Europe is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis the likes of which haven’t been seen this century. Hundreds of thousands of people, not unlike you or I are fleeing their homes in the war torn country of Syria, heading North with their families in search of sanctuary. So why, in this time when there’s a plethora of tragic stories would anyone use a poorly doctored image to highlight this disaster?
This terrifying photograph shows Syrian refugee Rukhsan Muhammed who was rescued off the coast of Turkey in 2013 after the boat she and her son were on capsized. Without the need for an expert’s inspection it is clear that a white headscarf has been crudely applied to the photograph using digital tools.
The moment captured is one of utter despair, indeed since the photograph was taken we learned that Rukhsan had been in the water with her one year old son who was washed away and drowned by the strong currents. So why trivialise this awful situation by drawing on a headscarf to protect this poor woman’s modesty?
Rukhsan Muhammed, one of the passengers of the boat carrying Syrian refugees to Greek Islands fights for her life after the boat sinks at Aegean Sea near the coastal city of Balikesir, in Turkey on November 29, 2013. Rukhsan Muhammed told a new aspect of her family’s dramatic escape, to Turkish authorities during her appearance in court this week. She explained that following the accident she used her suitcase as a means of life preserver to keep her 1,5 years-old child, Mirwan Muhammed, from drowning. But despite of all her efforts her son fell off the suitcase and got lost amongst the waves.
Here is the original, undoctored picture available for license from Getty Images.
With context the original photograph does merit the attention and highlight authors have given it. With this sort imagery we are more likely to donate money to charitable organisations, sign e-petitions, contact our local government, express views publicly or even try to help ourselves. By doctoring the photograph to suit our own personal beliefs the context is subverted or at least split in half. We’re not left asking the derivatives of just the one question ‘How can we save these poor souls?’ but instead why does religious dress matter more to campaigners than the issue at hand? Why subjugate the religious background of this woman when what surely what matters most is our emphatic connection with ‘the migrants’.
Of course underneath any clothing is a human being, a mother who has lost her child and nearly her own life. We want to care about this person and if she lived to tell of her ordeal. Within the series of images from the Anadolu Agency we can see that Rukhsan was thankfully rescued and what is striking to us now is not a story of survival, but further insight to her clothing. We can see now, clearly that she dresses like us, The West. During rising xenophobia in Europe being prevalent surely a more effective way of realising our compassion is by showing the world we are all the same.
We don’t have an answer as to why? Free Syria Media Hub chose to include the doctored image in their tweets. Understanding the cultural references behind edit and comparing other such instances would be a start, but for now the plight must focus on the people, not the clothing.
With thanks to Duckrabbit Blog for highlighting this instance of social media. Please be advised the blog contains very strong images.