Haggard and covered in blood, little Omran’s blank stare shook the world. But across war-torn Syria, thousands of children like him are shocked by daily life under bombs and siege.
The haunting image of Omran, a little boy mutely caked in blood and dust following an air strike, has become the latest symbol of Syria’s war and its devastating impact on children.
To those who know about the shocks of war, it is ‘the thousand-yard stare’ that blank look from unfocused eyes that have seen too much but cannot comprehend the horror they have witnessed.
The footage of the shell-shocked four-year-old made headlines around the world and was dubbed by Washington “the real face” of Syria’s five-year war.
Omran’s haunting photo has sparked a series of caricatures and edited images.
In one, Omran sits unassumingly between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, deep in discussion. Sudanese artist Khalid Albaih drew Omran near Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old whose tiny body washed up on a Turkish beach in September after a desperate attempt by his family to reach Europe by boat.
Of the estimated 250,000 people still living in the eastern parts of Aleppo, 100,000 are children, said Juliette Touma from the UN children agency (UNICEF).
More than 290,000 people have been killed since Syria’s conflict broke out, including nearly 15,000 children.
At least 2.8 million Syrian children — some in their home country, others living as refugees in neighboring countries — are without school.
Across Syria at least six million children are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, Ms. Touma said, adding that children make up half of the 600,000 people living under siege in the country.
Though the extent of Saudi’s support for Isis is opaque at best, there is no doubt it shares the same extreme interpretation of Islam.
While the Assad government projects the war as a battle between its own relative religious tolerance and the forces of militant jihad, many observers see the Syrian conflict as a proxy war between the two greatest regional powers in the Middle East, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
According to UNICEF, a third of Syrian children have only known war, born after the conflict erupted in March 2011.
That means millions of children “have grown up too fast and way ahead of their time,” the agency said. – AFP
Ultimate victory for Assad will be seen as a humiliation for the West, which has been sympathetic to some of the rebel groups. It will also be seen as confirmation that Russia, in alliance with Iran, has re-established itself as a great power in the Middle East.
In the meantime it is the innocents who suffer. Little boys like Omran, whose blood-stained face and harrowing ‘thousand-yard stare’ stand as a shocking rebuke to us all.