In an iconic photograph taken in 1987, an immaculately dressed Palestinian woman holding her bright yellow high-heel shoes was captured as she threw a stone toward Israeli forces in Beit Sahour, a village in the occupied West Bank. Thirty years later, and amid a new surge of protests in Palestine, the mysterious woman’s identity has finally been revealed.
“I was wearing a black shirt and top, a yellow scarf and yellow heels. There was a special mass at the church, otherwise I wouldn’t have worn that outfit for a protest,” recalled Micheline Awwad, a mother of two who now works in a hotel. The context, she explained, was Palestine’s 1987 intifada, or “uprising,” a conflict that lasted until 1993 and saw an estimated 14,000 Palestinians and 271 Israelis killed.
“We didn’t expect any demonstrations. When I saw the Israeli army approaching and young men were confronting them, I followed the young men. When I started running, I couldn’t run with those shoes. I took them off and carried them. Then I bent down and picked up a stone. I didn’t know someone was taking a picture,” she told BBC News. “It was an uprising from the heart. Young men and women passionately took to the streets. But not anymore. Young men and women today don’t want this.”
The man who captured the iconic image of Awwad is an Iranian-born photojournalist named Alfred Yaghobzadeh. Yaghobzadeh’s assignments have taken him around the world, according to the bio page on his website, and he is now based in France. He has posted the image on Twitter often, sometimes alongside an illustration that his iconic photo inspired, like the one below.
A second intifada erupted in 2000, a conflict that left 3,392 Palestinians and 996 Israelis dead, according to human rights organization B’Tselem. In the wake of Donald Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the leader of Hamas has called for a third intifada. Awwad, for her part, says she wouldn’t want her sons to participate in an uprising. But even today, she revealed, she wouldn’t have any qualms picking up a stone once more if necessary.
“I have two sons. If, God forbid, one of them gets injured and dies, I’ll be heartbroken for life,” she said. “Let my son stay at home. I’ll go out. Of course I would go out.”
Watch BBC News’ interview with Awwad below.