A HEARTBREAKING picture of a tiny boy dazed and bloodied in an ambulance after being injured in a bombing raid late on Wednesday has focused the world’s attention once more on the brutality of the long-running Syrian civil war
Little is known about five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, who was wounded in an airstrike in Aleppo, but the image of his suffering has prompted fresh demands for peace.
The photograph was circulated on social media and comes less than a year after a picture of another young Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, lying dead on a beach sparked calls for action to address the refugee crisis.
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Scottish political leaders last night responded to the photograph and united in demands for the international community to end the war.
“I was horrified to see this photo, which lays bare the reality and human cost of the war in Syria. The fact that a defenceless child has been placed into this situation through no fault of his own is utterly tragic,” said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
“We should be seeking to protect all children from the horrors of warfare, and it is more vital than ever that the international community tries to resolve this conflict soon.”
Labour’s Westminster spokesperson, Ian Murray MP, said: “It is less than a year since the pictures of Alan Kurdi lying dead on a beach in Turkey shocked the world, but still we see no concerted action to bring the conflict to an end, and continuing resistance to hosting refugees in Europe. This image of Omran has to be another warning to the world of continued inaction in Syria.”
Ross Greer MSP, external affairs spokesman for the Scottish Greens, said the photograph captured the savagery of the fighting and demonstrated why Syrians were desperately trying to reach European shores.
“How Theresa May and Boris Johnson can see these images and sleep at night, knowing how many thousands of refugees they have denied the chance of a new life in the UK, just astounds me,” he added.
“The UK and European Union need to immediately reverse course and adopt a response to the refugee crisis which values the humanity of those seeking our help. It is also time for our foreign minister to prove that he has any ability whatsoever and use the UK’s place on the UN Security Council to pressure Russia into an urgent ceasefire and the opening of genuine humanitarian corridors for civilians to flee and humanitarian aid to reach those who need it.
“After every atrocity we say never again. This generation will be judged on its response to the atrocity that is Aleppo.”
The photograph was taken as Omran headed to hospital and shows him covered with dust and so disoriented he seems unaware of an open wound on his forehead. He was taken to a hospital known as M10 where he was treated and discharged.
Buthaynah Ahmed, head of media and communications with Hand in Hand for Syria, a UK charity set by Syrians to provide humanitarian support to war casualties, said: “As uncomfortable as it is to see images like that of young Omran, they are an important reminder that we, as the international community, must do all we can to safeguard Syria’s children and find a peaceful solution to bring the conflict to an end.”
Kirsty McNeill, director of policy, advocacy and campaigns at Save the Children, said the conflict had become “normalised” to many in the West.
“The photo of Omran captured a single moment of suffering but the children of Aleppo are subject to bombing 24 hours a day. You have a city under siege, no children are in school, and the reason they aren’t is because the concentration of children in a single area would create a target for the bombers – that is just how bad the situation has become. Schools and hospitals have become active targets. It could not be more brutal.”
The image of Omran is a still from a video filmed and circulated by the Aleppo Media Centre, an anti-government activist group.
The fight for control of Aleppo has intensified in recent weeks following gains made by rebel groups battling the forces of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
Yesterday the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, suspended a meeting of a humanitarian aid task force co-chaired by Russia and the US, citing his frustration about the delay to aid deliveries to besieged areas of the country. De Mistura reiterated his call for a 48-hour pause in the fighting, notably in Aleppo.
Omran was rescued with his three siblings, aged one, six and 11, and his mother and father, according to Mahmoud Raslan, a photojournalist who helped casualties at the bombing site and who captured the footage. The family’s apartment building collapsed shortly after the rescue.
Eight people died in the airstrike, including five children. Doctors in Aleppo use codenames for hospitals, which they say have been systematically targeted by government airstrikes. Lydia Shelly, an Australian lawyer and community advocate, tweeted: “We need a political & social resolution to conflict in Syria & Iraq. We are losing a whole generation of children.”
Millions displaced or killed in war horror
THE Syrian war is the worst humanitarian crisis of today. Half the country’s pre-war population — more than 11 million people — have been killed or forced to flee their homes and thousands have died trying to cross the Mediterranean attempting to reach safety in Europe.
It began when peaceful protests arising from the 2011 Arab Spring were violently suppressed by President Bashar al-Assad’s Government and rebels began fighting back.
By July that year, army defectors had loosely organised the Free Syrian Army and many civilian Syrians took up arms to join the opposition. Divisions between secular and Islamist fighters continue to complicate the politics of the conflict with global powers including Russia, the United States and Iran being drawn in.
The UN says it will need $3.2bn to help the 13.5 million people, including six million children, who will require some form of humanitarian assistance inside Syria this year.
More than 250,000 have been killed and about 70 per cent of the population is without access to adequate drinking water, one in three people are unable to meet their basic food needs and more than two million children are out of school.
The warring parties have compounded the problems by refusing humanitarian agencies access to many of those in need.
The international community recognises only a political solution could end the conflict.
But peace talks in early 2014, Geneva II, broke down after only two rounds.