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.
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.
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.
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.
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.