'When Aed Abu Amro held a Palestinian flag aloft during one of the Great March of Return protests last year on the boundary between Gaza and Israel, the last thought on his mind was that he would become an internet sensation.
But a picture of the shirtless Aed, slingshot and flag in hand and enveloped by the smoke from tear gas, went viral almost instantly.
It sparked comparisons with a painting from the European Romantic period and made him an instant icon of the Palestinian resistance.
The photo was taken on 22 October by Mustafa Hassouna of the Turkish Anadolu press agency. And it so happened that in composition, lighting and motif, the picture closely resembles “Liberty Leading the People,” a painting by the French painter Eugène Delacroix.
That the subject of the 1830 painting was the struggle for liberty during the revolution in France the same year – with liberty represented by a woman, bare-chested, carrying a French flag – only added to the poignancy of Hassouna’s photo.
For Aed, the global reaction to the photo was an eye-opener.
“I was amazed by how quickly the photo spread,” Aed told The Electronic Intifada in a recent interview.
The comparisons to Delacroix’s painting made him proud, he said, and have encouraged him to carry on, even if inadvertently becoming an icon has also come with a responsibility.
“People consider the photo a symbol of the resistance. This has made me determined to remain steadfast and stay among those rejecting the Israeli blockade. It’s great to become a symbol, but the occupation is still imposing its siege.”'
Read more: Liberty leads the people: fighting for a decent life in Gaza
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