THEY DIED TRYING
by Donna De Chavez
Aylan Kurdi, a 3-year old Syrian boy, made it to the global headlines last 2015. He was a part of the Syrian refugees trying to escape from the Syrian war and died trying to reach Europe. His family boarded a small rubber boat composed of sixteen people including them. The boat’s maximum capacity was for eight people only.
This was the third time that they are trying to go particularly to the Greek Island of Kos. They also tried legal entry to Canada but unfortunately, got declined. Their family is composed of four members. His father, Abdullah Kurdi, was the only survivor in their family. Her mother and older brother died with him. Their boat was capsized and their father was not able to hold on to them.
They were actually victimized by Turkish smugglers. These smugglers are operating illegally, transporting refugees in search of peace through this illegal crossing. The smugglers got $5, 860 as a payment for Aylan’s family to be able to get their spaces in the boat. According to the father of Aylan, there was an engine problem in the boat making it uncontrollable. The smugglers abandoned the boat and the passengers were left struggling. The boat capsized after one hour.
The authorities found out about it after receiving a call about a capsized boat. They were able to track down the smugglers and arrested them a day after the incident. The bodies of the victims, including Aylan, were moved from the sea onto the beachside.
This is how the story of Aylan started. His body, lying across the sand, was photographed by a Turkish press photographer named Nilufer Demir. Aside from Aylan, thousands of Syrians are trying to escape the war. Based from Reuters’ interview to the army, the search and rescue teams already saved hundreds of migrants.
Syrian war started in the year 2011 and is still ongoing. It started from the 2011 Arab Spring protests and became an armed conflict after their president violently stopped the protests against him. The war is not only composed of two groups violently fighting each other. The war has several groups in it. It has Syrian government and its supporters, Sunni Arab rebel group, Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, Salafi jihadist groups, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and the Free Syrian Army. These forces are fighting each other, not thinking about its implications to the innocent people around them.
Aylan is not alone in this search for peace. Below is the photo that launched thousands of reactions all over the world. This is Aylan Kurdi, a lifeless three-year old boy who died trying searching for peace.
The photo above made it to Time’s 100 Most Influential Images of All Time. Time’s project was made possible by experts across the world. They called out on curators, historians, photo editors, and Time reporters/editors. They asked these experts to nominate photos that shaped the way the society thinks. Photos that were included in this project helped people in seeing the other side of the world. The photographers became the eyes of the people in viewing the world.
The photos taken by Demir were shared in social media by Peter Bouckaert, the Director of the Human Rights Watch. During 2015, he approximately has 35,000 to 40,000 followers in Twitter. The photo gained 218 replies, 818 likes, and almost 2,250 retweets few hours after the incident. With the constant retweeting of the photo, people all over the world saw this on their timeline, thus, making them aware and shocked about the news.
Social media indeed played an important role in disseminating the news. Since we are living in the Internet of Things/ Internet of Everything, getting news is easier and faster.
The social media platform that actually helped in disseminating the photo is Twitter then Facebook. Hashtag “KiyiyaVuranInsanlik” was used in Twitter. This means “humanity washed ashore”. Hashtags in Twitter help in determining what trending topics are all over the world. # KiyiyaVuranInsanlik and #AylanKurdi became the top trending topics after hours of sharing it. Within 24 hours in Twitter, the hashtags got an approximate of 50,000 retweets. With people starting to be critical with the incident, they started to use #RefugeesWelcome in support of welcoming the refugees. The hashtag got 180,000 retweets within 24 hours. All these hashtags became trending topics worldwide.
Our culture is currently being affected by social media. We are living in a social media generation where people get their daily dose of news from their social media newsfeed. Corporations also use social media in order to sell their products and services. Social media has been an effective platform in disseminating news all over the world. News organizations have their own official social media accounts wherein they update the people in relation to what’s happening in the world. With the like and share button, especially in Facebook, people would be able to see in their newsfeed newsworthy items. People would now have the responsibility to choose what articles they would believe in to. With news spreading faster than the blink of an eye, Facebook recently launched a campaign versus fake news. There are instances wherein people believe everything that they see in social media. This is actually disturbing as we should not be just passive audiences. People should be able to determine what is true from fake. The campaign against fake news is spearheaded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. This project is in partnership with fact-checking organizations. These fact-checking organizations are legitimate sources of news. With the help of the so-called “netizens”, news that are reported as fake will be checked by these organizations and if proven fake, the newstory would be flagged as “disputed by 3rd party checkers.” This initiative of Facebook would be effective if people would be critical readers and active audiences.
According to Mark Zuckerberg, they have a greater responsibility to the public because they are considered as a platform wherein people could have meaningful conversations. They connect people from different parts of the world despite the difficulty in time and space.
“While we don’t write the news stories you read and share, we also recognize we’re more than just a distributor of news. We’re a new kind of platform for public discourse – and that means we have a new kind of responsibility to enable people to have the most meaningful conversations, and to build a space where people can be informed.”- Mark Zuckerberg
Going back to the story of Aylan, Nilufer Demir, the photographer who saw the innocent lifeless body of Aylan, did not think that the photo would go viral and reach other parts of the world.
“I didn’t think it would bring this much attention when I was taking the photograph,” she told CNN Turk. “However, with the pain I felt when I saw Aylan, the only thing on my mind was to pass along this to the public. I didn’t think anything else. I just wanted to show their tragedy.“- Nilufer Demir
When Peter Bouckaert tweeted the photo, he did not have any second thoughts in publishing a disturbing image. It has been a media practice not to show lifeless bodies esp. of a child. This has been an issue among journalists in regards to the story of Aylan.
The photo of Aylan being shared across the internet sparked debates among ethical concerns of journalists. Aya Mhanna, a clinical psychologist who works with Syrian refugees said that the photo of Aylan is powerful because it contradicts the “what-should-be of a child”. The journalists who shared the photo of Aylan decided to share it because according to them, it could happen to anyone. The photo shows pain and sorrow. Instead of Aylan playing in the beach, here he is, lifeless.
While looking into the photo below, I cannot help but think how many photos like this do we still need to see to stop the war? Do the people participating in the war have seen this? Does this even affect them? These are the questions that run into my mind while searching for photos.
Peter Bouckaert is known for documenting Syrian refugees’ journeys. According to him, after seeing the photo Aylan, he couldn’t help but focus on the child’s sneakers. The child’s sneakers were maybe put on by his parents in preparation for their journey. We could not blame the parents for putting Aylan’s life in danger through this journey. We have not undergone what they have experienced in Syria. The war, the bombs, and the non-stop gunshots maybe for them are far more dangerous than getting onto this journey.
“It was not an easy decision to share a brutal image of a drowned child. But I care about these children as much as my own. Maybe if Europe’s leaders did too, they would try to stem this ghastly spectacle.”- Peter Bouckaert
The sharing of the photo of Aylan indeed broke the hearts of many people. Artists across the world reacted to the photo through their own sketches of Aylan. Below are some of the sketches that hit the hearts of many people.
Each of the photos correspond reactions from artists. Despite the horrific death of Aylan, they were able to produce heartwarming sketches for Aylan which is something that he would not be able to achieve anymore. The sketches, having good intentions, still got some negative feedback from people. However, according to the artists, their sketches are their tribute to Aylan. Some people commented that it is offensive to share the photo of Aylan. My answer to this is yes and no. Yes it is offensive maybe to the family because everytime that they will see Aylan’s photo, they will just remember the pain, sorrow, and regrets. However, I think it is okay to share the photo because people nowadays need something that would really catch their attention because of the many happenings around the world. And for me, Aylan’s photo is unfortunately, not the best, but a horrific photo that needs to be shared just to raise awareness.
I think that the best yet horrific effect of Aylan’s photo is that it opened our eyes to reality. Death is something we should not joke about and peace is something we should cherish.
This just opened our eyes to reality but did not stop the war.
However, it did make a small change into our society. It raised awareness to the people about the on-going Syrian war.
I was actually fascinated while looking at the photos/ sketches. Some of the photos/sketches gave Aylan peace. There are photos/sketches where Aylan is just sleeping, an angel, and is being saved by God.
This photo, as stated above, went viral. The duration of the news went viral until the end of the year thus it became 2015’s Photo of the Year. The photo of Aylan will be forever in our mind and hearts. Once you saw his photo, you can’t unseen it. Aside from our minds and hearts, his story will be forever in the internet. Through the internet, we are able to access stories and photos way before internet even started. This is the power of technology. This is a part of globalization.
Without the internet and social media platforms, I can’t help but think about how do we go about knowing the news from other parts of the world?
To be honest, I think that photos like this cannot stop wars since war participants do not have a heart. They do have their own beliefs and freedom to do whatever they want to do but that doesn’t mean that they have to kill people.
As I have said earlier, Aylan is not alone. Below are heartbreaking and horrific images I screen-grabbed from CNN. These are the children that according to CNN, “put Aleppo’s suffering to map”.
This happened recently, November 2016 to be exact. A young boy is scared and cries out for help after being separated from his mother. A Syrian charity uploaded this video to raise awareness and to get help from other people.
This young girl named Bana Albed used her mother’s Twitter account to send messages outside her country. She relays their story outside their country through social media platform. Her messages/tweets got the attention of famous people like J.K. Rowling. A sample of a heartbreaking tweet from her: “This is my last moment to either live or die.” VERY HEARTBREAKING :(((((
This maybe is the most popular photo that broke the hearts of many people even journalists. I believe that journalists or reporters have a hard heart in a sense that their mindset is that they should not show their emotions to the people during a live report. However, with this video, one journalist breaks down while doing the report on this kid.
When I saw this video, I can’t help but feel sad and guilty because of the way I treated my younger sisters 😦 I just want to hug them right now 😦 These kids are survivors of a barrel bomb attack.
She is Aya. Aya is a survivor of an airstrike last October 2016. While watching the video, I cannot help but burst into tears. 😦
Here’s a link to her video: AYA 😦
Globalization indeed made a change on how news is being distributed across the globe. Before, it would take days for certain news to be told in other areas. But with globalization, news spread as fast as the blink of an eye. Television, radio, and newspaper became traditional platforms in some areas when it comes to news distribution. They became traditional platforms because of social media dominating news distribution. With just one click, a person would be able to share the news to others. Though in some areas that do not have any access on the internet, their main source of news is still television, radio, or the newspaper.
This news about the kids in the Syrian war was distributed across the globe because of globalization. Major international news organizations have their local news partners that would help them distribute the news easily just like CNN and CNN Philippines. Also, news organizations in the Philippines like ABS-CBN and GMA have their own “global segment” where they share news from other countries to the Filipino audience.
Ethical issues in relation to news are now being talked about because of another trend in news reporting. Major news organizations are being questioned by some people in regards to showing the faces of the victims esp the kids. CNN, the perfect example of a news organization that showed the horrific tragedies, uncut and unfiltered faces of the children victimized by war. CNN just wanted to show the reality of what’s happening and according to them, this is already a part of a Syrian’s everyday life.
Watching the videos and looking into the images are actually disturbing. Despite the pain and sorrow, it seems that there is not a bit of change when it comes to the war as it is still happening right now.
These kids are not the only ones that are affected by the war. Hundreds of kids got separated from their family, were wounded, or even killed during the war. Instead of going to school, or watching tv, or playing with other kids, they are trapped in their country, trying to survive, dying to survive.
What have we done here?
I believe that social media has a massive effect in our society. With the photos shared above that gained awareness globally, more countries are accepting refugees, non-government agencies helping people in Syria, and world leaders acting up on new laws that would affect immigration policies.
I really do hope that we do not need to see other horrific photos like this just to raise awareness. I still have faith in humanity. Let us pray for all the kids and other people that are affected by different types of war.