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18 August 2016updated 02 Sep 2021 10:18am

“I was crying as I was filming”: the Aleppo photographer who captured the boy in the ambulance

The little boy has grown up in a city devastated by war – when will the international community believe that the Assad regime and the Russian jets kill Syrian children every day?

By K. S.

Tourists used to visit the city of Aleppo seeking the taste of the region’s best food and dishes. The ingredients mixed together to create something delicious, just like the people of the city. If you search for images of Aleppo online before 2013, your screen will be full with the photos of these dishes, and elegant dinner tables. But I dare you to Google Aleppo right now and find a single food photo. Instead, you will find thousands of sad pictures. The city, and its people, are dying every day.

Before I went to bed on Thursday night, I saw a photo that was filled with colour, except for the grey boy with the half red face in the middle of it. He was sitting mutely on an orange chair. He looked at me like he was feeling guilty for soiling himself with the red blood. His eyes said it was not my fault. I felt ashamed, as I got into my warm bed in Europe, where I have found sanctuary, that I could not clean his face or even hug him. I was like the international community: feeling worried and sad but distant and useless. 

The photo and the video were taken by Mahmoud Raslan, a citizen photographer from Aleppo, who manages the Nour Media Centre in Aleppo. Before the Syrian revolution spiralled into war, Mahmoud used to live and work in Aleppo as baker and a pastry maker. But in 2014, he began taking photos of dead bodies and to record the destruction of buildings.

I had a short chat online with Mahmoud after he published the photo.

“To reach the Alkaterji neighborhood in a few minutes after the jet bombed at 7.15 PM, I drove very fast,” he told me. “A car almost crashed with mine and broke my ribs.” He added a smiley face emoji. What a strong person, I said to myself.

After some silence, Mahmoud wrote: “I was crying when I was filming the boy, especially because I became a father of a baby girl just seven days before.”

Mahmoud asked me to write his message in English, a language he cannot speak. And here it is: 

Is not it time for the international community to believe that the Assad regime and the Russian jets kill our children every day? This boy is just an example of the boys and girls who are murdered in Aleppo, Idlib and Der Ezzor. 

Most of north-east Syria is under siege. There is no access to water, nor food. The only thing allowed in is weapons, to kill the civilians. These civilians have started to flee – those from Deir ez-Zor and Aleppo moved to the Al-Qamishli, where there is no aerial bombardment.

Places like Deir ez-Zor are still under siege, in Aleppo, the Islamist rebels Jaish Al Fateh are in battle with Assad’s forces. Breaking the siege could allow aid into Aleppo.  

Civilians in Syria today face the most brutal war of the 21st century. But the western media talk only about the refugees and the danger of Daesh. 

To unravel the source of this conflict, powerful countries like the UK should go back to the person who killed the protestors in 2011, who sparked this fire and mess, just to keep his seat in power. If the UK and other powerful states find a way to remove Bashar al-Assad, this flow of blood and refugees will stop. 

K.S. is a Syrian journalist and writer, who has been based in Sweden since 2014.