BY: SAMAN SALAHUDDIN
Omran Daqneesh sat silently, with his feet barely dangling of the ambulance chair, amidst the rubble that was left by a recent airstrike that hit his city of Aleppo. His eyes stared ahead into the distance, he almost seemed unfazed by the blood dripping from the wound on his forehead.
On August 20th after the release of the video by the Aleppo Media Center, social media was buzzing with thousands of retweets and posts about five year old Omran. Even mainstream media
picked up his story as anchors such as Kate Bolduan teared up on national television while reporting Omran’s heart wrenching story.
The world was in an outrage, trying desperately to make sense of what seemed purely senseless horror-pictures portraying the cruelty towards victims have become a global commonplace, but this image was different, exposing the five year-old child’s horror at surviving such an earth-shattering experience. Thus in an attempt to deal with their emotions and confusion, many tried to find someone to blame. Since it was a Russian backed Assad regime airstrike that was responsible for the damage depicted in Omran’s picture, the Russians were immediately deemed as the enemy-the villains.
To give some context to the carnage depicted in Omran’s image, since 2011 Syria has been a battleground for war and bloodshed. The Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups are waging war to overthrow the Russian backed Assad Regime- who they claim has hindered social and economic progress for some fifteen years. Meanwhile the US along with other western nations are supporting the UN National Coalition to defeat ISIL. The culmination of all this fighting has resulted in over 250,000 civilian deaths (according to a UN estimate) and a refugee crisis spanning continents.
Omran’s portrait signifies the reality of the times, just as the image of afghan woman had done decades ago. He represents the millions of syrians that have lost their lives, families and homes because of this seemingly endless War on Terror. The Syrians have been caught in the middle of the politics of greed with both sides fighting over power and control.
However amidst this anger and confusion, we have forgotten to ask ourselves how we are responsible. How can we, the western viewer prevent this from happening?
Instead of having the much needed discussion that this image prompted we chose to run away from the truth. We blamed Russia because that meant that we were the innocent and righteous ones. It wasn’t our fault, it couldn’t be.
It seems as though we as a society are stuck in this stage of denial. We have forced ourselves to forget that just a few months ago, the US led airstrike in the Syrian city of Manjib killed fifty six civilians, amongst them innocent women and children (The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights). We the public, along with the media, have shied away from talking about the fact that since the start of the US invasion of Syria in 2014 until December 2015 there have been a total of 3,000 airstrikes against ISIS in which ninety five percent have been conducted by the US (US monitoring group Airwars ). In each one of these airstrikes-planned by officials in secret rooms of the capital-emerges a story just as heart wrenching as Omran’s. Since these stories are never manage to be told by the media, most western viewers may be ignorant to their existences, under the impression that they never happened at all.
But they did happen and thus it is imperative that we have these discussions so that the public becomes aware of the impact of their own country’s involvement in world affairs and can work toward mending the world’s injustice. Further, Omran’s picture has proven its capability to garner overwhelming compassion. I hope it forces the public to wake up and take responsibility whether it be by petitioning the government to accept syrian refugees or demand our elected officials to conduct foreign policy that is aimed at helping not destroying nations. I hope it builds a nation of individuals that care about all of humanity and begin to act for the interests of others instead of just their own.
Ever since we were children, we were taught that America was the leader of the free world. Since Kindergarden this concept of “American Exceptionalism” was shoved down our throats. How can we even attempt to justify this concept today when the example we are setting as the leaders of the free world is that killing innocent civilians for the advancement of personal interest should be condoned?
Below, a link is provided of Omran Daqneesh’s photograph: https://www.google.com/search?q=omran+daqneesh+photo&biw=1040&bih=858&tbm=isch&imgil=ZJf5rrvY61zMvM%253A%253BgCYwsFtC93IdpM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.bbc.com%25252Fnews%25252Fworld-middle-east-37134986&source=iu&pf=m&fir=ZJf5rrvY61zMvM%253A%252CgCYwsFtC93IdpM%252C_&usg=__9ypeaIFb_M-TYiKG30kvHGgn93Y%3D&ved=0ahUKEwjnr82swIrPAhXpzIMKHWweCmsQyjcILw&ei=1PnWV-d16ZmPBOy8qNgG&safe=active&ssui=on#imgrc=58UhffQ-b8ZcQM%3A