The Day I Disappeared: Remembering The Lebanese Who Have Been Missing For Decades

Photo via ICRC.

Photo via ICRC.

Yesterday, August 29th 2016, I disappeared for a day. It was part of a campaign by the International Committee of the Red Cross that I felt compelled to be part of, almost no questions asked.

It started with one simple picture, on a white background on which the hashtag – both in Arabic and English – was emblazoned: #TheDayIDisappeared or #يوم_اختفيت. I shared that picture on my various social media platforms (example) then went radio silent for the most part of the day. 

A couple of hours later, my friends and family members began to get worried. What was that image I had posted? Why wasn’t I replying to their messages? Why wasn’t I chastising that Aounist video all over social media over the past two days?

The calls started pouring in. Is there anything wrong? They’d ask. We’re worried, they’d tell me. In that moment, it’s really beautiful to feel loved. But the fact of the matter is that I wasn’t in any danger. I was just going offline for a day – something that many people do frequently – trying to erase any trace of me from how people expect your behavior to be modeled in 2016.

I was not missing or disappeared. I was pretty much around. I was accessible. I was not an entity with an unknown fate. I was sitting in my office, working, willfully pretending not to exist for a day.

This simplification of what it is to be missing is a gross understatement of the lives of thousands of Lebanese families over the past few decades.

At a time when our war is over, theirs continues. They are at war every day: at war with their beings that long for their family members about whom they’ve heard nothing for tens of years, at war with the semblance of hope that rejuvenates in their souls every single morning, at war with a government that doesn’t care, at war with a country that more than readily wants to let go.

Over the weekend, I spoke extensively with a thirty two year old man named Jalal Kobtan whose father went missing at the same age Jalal is now thirty years ago. You can read Jalal’s story in my article for Al-Jazeera at the link (here).

There are many things we take for granted when our loved ones are around, the least of which is how they shape us. Jalal, for instance, never had his father teach him how to drive, or ride a bike or even swim. He told me how longing he was when he saw all the other kids with their fathers learn all of the things he had to rely on himself to learn.

Sometimes, you don’t know how big of a rock some people are to you until they’re gone. Thousands of Lebanese families haven’t only lost their rocks, but their entire pillars. Today is the day to tell them that we are here, that we care, and that their lives are more than just a hashtag and a Facebook profile picture.

There are fewer things in life that hurt more than the pain of not knowing, which I dubbed the pain of ambiguity. This is the daily life of all those families whose loved ones went missing without a trace all those decades ago. To wake up every single day not knowing what your father or son or daughter or mother’s fate is, to realize there’s nothing you can do but pray to whichever entity is listening, to have your soul torn apart by the fact there’s just so much you can do. There’s nothing worse than this. This is life to many of these people.

In the coming years, many of the parents of the Lebanese who went missing will be no more without finding any semblance of closure. Today is the day to remember those parents, those mothers who have kept their sons’ rooms as they are all these years, those fathers who long for the day when they can hug their flesh and blood and tell them that everything will be okay, even if everything isn’t. Hemostasis, however, is not in sight.

To Lebanon’s families of missing people, today we share your pain. May it not be ambiguous anymore.

To Burkini Or Not To Burkini: The Ages Of Men Deciding What Women Should Wear

When it comes to cultural assimilation, many parts of Europe have not been exemplary in the way they’ve dealt with the many minorities that have sought their land as refuge over the years, but none more so than France, whose problem with people who are lesser-white than the average they’re used to goes back to the time where it occupied much of Northern Africa and contributed to a mass exodus of people from those areas to serve as cheap labor for their home country.

The immigrants that flocked to France challenged the French about what it was to be as such: what is the French identity? What makes France as it is? How do we integrate such diversity into what we already know and take as scripture? Needless to say, the French model failed miserably.

Instead of integrating the laborers in French societies, they were settled along metropolitan areas with other destitute French, close enough to work but far enough from being part of actual French society, further widening the divide between “authentic” French and otherwise. Social programs, a hallmark of the French political system, also contributed to further encourage the differences between both population groups, further making the grounds for discrimination more fertile.

It is no coincidence, therefore, that in the France of today, and similarly to the African American situation in the United States, French jails have a much higher population of North African-origin inmates than of any other population, relative to their proportion of the general French populace.

As the French general public failed to grasp the fundamental problem at hand, the political rhetoric started to mirror the growing dismay from those immigrants. From having the French symbol “La Marianne” in a veil on the cover of Le Figaro, to tell people that France would become Muslim in 30 years, to people like Jean Marie Le Pen painting those immigrants as violent, uncontrollable, and who breed like rabbits.

It’s no wonder, therefore, that in 2004, the French state decided to ban the public use of the veil, much to the outcry of many Islamic and human rights group who saw the move as a gross encroachment on the rights of those women. The argument back then was that France, being a secular state, did not tolerate any signs of religiosity. The underlying tone, however, was that this secular state with an Christian undercurrent would not tolerate an apparent Islamization in its PR.

The rift between “immigrants” – French like everyone else but always viewed as lessers – and French continued to grow through the years, between attacks on Charlie Hebdo, to the terrorist attacks that overtook Paris and Nice, to the increasing rise of the Front National. Today, the clash of culture is taking place in a different way: French statesmen want to ban a conservative swimwear colloquially called the “Burkini” – a term merging both Burka and Bikini – in their attempt to preserve the semblance of the “liberated” image of France.

Introduced in Australia by a Muslim woman who tried to merge her religious and Australian lives, the piece of clothing soon became global. With the French bans, many people are purchasing them around the world in solidarity. The outcry against the French ban is deafening. The question of the matter, however, is why would such a ban be conceived in the first place?

This is a continuation of the French problem in trying to assimilate different parts of what makes France as it is into a modern identity that is holistic and inclusive. The French revolution slogan “equality, liberty, brotherhood” seems to only be applicable as long as you fit within the code of such a statement.

The ban is equal part Islamophobic and an attack on a woman’s freedom of expression. Would French police arrest a nun, for instance, who is wearing her religious clothing on a beach just because she is covered up? Would they arrest a swimmer clad in their sport clothes? Would they arrest any woman whose clothes attire conflicts with what they deem acceptable enough to fit within the narrowing, rather than broadening, confines of French culture of 2016?

Burkini - 2

The ban of the Burkini can be summarized as follows: men trying to impose a dress code on women who have already had a dress code enforced on them by men elsewhere who view their chastity as directly proportional to how much skin they cover up, never knowing that maybe, just maybe, the problem isn’t in the skin that is exposed or not, but rather in the minds that look at that skin in the first place.

Before Arabs and Muslims can be upset about France banning Burkinis, ins’t some introspection into what is happening in our own backyards warranted? How many of our cultures and countries coerce our women into covering every inch of them, whether they want to or not? How many of our cultures and countries treat women as second rate citizens just because they were not born men, limiting them with what those who were born men believe those women should be entitled for? How many of our cultures and countries have made women feel insecure just by walking down the streets with eyes that ravaged their bodies regardless of how covered up they were?

How many of our cultures and countries have stopped women from even going to the beach for fear of being viewed as nothing more than meat? How many of our cultures and countries have made wearing the hijab, and consequently items of clothing such as the burkini, as an indication of the woman wearing them – whether she wants to or not – essentially being a better person than the woman who decided not to? The fact of the matter is that women are more prone to be sexually harassed on our beaches, whether they were wearing a Burkini or a bikini, than in the beaches of France, even if they’re wearing nothing.

Tackling the abhorrent rise of Islamophobia in France cannot therefore occur without looking inside our own homes for once. Do we allow our women to wear whatever they want without conferring moral judgement on them for doing so? Do we give our women the freedoms that we believe they are being robbed of in France or elsewhere? Do we not pass judgement on those women who decide to go to the beach wearing a Bikini just because they felt like it, categorizing them as everything we believe women should not be?
The answer is no.

The resources France is putting into banning the Burkini are completely unnecessary. It’s a legislation that has become a farce: that of armed police officers assaulting decent women at the beach to strip them of their clothes. By coercing them out of a Burkini, the French state is doing to those women something that’s as bad as forcing them into one in the first place. It’s unfortunate that while standing as such a crossroads, France and the rest of Europe decide to make a U-turn rather than advance further into creating an environment where women can be free to choose whether they want to wear a Burkini or not. Instead, you have a bunch of men deciding they know, once more, what women want and what they should do. When ISIS tells Muslims they’re nothing but second class citizens in the West, one wonders, when does the West realize that its practices play right into ISIS’ hand?

For Omran

Omran Daqneesh

I see you sitting there, at an age where your biggest woe should be whether your little toy car would beat your friend’s in an artificial race, your tiny legs barely extending beyond the ambulance seat, and you break every piece of my heart in doing so. There’s nothing more I want to see you do than sit in a swing set, using those small legs to kick the ground with all the strength you could muster to go as high as you possibly could.

With your eyes transfixed on a childhood that has been long-stolen from you, you’ve reminded the world that the war that’s becoming synonymous with your upbringing involves people too, that those numbers they see ticking up in their news feeds are not mere figures, but people who are someone’s entire world.

In that moment when you were shell-shocked at everything you’ve lost, you also shocked the world. There has been no stronger emotion. But emotions are fleeting, and they rarely cause change. You and Aylan Kurdi will become symbols, and once they move away from you, once you stop bringing them the hits, you will only remain engrained in the memory of those who care beyond the span of a news cycle.

I’m sorry you grew up Arab. I’m sorry you grew up in a region that has only known conflict, that your childhood is that of war, like the childhoods of all of your people, where you are nothing more than a number, where your tragedy and worth are only as important as the viral picture that emanates from them.

I’m sorry you grew up knowing nothing more than fragility of a status quo, where one moment everything you know is the completeness of your family, and the next everything that you know is buried in rubble, and you’re in the back of an ambulance with the only common denominator is you being alive.

I’m sorry that many only see you as a potential threat, unaware that the horrors you’re going through will leave a scar lasting beyond the attention they bestow upon you, as they go back to the confines of their safe bubble, pointing fingers at your kind, while their children are safe and sound, and will hopefully always be as such, never knowing the meaning of what it is to be in your shoes that are buried under the rubble of everything that you once knew was home.

I’m sorry you have nowhere to go. I’m sorry the places where you’d be safe are places whose people don’t want you, afraid of you talking to their children, going to their schools, breathing their air, drinking their water. I’m sorry that you’re damned if you stay, and damned if you leave. I’m sorry you live in a world where justice is as fictive as books about magic, witches and wizards.

I’m sorry that to them you’re nothing more than a meaningless pawn in their chess game.

Omran - Aylan

Because there are no words in any language that can portray the heartbreak that you’ve witnessed, as a picture of you in sheer shock makes headlines, only to get people like me shaken for a minute or two before they go about their normal daily life, and you go back to yours where you might have a second or third of fourth or thirteenth photo-op but no one to see your shell-shocked face.

Because we have failed you. As a human being, I have failed you. As human species, we have all failed you. As countries around the world, we’ve failed you.

Because you’re not supposed to be sitting in the back of an ambulance, blood streaking down one side of your face, covered in dust, not aware that in that moment you were forever changed, instead of playing with little toy guns with your siblings, in a playground somewhere, like kids your age should be doing.

Because you’re not supposed to be going viral for being traumatized and because your trauma is not supposed to be a discussion topic for us today.

Because I couldn’t hold back my tears when I saw your face while you never did.You’re precious, beautiful, important, loved and this is for you.

To The Lebanese & Arabs Mocking The Siege On Madaya And Its Starving People

Huddled in the Anti-Lebanon mountains, Madaya is a Syrian village housing tens of thousands of innocent people who are being starved to death at the hand of a siege enforced by the Lebanese allies of the Syrian regime. Their strife is not new. They’ve been going through hell for months, eating whatever they can get: leaves, dirt, cats, dogs. International aid groups are calling the famine there the tip of the iceberg of the crisis taking place in that village of 40,000 people, and no one has been able as of now to fully grasp the picture of the human tragedy taking place there.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Forgive the shock value of the following pictures, but the victims in Madaya deserve to have their voices heard on top of those belittling them for being forced to protractedly die.

Today, some Lebanese and other Arabs are pioneering once again.

I didn’t think that there was potential for some aspects of my country to sink any lower, but color me surprised because not only have we done that, no, we have set the standards on how low you can go. Starting now, I beseech the entire world to consider us as a standard for being despicable, inhumane and revolting because it can’t get worse than this, because there can’t be people who are worse than those about whom I’m writing now.

As the news about Madaya’s humanity crisis broke, some people in my country and the region had the audacity not only to stand with the siege, but to mock the dying people of Madaya. Behold a few samples:

 

I don’t know if these creatures are people, because people cannot be so lacking of compassion, of humanity and of any ounce of civility to actually think that their own political agenda is worth advancing by useless social media posts over the frail, cachectic bodies of men, women and children.

I don’t know if these creatures are of the required intellect to be aware of the horror of watching your child die in front of you because you are not able to feed them.

I don’t know if these creatures grasp how horrifying it is to watch your parents waste away in front of you, and you in front of them, because all of you are not allowed to eat.

These creatures are savages whose existence is an abomination, who are not worthy of the air they breathe, the food they eat, the space their bodies are wasting by merely existing.

Ladies and gentlemen, we share the country with entities who cannot rise above their demented, twisted politics even when it’s as clear as the dying body of a child who has lost all color in their face and all the life out of their cheeks. They cannot grasp the notion that there are things in life far worthier than defending what you know at all costs.

Ladies and gentlemen, we live with beings who can fathom making fun of people who are being starved to death just for the sake of being funny.

It’s one thing to be apathetic to the plight of the people in Madaya, but to actively wish them further harm, to actively make fun of them is something beyond words.

I want to never wish them the hunger that the people of Madaya are feeling. I want to never wish them seeing their loved ones waste away in front of them not because of disease, but because of lack of food. I want to never wish them to see their pets being turned to stew. I want to never wish them what they are wishing to the people of Madaya. But I can’t, so here are their names, and their faces.

Do with them as you please. I may not believe, but I believe those people will one day face their reckoning: اللَّهُ يَسْتَهْزِئُ بِهِمْ وَيَمُدُّهُمْ فِي طُغْيَانِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ.

 

 

Dear Donald Trump, Meet My Very Scary Muslim Friends

Donald Trump does not want Muslims to enter America, at least until he can be sure what those Muslims are planning. You know, all 1.5 billion plus of those Muslims. Yes, all of them must be in on that very scary Muslim plan that they conceived one scary afternoon when no one was looking, as they all huddled together and decided that the only thing they’d want to do in their lifetime is not survive because most Muslims are not really living, not make ends meet, not finish school and find a job and try to better themselves, not to build families and communities, not to just pray 5 times a day to Allah and fast Ramadan and be good people just because they should be.

Nope.

What those Muslims have planned is something much scarier. If only anyone knew what that plan is. So Donald Trump, let us meet my very scary Muslim friends together.

This is Oula, on the far left, with her beautiful family.

Oula

Oula is a 24 year old newly graduated doctor, and a hell of a good one at that. She can handle the best of emergencies efficiently. She can save lives effortlessly, and if it comes down to it, she would also save yours in a heartbeat because that’s the kind of people she is. And look at her celebrating Christmas with her family. Do you think that’s part of the plan, too?

This is Mostapha, with his wife Dima.

Mostapha

Mostapha is also a doctor. He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders every single day. He worries  about his friends more than they worry about themselves. Mostapha is not only the most selfless person I know, he would probably define the word selfless in a dictionary. He just returned from giving blood to my grandfather, who happens to be Christian. Do you think that’s part of the plan? Infusing their blood into the unknowing masses?

This is Zaher.

Zaher

Zaher helps run one of my country’s most established and known sweets-factories. He’ll send a few kilos of those absolutely delicious Arabian sweets, poison free I promise. Zaher is a father of two adorable little girls, but his main concern nowadays is that the new Star Wars movie be up to scratch.

This is Hiba.

Hiba

Hiba is a dentist, and also the mother of the most adorable two year old you will meet whose name is Sacha. It’s pronounced Sasha, but written with a C. Don’t ask. Hiba’s friends are from all kinds of kinds. She was raised on tolerance, and like her sister Hala, who is also a doctor, practice tolerance in all that they do. I can’t say the same about you.

This is Ahmad with his wife Anya.

Ahmad

Ahmad is a physiotherapist. And he’d probably done one hell of a good work on his back if you asked him to, or probably not. She’s Romanian, so you probably wouldn’t have a problem with her. His main care in the world is providing for his family, in a country where his profession is a cut-throat competition. But you know nothing about living a tough life now, do you?

These are the Syrian refugees your country is receiving in spite of what you want, and they are all my friends too.

They’ve been to hell and back, not only at the hands of the hellish regime in their country and the terrorist forces pillaging their homes and their lives, but also in the bureaucratic process required for them to be granted entry into your borders. You’d do well read their stories on “Humans of New York” except you’re not human, so you wouldn’t understand.

This is Aylan Kurdi. And he too was my friend.

Aylan Kurdi f

As his body adorned the ruthless shores of Turkey, did your conscience budge in the tiniest bit Mr. Trump? Did you think, just for a second, that this was a human being worth of your sentiment and not of your judgment? Or was he just another Muslim, who was in on that big hellish Muslim plan?

I honestly and from the deepest parts of my heart wish on you, Mr. Trump, never to be subjected to what these people had to go through: I hope you never know what it is to see your loved ones die in front of you. I hope you never know what it is to see your home destroyed as you drive away from it. I hope you never know what it is to be stuck in limbo, not knowing how to move on with your life or what to do. I hope you never have your worth as a human be valued by how much you can contribute to a society. I hope you never have to be labeled as a terrorist until proven otherwise when you are ALWAYS a perpetual victim. I hope you never have to deal with the likes of you.

These are the more than a billion Muslim in the world, Mr. Trump, who live in hellish conditions, whose lives are always contingent upon powers higher up doing whatever they please with their homes simply because they exist on profitable lands, and whose worth as human beings is always dependent on the net price of the oil barrel.

These are the more than a billion Muslim in the world who scare you but are incapable of doing any harm to you, while you get people to hate them, to draw weapons at them for simply existing, for believing that they are worthless.

Except you are not a hater of all Muslims, isn’t that right? Or is it that you only love those rich Muslims who build golf courses in your name and whose name you can use to say that you have “some Muslims who agree with you” akin to those people who have “gay friends” who agree with them that gay marriage is an abomination.

Isn’t that you with Hussain Sajwani, head of Dubai’s DAMAC group?

Trump Damac

Entertain me for a moment, Mr. Trump, and answer this: How is it that you will screen for Muslims entering your beloved country on its path to greatness? Is their a Muslim gene you isolated? Will you get them to recite Quran verses? Where would that place me, a non-Muslim, who knows quite a few of Quran verses? Do you need me to recite them now or would that scare you?

What you’re saying Donald Trump is not scary. Let me call it what it is, because most American journalists are somehow still shying away from using the word with you: it’s disgusting, revolting, bigoted, racist, Nazi-like and inhumane. Is your middle name Adolf? If not, I suggest you change it to that because the last time someone had such a message broadcast in such a way was post WWI in Germany and we all know how that turned out to be.

The scary part, Mr. Trump, is that there are people paying to hear you, itching to shout your name, holding it on signs to proclaim they want their country to be great again.

I doubt that those people rooting for you know what greatness means. It is not to be a racist, which you are. It is not to be a bigot, which you are. It is not to be despicable, which those people are channeling every time they answer a poll proclaiming you as their choice. It is to be wholesome, accepting, tolerant, encompassing of change and of others who are different and who can induce change. Being great is not to be so politically dim-witted as to jump on whichever messages offends people enough to grab headlines, but to know that cause and effect, in politics, do not have a causal relationship.

To the people supporting Donald Trump, I say this: may you never be in need, in full blown despair, not knowing where tomorrow would lead you or how you are going to make it through the night, and then have someone just like you stand and say: you deserve it.

America being great again is not America refusing to be what it has always been: a country of immigrants. A country that is so afraid of what it is cannot simply be, and this is coming from someone who lives in a country that has simply been, despite all odds, and will be, in spite of them.

In a world where you are lumping an entire religion into one basket, you have to be thankful no one is lumping all Americans into yours. People applauding you does not mean what you’re saying is worth anything. It means that in that circle of jokers and jesters, you are the biggest clown.

From Beirut, This Is Paris: In A World That Doesn’t Care About Arab Lives 


When a friend told me past midnight to check the news about Paris, I had no idea that I would be looking at a map of a city I love, delineating locations undergoing terrorist attacks simultaneously. I zoomed in on that map closer; one of the locations was right to where I had stayed when I was there in 2013, down that same boulevard.

The more I read, the higher the number of fatalities went. It was horrible; it was dehumanizing; it was utterly and irrevocably hopeless: 2015 was ending the way it started – with terrorists attacks occuring in Lebanon and France almost at the same time, in the same context of demented creatures spreading hate and fear and death wherever they went.

I woke up this morning to two broken cities. My friends in Paris who only yesterday were asking what was happening in Beirut were now on the opposite side of the line. Both our capitals were broken and scarred, old news to us perhaps but foreign territory to them.

Today, 128 innocent civilians in Paris are no longer with us. Yesterday, 45 innocent civilians in Beirut were no longer with us. The death tolls keep rising, but we never seem to learn.

Amid the chaos and tragedy of it all, one nagging thought wouldn’t leave my head. It’s the same thought that echoes inside my skull at every single one of these events, which are becoming sadly very recurrent: we don’t really matter.

When my people were blown to pieces on the streets of Beirut on November 12th, the headlines read: explosion in Hezbollah stronghold, as if delineating the political background of a heavily urban area somehow placed the terrorism in context.

When my people died on the streets of Beirut on November 12th, world leaders did not rise in condemnation. There were no statements expressing sympathy with the Lebanese people. There was no global outrage that innocent people whose only fault was being somewhere at the wrong place and time should never have to go that way or that their families should never be broken that way or that someone’s sect or political background should never be a hyphen before feeling horrified at how their corpses burned on cement. Obama did not issue a statement about how their death was a crime against humanity; after all what is humanity but a subjective term delineating the worth of the human being meant by it?

What happened instead was an American senator wannabe proclaiming how happy he was that my people died, that my country’s capital was being shattered, that innocents were losing their lives and that the casualties included people of all kinds of kinds.

 

When my people died, no country bothered to lit up its landmarks in the colors of their flag. Even Facebook didn’t bother with making sure my people were marked safe, trivial as it may be. So here’s your Facebook safety check: we’ve, as of now, survived all of Beirut’s terrorist attacks.

 

When my people died, they did not send the world in mourning. Their death was but an irrelevant fleck along the international news cycle, something that happens in those parts of the world.

And you know what, I’m fine with all of it. Over the past year or so, I’ve come to terms with being one of those whose lives don’t matter. I’ve come to accept it and live with it.

Expect the next few days to exhibit yet another rise of Islamophobia around the world. Expect pieces about how extremism has no religion and about how the members of ISIS are not true Muslims, and they sure are not, because no person with any inkling of morality would do such things. ISIS plans for Islamophobic backlashes so it can use the backlash to point its hellish finger and tell any susceptible mind that listens: look, they hate you.

And few are those who are able to rise above.

Expect the next few days to have Europe try and cope with a growing popular backlash against the refugees flowing into its lands, pointing its fingers at them and accusing them of causing the night of November 13th in Paris. If only Europe knew, though, that the night of November 13 in Paris has been every single night of the life of those refugees for the past two years. But sleepless nights only matter when your country can get the whole world to light up in its flag color.

The more horrifying part of the reaction to the Paris terrorist attacks, however, is that some Arabs and Lebanese were more saddened by what was taking place there than what took place yesterday or the day before in their own backyards. Even among my people, there is a sense that we are not as important, that our lives are not as worthy and that, even as little as it may be, we do not deserve to have our dead collectively mourned and prayed for.

It makes sense, perhaps, in the grand sense of a Lebanese population that’s more likely to visit Paris than Dahyeh to care more about the former than about the latter, but many of the people I know who are utterly devastated by the Parisian mayhem couldn’t give a rat’s ass about what took place at a location 15 minutes away from where they lived, to people they probably encountered one day as they walked down familiar streets.

We can ask for the world to think Beirut is as important as Paris, or for Facebook to add a “safety check” button for us to use daily, or for people to care about us. But the truth of the matter is, we are a people that doesn’t care about itself to begin. We call it habituation, but it’s really not. We call it the new normal, but if this normality then let it go to hell.

In the world that doesn’t care about Arab lives, Arabs lead the front lines.

 

To Aylan Kurdi & Syria’s Children, I Am Sorry

Aylan Kurdi -

The most heartwarming story of recent days was when Abdul-Halim Attar had his entire future changed because of one picture. He was carrying his sleeping daughter on his back across the streets of Beirut as he tried to provide to her by selling BIC pens. His picture caught the world’s attention, but it was fleeting and momentary, like everything that catches the world’s attention these days.

Why Abdul-Halim Attar needed to go viral to make ends meet was never the issue. Viral pictures should not be how the Syrian refugee crisis gets handled, but this is how it’s becoming.

Abdul-Halim Attar Syrian Refugee BuyPens -

To Syria’s children, I’m terribly sorry it has come to this. I’m terribly sorry you need to be photographed in pictures sleeping on your fathers’ shoulders for someone to care. I’m terribly sorry you need to be photographed dead at a beach for people to feel sorry.

Aylan Kurdi f

I’m sorry you were born Arab.

I’m sorry that you were born into a region that doesn’t remotely care about you outside of the necessary formalities, where countries chastise others for not taking you in as their quota of you is still a big round zero.

I’m sorry that you have to die because of the hypocrisy of those Muslims who cry in the name of Islam at useless cartoons but fail to apply their own religion when it’s absolutely needed, when you are dying at the shores of Libya, of Turkey, of Greece.

I’m sorry you were born in a sea of leaders who care more about having their vacation in the South of France cut short because their once-public-turned-private beach wasn’t available anymore, and who care more about their shopping in SoHo, than about you having food once a week, or sleeping one night not to the sounds of bombs, or having a smile on your face that is not because your parents gave you the illusion of safety.

I’m sorry you are born to a leader who’d rather see you dead than to abdicate his inherited throne, and that you were born at times where your lives don’t geopolitically matter and where this very same statement will have people shake their heads in disapproval.

AYlan Kurdi  Syria Refugees Arabs

I’m sorry Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are pre-occupied with always building bigger, brighter, flashier, but never in doing something actually worthwhile.

I’m sorry you are not financially important enough for Arabs to care.

I’m sorry little Aylan that there are Arabs who think your death is warranted because you’re Kurdi.

I’m sorry for Europe.

I’m sorry Europe views you as lesser than animals as it barricades its borders in walls to keep you at bay, in lands torn apart by war, where you await your turn to die, like lambs waiting to be slaughtered.

I’m sorry Europe is so xenophobic that that it doesn’t see you as innocent beings trying to live, but as social burdens who should be stopped at whatever cost.

I’m sorry Europe is so Islamophobic it sees you as nothing more than a growing infestation of a religious following that they deem foreign to their land, a presence that should be contained.

I’m sorry Europe’s own politicians and their policies that got you to where you are today are the same people making sure you die.

I’m sorry Europe doesn’t see you as people fighting for a life that is worth living.

I’m sorry that your skin just so happens not to be white enough to matter.

I’m sorry for the world.

I’m sorry you are not as important as Cecil the Lion or some whale stranded on a beach somewhere.

I’m sorry that news of Apple’s upcoming iPhone are more important than your death.

I’m sorry that Donald Trump’s racism is more relevant than our drowning.

I’m sorry for my country.

I’m sorry that we can’t do more.

I’m sorry that my country is so messed up that we can’t remotely provide the basics that any person should have. I’m sorry that my country can’t even provide for its own people.

I’m sorry for the racism, for the curfews, for the xenophobia, for the Islamophobia even at the hands of my country’s Muslims.

I’m sorry for my country’s politicians using you as fuel to spark sectarian hate, and then use the pictures of your dying children to spread fear on what could have been hadn’t they been in power.

Aylan Kurdi

I’m sorry that we can’t fully let go of how your political establishment treated us, that we can’t separate person and politics and that we can’t just see you as people trying to live.

I’m sorry that I can only be sorry, that I can only write a few words that verge on sentimentalism, trespass on sensationalism be it in empathy or in utter horror, words that are not actually meant to you but to those who can read them and who can understand them and who can hopefully do something so you don’t end up drowning, face down, in the sands of a beach in Turkey, so you can end up more than just a viral picture.

People are more than internet sensations. Humanitarian crises are worth more than viral pictures.

This is because people need to see themselves in those parents’ shoes and because those children, drowning on beaches and forever lost under water, can be their children too.