Should “The photo that changed the world” have changed the world?

Comment: written by Harriet King

The recently published image of a 3-year-old Syrian boys dead body washed up on the shores of Turkey caused havoc across the western world. As news organisations posted the photo online, thousands of social media users retweeted it on twitter and shared on Facebook to show their compassion towards his death.

‘Rest in peace sweet child. I see humans but no humanity – shame on you Arab leaders’ one comment read. Whilst others argued that Arab leaders are not to blame, and the term should not be used in such an inclusive manner.

Some politicians and journalists referred to the image as “the photo that changed the world” as the government and NGOs began discussing and acting upon the matter.

Undoubtedly, a positive outcome of this specific media coverage is that it has somewhat caused political change. After a rise in the demand to home refugees, David Cameron has agreed to open the boarders of the UK and help thousands of destitute Syrians cross Europe. This indicates that the distribution of news articles on social media do encourage change to some degree, whether it’s signing petitions or donating to charities.

But my question is – Why did it take a Facebook post for people to finally start opening their eyes?

The Islamic state, their grotesque terrorist techniques and helpless victims are not recent issues in the world of conflict. ISIS is a formation of Al-Qaeda, a highly well known terrorist group that became active in 1988. So why is everybody acting like the word ‘terrorism’ was created last week?

Just because the media suddenly blows up one desolate incident doesn’t mean similar situations don’t arise every single day, and have been occurring in countries all over the world for hundred of years. Why play ignorant to the rest of the world? Other conflict? Other refugees? Other victims of ISIS?

I personally did share the image on Facebook – to raise awareness and because it is truly heartbreaking that babies and children are born into conflict and exposed to terrorism. However, I refuse to play ignorant to all the other humanitarian disgraces happening all over the world.

The media covers the death of one child and the whole world goes crazy, if only the same concern was shown towards Yezidi children who are being raped and killed on a daily basis, the slave trade in Africa and India, natural disaster victims in Haiti, the silent war in the Congo, victims of the Honduras sex trade, Gaza, the death of homosexuals in Uganda, and many other anthropoid disasters.

If victims of these humanitarian outcries were posted over social media, would they receive the same amount of sympathy, compassion and awareness? I would like to think so. A conflict is a conflict – and victims are victims.

So yes, we should carry on spreading these inhumane images exploiting the impact of war and terrorism, but we should also remember; just because the media doesn’t cover it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.


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