He is young — one witness puts him at five years old, as old as the Syrian war itself. But his chubby arms and legs and the way he clings to the man who pulled him from the rubble of his bombed-out home suggest he is younger, maybe still a toddler.
He lived with his mother, father, brother and sister in the Syrian city of Aleppo, a contact on the ground tells CNN.
He and his family were injured when their house was destroyed by an airstrike Wednesday. Miraculously, everyone in his immediate family survived. Activists blame the Syrian regime and Russia for the bombings.
Aleppo, in northern Syria, has been besieged for years during that country’s civil war. Thousands of people have been killed there, including 4,500 children, and many lives have been upended.
Elsewhere on the same day, Wednesday, August 17, 2016, Channel 4 News had as its main story a film about a 9 months’ pregnant woman who was walking to hospital when she had a leg and an arm broken in a barrel bomb attack.
Her swollen belly was full of shrapnel, which regime forces pack around the explosives to make them – on top of their illegality and wild inaccuracy – extra devastating.
The surgeon – one of a few hardy souls prepared to work in a war zone – delivered the boy by emergency Caesarean and the medics spent 20 minutes trying to save his life.
The footage showed thumbs depressing his ribcage to start the heart, his vernix-covered unconscious body flopping around, the oxygen mask, and finally rubbing his skin and pinching him as he drew his first breaths.
It’s worth watching all the way through.
The haunting, heartbreaking video of Omran, posted by the Aleppo Media Center, has been circulating on social media.
It shows a civil defense worker carrying the little boy to an ambulance. His cartoon character T-shirt is covered in dust, the left side of his face is bloody. He is silent despite the cacophony around him.
He was not crying at any point during the rescue.
“He was in extreme shock,” according to a spokesman for the Aleppo Media Center, an activist group.
He looks dazed as he sits on the vehicle’s orange seat, his hands on his lap, as he waits to be treated, as he waits for somebody to help him.
He raises his left hand to his eye and feels the area around his temple as if he has been hit there. He wipes his face and looks down at the blood.
But Omran has had a lucky escape — he appears to have been one of the first pulled out of the rubble before his parents, the Aleppo Media Center says.
Omran with her sister
Omran’s story repeated every day
“The truth is that the image you see today is repeated every day in Aleppo,” said Mustafa al Sarouq, a cameraman with the Aleppo Media Center, who filmed the video. He spoke to CNN’s Nima Elbagir via Skype.
“Every day we cover these massacres and these war crimes in Aleppo. When we go to the places that have been bombed, regime planes circle around and bomb it again to kill rescue workers that are helping civilians. They kill these people who are trying to rescue people.”
It took nearly an hour to dig Omran out from underneath the rubble, an activist tells CNN. He and other rescuers used flashlights to bring out several people trapped beneath the bombed-out building. Video from the night scene shows another little boy, even younger than Omran, being placed on a stretcher on the same ambulance. A third shell-shocked man stumbles out of the collapsed building and walks into the ambulance.
Omran has now been released from the hospital.
The doctor who treated him said his injury was light compared to the others wounded in the bombing. He was discharged after two hours.
“Omran was in the same daze and shock you saw he had when he was in the ambulance,” said Dr. Mohammedd, a surgeon in Aleppo, who doesn’t want to use his last name for security reasons. “He was in the same situation, he did not cry at all.”
His mother and brother, who were seriously injured, were smuggled out of Aleppo, and the family is now staying with relatives, the activist tells CNN.
Just like Omran, children bear brunt of Syria war. Photo credit: dailymagazine.news
“World is silent”
On Wednesday, three more people died and at least 12 others were wounded in the rebel-held al Qaterchi neighborhood in eastern Aleppo, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Aleppo Media Center. One of those killed is believed to be a relative of Omran’s family.
More than 18,000 civilians have been killed in Aleppo province from March 15, 2011 through August 18, 2016, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
More than 4,500 of those killed were children under the age of 18, the Observatory said Thursday, after the video of Omran went viral.
“The whole world is silent to these crimes in Aleppo against women and children,” said Sarouq.
“There are thousands of children like Omran who are being bombed daily, killed daily… Everyday this city is hit with every type of weapon, with every type of crime. The living conditions are terrible. The only route out of the city is totally unusable, it is shut. We call on the whole world this regime and these militias that are killing children and specifically the children of Aleppo. These crimes must be stopped in Aleppo.”
Photo credit: www.unhcr.org
THE ” DELIBERATE KILLING” OF CHILDREN
The VCDS says 5,874 children have been killed – about twice as many people as those killed in 9/11 – 455 of them in the past month alone and there’s actually an“average monthly death toll” of 241.
It has recorded that 42 boys were tortured to death, and one girl. Only 72 of all those who died were involved in the conflict, all aged 16 to 17 – the other 5,801 were non-combatants.
Babies who were killed in their mother’s wombs number 62. Just over 1,000 were aged seven or younger . About 2,500 we don’t even know the age of, and 416 haveno known names.
Overall 48% of the children died in shelling, 22% from gunshots, and 6% were executed – defined by VCDS as “assassination, deliberate killing especially during the premeditated massacres or at military checkpoints, in addition to slaughtering with knives…..etc” .
The true figures – of children who didn’t get noticed, with loved ones who couldn’t tell the world – are probably even higher.
A Free Syria Army member is fighting in the heavy battle in Aleppo neighbourhood of Sheikh Maksoud. (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/real-story-behind-picture-bleeding-8664236)
UNLUCKY SCRAPS WHO DIDN’T GET TO SWAM
These are the children of those who could not get away. Whose families did not have the cash or the car, could not get to Libya or Egypt or had the misfortune to be born of people who could not afford the luxury of clinging to a leaky boat in a sea they cannot swim to get to a country where they’re not welcome.
They are the ones who had to stay, because someone was too ill or poor or old or late to leave.
A terrible choice
Some 1.5 to 2 million people still remain in Aleppo, once considered Syria’s largest city. It is now divided into rebel-held and government-held areas. Those still there face a terrible choice.
Should they stay in a city subjected to relentless bombing and risk their lives and those of their children?
Or embark on a perilous journey across the sea, and endanger the lives of their families?
Last year another image of a Syrian boy, just 2 years old, blew up social media.
The photo of Alan Kurdi’s body lying on a Turkish beach
galvanized the world and became a symbol of the migrant crisis in Europe.
A Sudanese artist based in Doha, Qatar, captured the two stories that symbolize the suffering of millions into one heart-wrenching image.
“The picture describes two scenes from different time periods, but the same war and struggle of Syrian people and refugees of war all over the world,” Khalid Albaih told CNN.
“Omran who was pulled from under the ruins after a Russian air strike in Aleppo and also of Alan who drowned in the Mediterranean.”
Asked what inspired him to draw the pictures, Albaih said: “My inspiration came from the fact that I consider myself a refugee. My children are within the same age and could also be in the same situation.”
THE STUNNED, BLOODIED FACE OF A CHILD SURVIVOR SUMS UP THE HORROR OF ALEPPO
As of this August, there are 865 children in the Jungle at Calais, 80% of them unaccompanied. There are reports they are going missing, being picked up by pimps and gangs to be raped and prostituted.
As of this week, and despite calls to take 3,000 child refugees from Syria, Britain has reportedly managed just 52.
As of today, the Syrian Network for Human Rights says the Russian forces currently doing their best to increase that average monthly death toll of children have killed more civilians than Da’esh.
Russia has bagged 2,704 civilians including 746 children, 514 women, 28 medics, and 10 journalists. Da’esh has managed 2,686, including 368 children, 323 women, 34 medics and 57 journalists.
UN calls for halt in Aleppo violence
Hope is far from reach for Omran and thousands of others like him.
The United Nations has been forced to halt nearly all aid deliveries in Syria, faced with the escalating fighting.
“In Syria, what we are hearing and seeing is only fighting, offensives, counter-offensives, rockets, barrel bombs, mortars, hellfire cannons, napalm, chlorine, snipers, airstrikes, suicide bombers,” said UN envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters in Geneva.
“Not one single convoy in one month has reached any of the humanitarian besieged areas. Not one single convoy. And why? Because one thing, fighting.”
He abruptly cut short a meeting of the UN humanitarian task force in protest of the violence.
Mistura has attemped to increase pressure on the US and Russia, the task force’s co-chairs, to help produce a 48-hour ceasefire in Aleppo.
On Thursday, Russia said it is ready to support that call from the UN Special Envoy to halt the violence in Aleppo to allow for the distribution of humanitarian aid.
“Coming from the international principles of humanitarian law and with intention to extend the scales of humanitarian mission in Aleppo, Russian Defense ministry is ready to support de Mistura’s proposal about weekly 48 hour humanitarian ceasefires to deliver the city’s citizens food, medicine and to restore vital service systems that got broken in rebels’ shellfire,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told Russian media.
He said the dates and times of the humanitarian convoys will be set after Russia receives security guarantees from the United States.
Syria and Russia announced in late July the opening of humanitarian corridors for people to flee Aleppo, but many residents stayed in the city, fearing the corridors were not safe. De Mistura said introducing such measures should be left to the UN and its partners,
and said that no one should be forced to leave.
UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. Photo credit: www.un.org
Suffering in Syria
Using survivors’ accounts, the Amnesty report details the harrowing conditions for inmates and the brutal methods of torture including rape, sexual violence, flogging, burning and scalding.
UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, estimates 8.4 million children are in need of humanitarian aid in Syria and neighboring countries.
UN Officials, delegates and other participants at the Security Council meeting on the continuing conflict in Syria and the attendant humanitarian and refugee crises. UN Photo: www.ibtimes.com.au
ALL WAR IS A MESS
The Syrian Civil War is more of a mincer, used as a score-settling proxy by Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia while children are fed into it.
Meanwhile Britain dithers about whether helping those children might mean they come here, and how awful that would be compared to them staying at home and getting minced.
All sides are using children like Omran as human shields. It doesn’t seem to be working, because no-one seems to much care about children who are executed, tortured, or killed by “slaughtering with knives… etc”.
We just care about the bits that are more palatable, like a dusty-but-alive boy and platitudes about how all war is awful.
ALL WAR IS NOT AWFUL
“World has failed the Syrian People”
The UN’s deputy secretary-general said he hoped Omran’s story and image would get to people’s hearts and brains.
“I think the whole world has failed the Syrian people,” said Jan Eliasson, speaking on CNN’s “Amanpour.” Thursday.
“I think this is an illustration of the huge tragedy that the Syrian people are going through. We talk about this often as this being a nightmare. This is worse than a nightmare because you wake up from a nightmare. But in Syria they wake up to constant nightmares.”
He called Syria one of the most frustrating conflicts in the world.
“This is like an infected wound in world politics,” Eliasson said. “We’ve got to end this war.”
Photo credit: www.weeklyvoice.com