The revolution icons of the social network era

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By Laura Davidescu
The revolution icons of the social network era

Twitter and Facebook might help spread the ideal of liberty. But without real people, giving their blood for real causes, change would not be possible.

“I am dying”, “Ia vmiraiu”, reads the message Olesya Zhukovskaya posted on her Twitter feed with one hand, while the other was applying pressure on her own neck to stop life-threatening bleeding.

On Thursday, 20 February 2014, at around 10:44 AM Kiev’s time, a bullet hit the neck of this 21-year-old paramedic volunteer, as she was working in the middle of the protester-run Euromaidan. Images from Twitter showed her in a medic’s uniform, clutching her blood-covered neck, reportedly shot by a sniper.

Her tweet went viral. Within hours, her young, radiant smile before the shooting toured the world.

Fortunately, Olesya underwent an emergency operation and is safe and sound. She could even resume her tweeting and sent her followers a heart-warming “Ia jiva”, “I am alive!”

Thousands of miles away from Ukraine, across the Atlantic, Genesis Carmona wasn’t so lucky. The 22-year-old student died on Wednesday, 19 February 2014, after being shot in the head in Valencia, Venezuela’s third largest city, during the escalating anti-government protests.

According to Associated Press, Carmona, a former beauty queen and model was killed when a motorcycle gang, allegedly acting on behalf of the government, opened fire into a crowd.

In the world’s gallery of young heroes fighting for liberty and uncorrupted government, Olesya Zhukovskaya and Genesis Carmona will join Neda Agha-Soltan. On 20 June 2009, during the post-election, anti-Ahmadinejad demonstrations in Tehran, the 26-year-old woman was targeted by a Basidji, a member of the Iranian Islamic militias. Shot from a short distance, the bullet hit her heart.

Neda died in the hands of her music teacher, who is heard shouting “Neda, don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid. Stay with me, stay with me!” The last words of the young woman, whose face was to become the emblem of the Iranian pro-democracy movement, were “I’m burning, I’m burning”.

Filmed by bystanders, the footage of Neda’s death spread virally across the internet, quickly gaining the attention of international media and viewers. By the end of 20 June 2009, the hash tag #neda was being used by millions of Twitter users. Starting 2009, pundits and media studies curricula were mentioning a new concept: “Twitter revolution”.

Each generation’s heroes are remembered in a Pantheon full of marble statues. Don’t think ours is only made of bites, bytes and pixels. The story of man’s unquenched thirst for liberty could not be rewritten, over and over again, without the real blood that stains the pavements of Kiev, Damascus, Aleppo, Caracas, Valencia, Tehran, Cairo, Tunis…