Two historical events 27 years apart, two countries, one common theme: a man on the street challenging a column of tanks.
In June 1989, a man from China made it to the front page of every major newspaper – and subsequently to the history books – by his show of defiance in front of marauding tanks at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
‘Tank Man’ is what they called the mystery man whose photograph symbolised the fight of the oppressed against the strong and mighty.
Carrying shopping bags, he stood his ground – elevated from the stature of a common man to the symbol of bravery at the site where the Chinese government crushed a protest by students.
Cut to July 2016. A bald man in a body-hugging T-shirt and blue jeans hogged the limelight during an attempted coup in Turkey. He lay on the ground at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, in front of another column of tanks.
Unlike the Tiananmen braveheart, the Istanbul man appeared to have ended on the winning side. While theories of disappearance, execution shrouded the identity of China’s ‘Tank Man’, his Ataturk shadow was more tangible.
First, the Turkey man appeared to be protesting against the coup by a section of the armed forces that failed to topple the elected government. Second, in the age of social media it might not take long for his byte -- on how he was feeling --- to go viral.
Nonetheless, discussions on the two photos on social media underlined something undeniable: the camera loves real-life heroes who exhibit how diminutive modern war machines and weapons are in the face of simple courage, and how much people love that flame of bravery which never blinks while staring at death.
And this was proved once again by 28-year-old Ieshia Evans, who became the face of the Black Lives Matter protests in Louisiana. Evans, a 28-year-old mother, became an overnight sensation after a photo showing her defiant and staring down two police officers in riot gear.