Understanding the depth of Syrian refugee selfies

Taking and posting selfies is also a way of reassuring loved ones that they are safe and well.

Diana Moukalled

Published: Updated:

It should be no surprise why refugees take selfies when arriving in Europe. If I went through an experience similar to theirs, I would document the entire trip using my phone, and if I survived I would post it on social media.

Criticism of refugees taking selfies in Europe has mostly come from those angry at the refugee influx. They claim that the joyous photos suggest these people are not suffering, but have come to Europe by choice for purely economic reasons.

“Do you think that hundreds of thousands of people would leave their homes and embark on this difficult road just because of a selfie with the Chancellor?” asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel following criticism of her appearing in selfies with refugees.

Taking and posting selfies is also a way of reassuring loved ones that they are safe and well

Diana Moukalled

Those who are angry at such selfies ignore the importance of smart phones for refugees, as they contain maps and information about roads and the weather. Taking and posting selfies is also a way of reassuring loved ones that they are safe and well.


Smart phones have become a major means of communications in areas where landlines are not available. Refugees are not necessarily very poor, and those fleeing Syria are not as poor as some may think.

Smart phones have become a major part of the Syrian struggle. Syrians have used them to record videos of their protests, and attacks against them, since the start of the revolution. No media outlets can produce photos as powerful as those Syrians have taken of their lives inside their country during the past few years. When the regime prevented foreign media outlets from entering Syria, the people took charge of their own fate by taking photos.

“We Syrians took photos of every protest and of every massacre,” a Syrian refugee told German media. “We won’t stop taking pictures and sharing them now [that we escaped death]. Migration and asylum are part of our story.”

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Oct. 12, 2015.

Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in AlSharq AlAwsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.

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