State

Four Dead in Ohio

On May 4, 1970, a Vietnam War protest at Kent State University turned ugly. As students were dispersing, Ohio National Guardsmen fired into the crowd, killing four students and wounding nine. The dark day set off a nationwide student strike that shut down hundreds of colleges and universities and came to symbolize the sharp political and social divisions of the age. Among the most potent images to emerge from the incident is this photo of 14-year-old runaway Mary Vecchio wailing over the body of Jeffrey Miller, one of the slain students. Snapped by John Filo, an undergraduate photojournalism major, the shot appeared on the front pages of newspapers around the country and won a Pulitzer Prize.


Marian Anderson
THOMAS D. MCAVOY / TIME Life Pictures / Getty

A Concert on the Mall

Marian Anderson had a three-octave range and a voice that conductor Arturo Toscanini reportedly said was “such as one hears once in a hundred years.” Yet in the 1920s U.S.— where African-Americans were as unwelcome in famous concert halls as they were at the front of buses — she was an unlikely star. Her remarkable voice propelled her past barriers: in 1936 she became the first African-American to sing at the White House, and she regularly sold out her her shows. Anderson’s most lasting legacy, however, came out of a concert she didn’t give: in 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution denied her request to perform in their Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Amid a public outcry during which First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the D.A.R. in protest, the federal government gave Anderson permission to sing at the Lincoln Memorial instead. On Easter Sunday, 75,000 Americans gathered in person and millions more tuned in on the radio to hear Anderson perform. Her first song was “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” She became a civil rights icon overnight.


Berlin Wall

Tear down this wall

Ever since the wall separating East and West Berlin was constructed in 1961, it was a symbol of the postwar rift between East and West Germany and the great power struggle of the Cold War. Yet on Nov. 9, 1989, a moment came that shaped Europe’s history: East Germany announced it would open borders with the West. In the celebration that ensued, tens of thousands poured across the boundary and began to dance and chisel away the wall — tearing down 28 years of deadly separation and ushering in a new era. The change would later come to represent the end of the Cold War and the eventual fall of the Soviet Union. The following October, Germany officially became one nation.


Don Cravens / Time Life

Standing up by sitting down
Even though African Americans constituted some 70% of total bus ridership in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks still had trouble keeping her seat on December 1, 1955. It was against the law for her to refuse to give up her seat to a white man, and her subsequent arrest incited the Montgomery Bus Boycott. One year later, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision that made segregated seating unconstitutional. Parks was known thereafter as the “mother of the Civil Rights movement.”


Bettmann / Corbis

Fists in the Air
African-American track athletes Tommie Smith (first place) and John Carlos (third place) used their wins in Mexico City’s 1968 Olympic Games to show their opposition to the continued oppression of blacks in the U.S. They stood in black socks to represent black poverty; Carlos wore beads to symbolize black lynchings; together they raised their black-gloved fists in a cry for black unity. The second place winner on the podium, Australian Peter Norman, wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on his track suit in solidarity. It cost him a hero’s welcome upon his return home. Both Smith and Carlos were removed from the Games and none of the three men ever recanted their stances.


Stuart Franklin / Magnum

The Unknown Rebel
After the death of pro-democracy leader Hu Yaobang in mid-1989, students began gathering in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to mourn his passing. Over the course of seven weeks, people from all walks of life joined the group to protest for greater freedom. The Chinese government deployed military tanks on June 4 to squelch the growing demonstration and randomly shot into the crowds, killing more than 200 people. One lone, defiant man walked onto the road and stood directly in front of the line of tanks, weaving from side to side to block the tanks and even climbing on top of the first tank at one point in an attempt to get inside. The man’s identity remains a mystery. Some say he was killed and others believe him to be in hiding in Taiwan.


Ethiopian Review Editor’s Note : The Western media may not want to remember, but Ethiopia has its own symbol of protest, Shibre Desalegn, who was gunned down by the U.S.-financed tribal junta in 2005. Here is her story:

A young heroine pays the ultimate sacrifice

Addis Ababa — Her name is ShiBire Desalegn. She is the first person to be killed when Meles Zenawi unleashed his forces following a peaceful protest by Addis Ababa University (AAU) students on June 6, 2005. She was shot and killed by EPRDF troops as she and her friends tried to block the road in Kotebe that leads to the Sendafa torture camp. She helped escape several AAU students from torture by helping them jump from the trucks that were taking them to Sendafa. She didn’t have any weapon. But that didn’t stop the EPRDF troops from shooting her to death.

A high caliber bullet pierced through her neck.

Because of ShiBire’s actions, some AAU students escaped torture. But because of the action and inaction of others, thousands went through unspeakable brutality in the hands of the EPRDF security forces under the direct orders of Meles Zenawi. Thirty days later, Meles Zenawi was standing next to President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair at the G8 meeting in Scotland, looking proud of his barbaric actions.

Ethiopian Review spoke with ShiBire’s mother, Wzr. Ayelech Birkneh. She is devastated by her daughter’s sudden death. As the bread winner of the family, the 21-year old ShiBire was supporting her mother and six teenage siblings. The father passed away, leaving only a 50 birr monthly pension.

ShiBire could not continue her education, because there was nobody else to support the family. Her income was not enough to support the whole family even though she worked hard. The only choice she had to generate enough income was to go to a foreign country looking for a job.

People in ShiBire’s neighborhood appreciate what she did and died for. They think she is a heroine and a role model. They talk about her with a great deal of pride. She stood up for the students who only demanded respect for the people’s vote. She paid the ultimate sacrifice trying to save others.

15 thoughts on “Top 10 recent protest symbols

  1. Thanks Editor. You really summed up your article in the most perfect fashion. Indeed we have our own heroine-shibere and we will keep on remembering her for many years to come. I would have loved it, if you could give us the address of her families (Mom) so that we will help them as much we can.

    I can be reached at [email protected]


  2. It is very unfortunate in a country like Ethiopia proud of its long history and independence that even basic rights are not respected.

    How long should we suffer under tyrany? I wish I live long enough to see the end of Meles`s arrogance – will it be like Saddam Hussien, Mengistu or the butcher of Romania.

    Building roads is no justification for terrorizing the Ethiopian people. Stalin, Hitler, and Mussoloni were all great road builders like Meles.

  3. She will never be forgotten. Her story will live on for generations. No doubt, her couragous act and murder makes all the descendents of TPLF thugs cringe when we we celebrate her life each day, each month, each year.

  4. everytime i hear about shibire, i feel a tingling pain in my head. in ethiopia, as everyone of us know, it’s really hard to join one of the Universities. you have to study very hard. if you get lucky and you are in, your family’s expectation is very high, and you study very hard to accomplish your goals and to fulfil your family’s expectations. after your graduation, when you want to find a job you will be told to be WOYANE’s supporter, but i would rather die than kneeling down for something that i don’t believe in. That’s why Shibire died for, she sacrificed her life to save her people. she got killed before she accomplished her goals; before she fulfil her family’s expectations while their kids enjoy their life. at least Woyanes are standing up for what they believe in – which is killing people just to stay on power longer, but i’m realy sorry about those people who are HODAMOCH KERSAMOCH. pls let’s stand up for our rights. let’s stop being HODAM and act right now to free our ppl. let’s just don’t think like AHIYA – ENE KEBELAHU SERDO AYIBEKEL

  5. Thanks Mr. Elias Kifle for bringing back our heroine sister, daughter, niece and friend “ShiBire Desalegn”. She is and always will be the symbol to the Ethiopian people struggle and sacrifice for freedom/against woyane.

    Before her picture was removed, she was welcoming your visitors with her beautiful and smiling face. Watching her picture and reading her story gives motivation to be like her for the sake of freedom.
    This is the high time to see her picture again on your blog on daily basis. This is the time to bring on again everything what happened during the 2005 election against the Ethiopians people and afterwards. There are thousands shocking stories about it.

    Posting one story a week or so about the woyane’s crime against innocent Ethiopians before/during/after the 2005 election will be enough to warm up and motivate the people struggle in order to confront the criminal woyanes to eliminate them one and for all.

    Again; Big thank to you for bringing her back.

  6. One of the most remarkable protest symbol I have seen in ethiopia is that of that picture of a girl (Addis Abeba Univesity)in red sweater, both hands raised and streched and shouting her heart’s content. It came out as a cover picture in one of the private magazines in addis. I would be greatful if some body could tell me which magazin it was.


  7. I say,an innocent pretty young girl shade her blood,came out in courage and faced those evil cold blooded bastards.she could have just stayed at home and listned to woyane’s endless lies on the wana be mass media.She could have just sympathized for those tortured and detained for no apparent reason except trying to write the wrong,tell the truth, but she did not.She saddled up among the brave true ethiopians helped the innocent,served a purpose.
    And for me ,That is The true colour of being an ethiopian.
    we are not jus nanrators ,but history makers.
    If one considers them selves an ethiopian,then they should ask them selves, have i lived a lie?
    I have.
    Our fathers and theirs,never did.They never had a peace of mind while rulled by a dictator or an envader.
    history tells all.True ethiopians always fought for what they belived was right.Defended them selves their women and infants so even if they didn’t get to enjoy freedom, their children and theirs after would.
    But i and all wana be men of this era chose silence bowed to a minority.we chose to be told what to do and not by a few.
    But at the end of the day,when they asked where we’re from, we betray all our heros and heroins(like shibire) true ethiopians ,The brave hearted once and say,’ Ethiopia.
    Correct me if am wrong but for me not us But the evil ones(meles and all tigrians supporting him)are better an ethiopian than we( The rest) are.They fought for what they belived in (Be it horrific or horrendous) won and Managed to conquer us for two decades.
    And Us,well we sort of just agreed to disagree with them but still let them rull and taunt ,arrest and torture us every sigle day.They take our young inspirations like Teddy,who tried to awaken us and put them away,,,and we are ok with it all.why not any ways, after all they tell us our economy grew by ten fold and what not ‘true ha?
    “”””After all why should we doubt them?””

  8. It is indeed sickening to witness the double standard by the US and it’s allies when it comes to human rights issues in Ethiopia. CNN has designated a 24 hour program as ‘Iran Desk’ to cover the events unfolding following that country’s election. This same pathetic TV network and others never said a word when over 200 unarmed peaceful protesters were gunned down in broad day light by the facist tplf death squad. The US alone sigle handedly can make the sufferings of our people stop instantly since it is the major life support provider to the tplf criminal gang. But the US as we all know looks after it’s own interest before anything else, and we don’t expect it to change it’s stance any time soon. It is still fresh in the minds of all black people how blacks were mistreated in the U.S.A. because of their race. Hour heroes & heroines like the beautiful Shibre didn’t die in vain, they just showd us the difficult journey we have to go through to liberate our people from the claws of the tplf beasts.

  9. It is important to notify Meles’s daughter that holding a rifle did not save the life of Saddam’s Sons even the guns were modern than the rifle she pretend to point on Ethiopian People.

    Andinet Yitenkir

  10. yes ephrem, we nee to stand up for our freedom.We all said that for long but how ? there are lots things to do either individualy or in group to shake woyanes. Think about what you can do and just do it you can make a diffrence. I am doing my own part dont ask me what i can not tell you for security reason. We always need not be opean specialy in this kinds of struggle. You can not defeat some one by telling him all your secret missions.

  11. I do sicerely congratulate Elias for his courage in stating so graphicaly the double standard of the USA in the case of the Ethiopian historic election where the young Shibre was victim. Shibre is a martyr and displaying her photograpgh on the ER website gave added momentum to my principle to fight injustices of the woyanne regime.
    Thank you ER!

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