Boy in “tragic” viral photo of Syrian orphan is not Syrian and is not an orphan

Have you seen this photo floating around.  It purportedly shows a Syrian orphan sleeping between his parents’ graves. The image has made the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Here’s an example of how the image has been portrayed:

Even the Syrian rebels have been using the image as propaganda. This tweet came from the Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba:

He has since deleted the tweet after the photographer who took the photo revealed that this photo has absolutely nothing to do with Syria and that the boy in the photo is not an orphan.  

Even the piles of rocks in the photos are not graves. They’re just piles of rocks.

From the photographer’s own lips:

The photographer is twenty five year old Saudi national Abdul Aziz al Otaibi. I decided to call him and ask for his comments. And sure – he is pretty annoyed by all of it.

“Look, it’s not true at all that my picture has anything to do with Syria,” Al-Otaibi says, “I am really shocked how people have twisted my picture.”

I talked to Al-Otaibi over the phone via an interpreter. He is in the town of Yanbu al Bahr (Spring by the Sea) in Saudi Arabia, where he is a keen photographer. In the meantime, I am in southern Turkey, on the border with Syria.

“I love photography,” he continues over the phone, “Every artist has ideas in his head. So I had the idea to make a project whereby I show in pictures how the love of a child for his parents is irreplaceable. This love cannot be substituted by anything or anybody else, even if the parents are dead.”

To finalize his art project, Abdul Aziz al Otaibi took his car and drove three weeks ago to the outskirts of Yanbu, 250 kilometers away from Jeddah. Here he build from stones two graves. He asked the young son of his sister to lay in between the graves and cover himself with a blanket. “Of course I would never ever put a child between two real graves,” he says, “I would be very much against that.”

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One of the first people to post the image and lie about its origins was an American Muslim who uses the Twitter handle AmericanBadu.  Otaibi confronted the liar on Twitter and explained to him that he was grossly misrepresenting the truth of the photo.  

In the meantime, photographer Al-Otaibi complains via Direct Message (DM) to @americanbadu. He asks the American convert: “Why did you take my picture and claim it is an image from Syria? Please correct it.”

@americanbadu’s reply in DM was the following:

“Why don’t you just let go and claim it is a picture from Syria and gain a reward from God. You are exaggerating.”

So there you have it.  That’s the attitude of so many of the people who are willing to lie and twist the truth about what is really happening in Syria.  They lie because it makes them feel good about themselves.  

But the uncomfortable truth is that there is unspeakable brutality happening on the side of the Syrian rebels too, and Americans are foolish to fall for the propaganda efforts of the either side. 

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