THE HARSH REALITY BEHIND THE GLAMORIZED IMAGES OF SUFFERING CHILDREN IN WAR
By Vincent Lyn & Joel Mugarura
War, with all its cruelty and ugliness, could not steal the beauty, innocence and wonder of the six-year-old girl, Sana’a, despite suffering a life of poverty and asylum. The child was displaced with her family from Hama’s countryside and was moved into the al-Rahma refugee camp. Her photos spread on social media and the world’s leading magazines and newspapers in less than two days.
A local photojournalist Ahmad al- Ahmad took the photo of Sana’a on July 23, 2019 in al-Rahma camp, north of Kali town in Idlib countryside, during a photo tour there. He then posted it on his Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts, and was later shared by his fans on their pages.
The photo captured the attention when it spread across the internet to shed the light on the ongoing offensive by the Syrian regime and Russia that displaced more than 1.5 million people since April 2020, the majority of those fleeing have been displaced within Idlib Governorate while a smaller number have moved into northern Aleppo Governorate, said the U.N, as bombs continue to rain down on civilians in northwestern Syria. They live in camps and the open air under olive trees. Websites and social media pages posted a photo of a blonde child who seemed to be in a tent. The photo was published in many prominent British magazines and many social media users calling the child “Cinderella of Camps” and in the refugee camp has been called the child “Cinderella of Wars”.
To a fortunate many, war is an abstraction and the suffering it brings, though easy to understand, is hard to truly imagine. It’s one of the reasons war photography and images of conflict are so essential. They bring these concepts into blinding focus and deny us the luxury of looking away.
Who could ignore an image of a young refugee’s lifeless body washed up on a beach, the desperate quest for a better life extinguished before it could be fulfilled? Who wouldn’t be moved, disturbed even, by a child screaming and covered in her parents’ blood?
There’s a reason so many of these indelible images are often of children. While war seeks to paint in black and white, good and evil; a child is never the enemy. And yet, they are so often the victims. To see a child this way is to see war without politics or ideologies. What’s left underneath is just crushing human sorrow. Why, ever, would such immortalized heartbreak be necessary? Because it’s easy to lose focus. Violence is so widespread, yet often so far away, and our hyperconnected consumption means burnout or disinterest can set in at an alarming rate.
As the photos below, it sometimes takes a singular excruciating image for it to truly sink in.
After ten years of war in Syria, more than half of the children continue to be deprived of education. The catastrophic conditions in which the displaced people live are also among the factors that claim the lives of Syrians, as a father, mother and their two children were killed by suffocation inside their tent in the “Dia 3” camp near the town of “Kali” in Idlib countryside, due to the poor heating method used. According to the information obtained by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “the family of Muhammad Hamadeh, his wife Amoun Al-Saleem and his two children (Hoda and Hour), all of whom were displaced from (Kafr Roma) in southern Idlib countryside, died of suffocation after burning coal in an old fireplace in their tent that they received, because they couldn’t buy a fireplace”. Eyewitness sources said: “The fireplace was outside the tent during the night, but because of the severe cold, they entered it, so the four family members got suffocated inside the tent, a small place that had very little oxygen already. The family’s neighbors found their family after they suffocated. After their transfer to nearby medical points, it became clear that the cause of death was the gas from the heater. At the same time, a child died in the Afrin Hospital as a result of the tragic situation in which the displaced people live, where sources told the “Syrian Observatory” that “The father of the child brought her to Afrin Hospital thinking that she was suffering from a minor illness, as he walked out of his tent at 5 am and carried her for two hours in the bitter cold on the road, and when he arrived at the hospital, his daughter had died of hypothermia, due to the fact that her father did not have any means of transportation”.
People who have never witnessed WAR will think War is just shooting guns and killing people. They forget that:
War is starvation, War is rape, War is deprivation of movement, War is fear, War is lack of access to health-care, War is lack of access to wealth, War is disease, War is hopelessness, War is losing children, War is losing parents, War is losing your spouse, War is losing loved ones, War is not going to school, War is not going to work, War is excreting right in your hiding spot, War is having to drink your own urine, War is creating an entire generation who will be illiterate, War is so much more than shooting guns and ending lives.
Even after War is declared over, it will take decades for a nation to heal and reconcile and rebuild. Ask Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Vietnam, Rwanda, Congo, Liberia, South Sudan, Myanmar, Kashmir. War in reality is different than war in the movies. When next you wish for War ask those who have actually witnessed it. Everyone becomes a casualty of War both dead and living.
“War Has Never And Will Never Be The Solution!”
CEO/Founder at We Can Save Children
Director of Creative Development at African Views Organization
Economic & Social Council at United Nations
Middle East Correspondent at Wall Street News Agency
Rescue & Recovery Specialist at International Confederation of Police & Security Experts