If you regularly visit your social media pages, you would have certainly come across this photo of the little Syrian boy covered by a blanket purportedly sleeping between the graves of his parents.
This heartrending image is a fake and is not related to the current happenings in Syria. However, the image went viral on the net because many people appropriated it on social networks to reflect the tragic situation in Syria without knowing it was a fake that originated not from Syria, but from Saudi Arabia.
One source claims it has been viewed over a million times on Imgur. It evoked lots of sympathy. Here are some comments I came across on Reddit:
- I think the part that got me right in the heart is the fact that he looks peaceful and happy. Like nothings wrong. God damn it, I just made it worse.
- He must have already seen some horrible things, and it seems he is now in peace, sleeping next to his mommy and daddy. Even if they aren’t alive anymore, they are still his source of comfort. This is sad on so many levels.
- The more you think about it the deeper it goes until you’re looking down at the planet saying, wtf!
- ****. Why’d you have to call them “mommy” and “daddy” that just makes it too real.
- It’ll be a whole different world when he wakes.
- This is actually the saddest picture I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen a lot of fucking morbid, disgusting, blood-soaked pictures and I’ve never batted an eye since I’m so desensitized to it, but I can barely hold in tears as I look at this one. What that kid has experienced is the epitome of non-physical human suffering. His parents aren’t coming back, man.
- In the Middle East death is not something we’re not used to, unfortunately. Most simply embrace it due to how difficult life is.
- I didn’t see peaceful and happy, I see a kid who doesn’t know what to do. His world is gone. I’m 40 and can’t stand the thought of losing my parents, and when they go I’ll be crushed. 8-ish years old? Jesus.
Blogger Harald Doornbos claims he unearthed the truth behind the photograph by interviewing the photographer Abdul Aziz Al-Otaibi, a 25-year-old Saudi national and published it on his blog.
According to Harald Doornbos, Abdul Aziz lives in Yanbu al Bahr, a major Red Sea port in the Al Madinah province of western Saudi Arabia, about 250 kilometers northwest of Jeddah.
Abdul Aziz is a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Savannah, Georgia in USA. His major is Photography. As a keen photographer brimming with ideas, Abdul Aziz as a project wanted to depict the irreplaceable love of a child for his parents, even if they are dead. So, three weeks ago, he drove to the outskirts of Yanbu with his nephew. There after piling stones to resemble two graves, he bade his nephew lie between two ‘graves’ and covered him with a blanket.
Abdul Aziz Al-Otaibi has the following social media accounts:
He posted the photograph on Facebook. He made it very clear on Facebook that the graves were not real. He even published pictures of his smiling nephew seated next to the graves. Abdul Aziz told Harald Doornbos: “I also published the backstage story. I just wanted to be sure that people drew no wrong conclusions.”
Though Abdul Aziz published this creation as an art work, an American Muslim convert posted the picture on his twitter account @americanbadu, that has over 187,000 followers. He claimed the picture was from Syria and suggested that the Assad-regime killed the parents of the sleeping boy.
The image spreads like wildfire. Hundreds of accounts, especially in jihad circles re-tweeted the picture from @americanbadu. An Islamic NGO from Kuwait, @Yathalema, with 175,000 followers tweeted the image.
Even the Syrian opposition leader Ahmed Jarba failed to verify the authenticity of the image and tweeted it on Friday, January 17, 2014. He too did not fail to accuse Assad on wretched fate of the boy in the picture. Here is the image of Jarba’s tweet:
Jarba deleted the photo of the boy beside the graves about 30 minutes after posting it.
Harald Doornbos says: “By now the picture goes viral. Nobody checks if the image was indeed from Syria. I was the first reporter who called Al-Otaibi to ask.“
In the meantime, photographer Abdul Aziz Al-Otaibi complained via Direct Message (DM) to @americanbadu: “Why did you take my picture and claim it as an image from Syria? Please correct it.”
@americanbadu replied via DM: “Why don’t you just let go and claim it is a picture from Syria and gain a reward from God. You are exaggerating.”
Shortly after, @americanbadu removed his tweet. Nevertheless, the irreversible damage was already done.
- In Syria, Sleeping between his parents. (imgur.com)
- Syrian dead family” picture turns out to be fake. (imgur.com)
- This pic was staged as art work. A guy stole it and posted it as a kid from Syria (imgur.com)
- Saudi photographer tells me: This is not Syria, its not a grave and the boys parents are not dead (haralddoornbos.wordpress.com)