Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 6 August 2020

Omran’s face shames us all

The bewilderment of a little boy is a rebuke to the international community’s inaction
Five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, sits inside an ambulance after he was rescued following an airstrike on an Aleppo neighbourhood. Mahmoud Rslan / Reuters
Five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, sits inside an ambulance after he was rescued following an airstrike on an Aleppo neighbourhood. Mahmoud Rslan / Reuters

In a few days, it will be a year since Aylan Kurdi was photographed face down and lifeless on a beach in Turkey. The three-year old Syrian boy had been seeking to escape the Syrian civil war with his family, only to drown in the darkness of the Mediterranean.

The photograph of Aylan crossed the world, briefly – too briefly – bringing the Syrian war and the refugee crisis it caused back to the forefront of people’s minds. But it soon faded.

A year later, another haunting image has emerged, this time of five-year old Omran Daqneesh, sitting in the back of an ambulance after a Russian strike destroyed his family home. Again, the sheer humanity of the moment gives us pause. It brings home the reality of the war and the sheer scale of the refugee crisis. It should also serve as a reprimand to all those countries in the international community, particularly the most powerful, who are no closer to a solution in Syria today than they were a year ago.

The image of Omran is merely the tip of a vast iceberg of suffering. Omran, as even the medics who pulled him out of the rubble said at the time, is far from unique. There are thousands and tens of thousands of children like him, bewildered by the war that has devastated their homeland, innocent victims of a grown-up war. There are tens of thousands more huddled in refugee camps, displaced in cities and homes not their own, away from school, with little hope.

In the year since Aylan died, there has been little progress. The Assad war machine, now backed by the firepower of Russian fighter jets, has continued to devastate large parts of Syria. The rebels remain fragmented, unable to agree even on the names of their militias, let alone on a future for the country. ISIL continues to terrorise civilians on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border. And the international community looks on, talking of “ceasefires” and “negotiations”, while disallowing refugees from entering and demonising those few who make it in.

Omran’s face should shame us. The worst humanitarian disaster of this century is taking place in real time, on TV screens around the world – and we are merely looking on and talking.

Updated: August 20, 2016 04:00 AM

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