The image of the four-year-old girl is equally captivating and heartbreaking — her face is still the face of a baby, with round cheeks and large, dark eyes. But those eyes are filled with more sorrow and despair than any four-year-old should ever have to know, and her little arms are raised upwards in the universal sign of surrender.
The little girl’s name is Adi Hudea, and her image has gone viral since being posted to Twitter last Tuesday by Nadia Abu Shaban, a photojournalist based in Gaza.
The comments that accompany the photo read, “I’m actually weeping” and “Humanity failed” as the haunting image of a four-year-old fearfully surrendering has come to light.
Accusations that the photo was faked or staged, however, quickly began to surface, but the photo was traced to a legitimate newspaper, credited to a Turkish photojournalist named Osman Sağırlı. And the story behind her photo is as heartbreaking as the image itself.
Adi Hudea, the photojournalist says, was photographed at the Atmeh refugee camp, located in Syria, last December. Adi had left home and made her way to the camp, located a few miles from the Turkish border, in the company of her mother and two siblings, in a journey that was a little over 90 miles. Her father had been killed in a bombing.
Photojournalist Osman Sağırlı, who is currently working in Tanzania, remembers the moment he captured the image of little Adi surrendering, and says that the look of fear and despair in the four-year-old child’s eyes were real, and the reason why is both simple and terrible.
“I was using a telephoto lens, and she thought it was a weapon.”
Sağırlı explained that normally, a child who is unaccustomed to having his or her photo taken will either “run away, hide their faces or smile when they see a camera,” but Adi Hudea did none of those. Instead, she bit her lip and raised her hands. It wasn’t until after Sağırlı took the photo that he realized she was terrified — that Adi was raising her arms in surrender because, in her world, the unknown object of a telephoto lens was automatically seen as a weapon.
War-time photography is often gripping, and gritty, telling the story of conflict through pictures. But it is never so heartbreaking as when the subject is that of a child, and the war is seen through eyes that cannot comprehend the conflict, but manage to encapsulate the fear and horror of living in the midst of violence.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that about 10 million Syrians have become displaced since the Syrian civil war began in March 2011.
For more on the horrors faced by Syrian children, click here.
[Photo by Osman Sağırlı / Image via Twitter]