Every war and major historical event since the invention of the camera has its iconic image that captures what is taking place for history. These are the images that stop us in our tracks and even when we see them years later, we remember what was going on at that time. The Syrian Civil War has been ongoing since 2011 and has had three such images. There are images of bombed-out cities, barrel bombs falling from the sky, parents running for their lives with their children in their arms. But the images that speak specifically to the Syrian Civil War are all images of children. As such, they demonstrate the incredible depravity of this ongoing war and the scale of victimization.
Alan Kurdi – Face of the Syrian Civil War
In September 2015 a young Kurdish family boarded an inflatable raft on the coast of Turkey. They were aiming for Europe and then to Canada where they had family. They were part of an exodus of millions of refugees fleeing Syria, ISIS, Assad…the list was growing longer. The Kurdi family did not get far. Their raft upended in the Mediterranean Sea. The mother of the family drowned with her two children.
We may never have heard of the Kurdi family. They probably would have been swallowed up as a single statistic of the refugee crisis, except little 3-year-old Alan’s body washed up ashore on the Greek island of Kos. The world was startled by the human cost of the refugee crisis that was somehow being largely ignored up to that point.
- Additional Reading: Looking Back at Alan Kurdi and Other Faces of the Syrian Crisis
Omran Daqneesh – Face of the Syrian Civil War
He was featured in many end of the year videos in 2016. The traumatized expression of Omran Daqneesh, blank, wounded, soaking it all in without responding. We were getting a peek at the young generation who were living through, but not surviving the Syrian Civil War
Omran lived with his family in Aleppo. When the rebels took over Aleppo they stayed in their homes, leading many to believe they were on the side of the resistance. When these images first appeared members of the media sought out Omran’s father to learn their story and their background. He was uncooperative. He did not want his son to become a tool in the media campaigns of either side.
One year later a happy, smiling Omgran Daqneesh was found in a new advertising campaign of the Assad regime. No one knows which side his family is on and our need to know begs the question, why does it matter. This is the story of a father trying to protect his family in the middle of an impossible situation.
- Additional Reading: Syrian Boy Who Became Image of Syrian Civil War Reappears
Riham al-Abdallah – Face of the Syrian Civil War
The most recent image of the Syrian Civil War arrived this week. Again, it was a child. Again, it was a victim. This image took shape in the fighting in Idlib Province. The fighting here is growing more intense by the day.
After an airstrike hit the building they live in, five-year-old Riham al-Abdallah and her sister were caught in the collapsing rubble. The photographer who captured this image could not see them at first due to all the dust and debris in the air following the airstrike. The sound of the father screaming as he tried to locate his children alerted the photographer to their location.
As the dust cleared, little Riham could be seen trying to rescue her sister. She is holding the infant sister by her green shirt. The father is out of reach, screaming.
The photographer helped rescue the girls and took them to the nearest hospital. Riham al-Abdallah is reported to have died there. Her infant sister is still in intensive care.
Yesterday Riham al-Abdallah was one of ten civilians, one of three children, killed by airstrikes in Idlib. These are the faces of the Syrian Civil War.