The Syrian snowstorm child and desensitized humanity

Mashari Althaydi
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The recent images showing a Syrian child inside a refugee camp while she was shivering from the icy cold weather and severe frost stirred people’s feelings across the globe as the photos and video footage of that poor child were spread everywhere.

Consequently, commentators and sympathizers voiced their demands for supporting the Syrian refugees and alleviating their suffering throughout the year, or at least for providing warmth and food to the millions of refugees who live in open air amid the rainy season, left by their miserable destiny prone to all kinds of torture and agony caused by the icy sword of winter. The shivering Syrian child of the now world-famous video did not utter one word during the footage that was shot on 22 January.


As a matter of fact, the images of the Syrian girl are a scandal of the international community’s lack of reaction. However, they are not the first of their kind, and memory is still green of similar images of previous Syrian children and their suffering, such as that of the Kurdish Syrian child Aylan, whose tiny corpse was found lying on a Turkish shore, in a flagrant reminder of the ugliness of the Syrian war. Before Aylan, there was that footage of Omran, the Aleppo boy whose face was stained with rubble and blood, and whose eyes showed utter anxiety, helplessness, and fear, rendering his image an icon of the Syrian tragedy. At that time, the French daily Le Figaro commented: “The facial expressions of that child became the big story for the global public opinion,” and the British daily The Independent opined that “the images expose the suffering of Aleppo’s children,” but what of that?

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Prior to these scenes, and at the very start of the Syrian civil war, the images of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib with his corpse showing traces of various torture methods were a testimony of the decadent human condition amid the Syrian war.

Returning to the current condition of the Syrian refugees and their utter vulnerability to the monstrous winter, the agony of hunger, and future anxiety, reports from Syria’s northeast indicated that some thousand tents collapsed due to the extensive accumulation of snow in particular areas, adding that temperatures there dropped to below zero.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with AFP news agency in Damascus. (AFP)
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with AFP news agency in Damascus. (AFP)

Mark Katz, deputy UN’s Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syrian Crisis, commented on the situation to journalists in New York, saying: “We are deeply concerned about the situation there. As you know, one of the most vulnerable human demographic sectors are living in this area.” Well, thank you very much indeed for your concern, Mr. Katz.

He added: “We have seen some real horror scenes over the past few days. Meanwhile, we sense that the humanitarian system on the global level is extremely exhausted for the time being, and people in Syria have been suffering because of ten years of the war.” In his last statement he indicates the presence of 6.5 million internally displaced people in Syria.

Well, who is responsible for these terrible agonies and for the complete desensitization of human compassion and sympathy, let alone the eradication of the nationalist and religious bonds? Is it the guilt of the Assad regime, the Turkey-affiliated gangs, the Iranian agents, the thugs of Russia, ISIS, al-Nusra, al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood militias, or the armed gangs of Latakia and Tartus, or the indifference of the United States and Europe’s apathy, or the Arab inaction and Muslim indecisiveness, or something else?

Or are all these elements altogether responsible for this terrible situation?

This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

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