By Victoria Venable
Elm Staff Writer
The world froze for a moment last week when shown a photograph, taken by Niluger Demir of the Dogan News Agency, of a Syrian toddler drowned and limp on a Turkish beach. It did not take long for the image to circulate the web and strike nerves all over the planet. The image instigated a debate on whether such graphic images should be published. On one side, people are demanding respect for the dead and the survivors while on the other side, many argue that the picture is an effective means to confront Europe’s response to the refugee crisis and show the truly gruesome realities of the Syrian conflict.
It is fair to argue that the international news cycle is long tired of Syria-related news and images. While the hot topic of debate, discussion, and, at times, vocal outcry, in Europe as of late has been the Syrian refugee crisis, the images paired with this news are Eurocentric at best. Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, about 11 million people have either died or fled their homes, according to a report from The Washington Post. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees have embarked on the perilous and often unrewarding excursion across the Mediterranean to Greece, hoping to seek sanctuary in Western Europe. The influx of refugees has been met with heated protests and stricter immigration policy proposals. As millions of Syrians struggle to reach safety in Europe, many policymakers and citizens on the right of the political spectrum are fighting to “preserve their nation’s identity” with xenophobic policies and ideals.
However, somehow, in this Eurocentric news cycle, this image of young Aylan Kurdi has grasped our fleeting attention. Germany and France, nations typically having higher levels of anti-immigration activism, hosted demonstrations to welcome migrants, according to news agency France 24. Similarly, CNBC reported that public support for refugees in the United Kingdom immediately increased in response to the image and growing international pressure, leading to a pledge from prime minister David Cameron to accept 20,000 Syrian refugees.
No one could argue that young Kurdi didn’t deserve a better ending to his story. On every side of the debate surrounding the images, we agree that his tragedy is one deserving of respect and sensitivity. When the journalists and photographers around the world report on the tragedies in Syria, they are reporting on the disgusting truth that everyday 2,000 people attempt to cross over to Greece’s eastern islands and hundreds of them fail. The disgusting truth is that children are dying at the hands of the conflict and at the hands of the international neglect. If the haunting image of his dead body can help arouse support for refugee assistance, he will leave a worthy legacy.