Beyond Aylan Kurdi: 13 images that still haunt the Arab world

Published September 7th, 2015 - 14:34 GMT

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Online and in the real world, few people have been able to get the image of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi out of their minds since it surfaced on social media last week.

It has spurred European governments to serious conversation about the thousands of war-torn refugees fighting to reach their shores. Meanwhile, Arabs have pointed bitterly at Gulf countries, where effective asylum policies have also been elusive. By Monday, even Secretary General Ban Ki-moon admitted the UN security council was failing in Syria. Continue reading below »

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April 1948, Jordan River - Palestinians cross the Jordan River during the first Palestinian exodus known as the Nakba (catastrophe). Some 700,000 either fled or were forced out of villages during the 1948 Palestinian War, many of whom crossed into what is today Jordan. This one strikes a chord because it depicts the actual moment families left.
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Image 1 of 12:  1 / 12April 1948, Jordan River - Palestinians cross the Jordan River during the first Palestinian exodus known as the Nakba (catastrophe). Some 700,000 either fled or were forced out of villages during the 1948 Palestinian War, many of whom crossed into what is today Jordan. This one strikes a chord because it depicts the actual moment families left.

Enlarge
August 8, 1986,Tariq al-Jdideh, Lebanon - A woman screams out for her children after a bomb explosion during the 15-year-long Lebanese Civil War that killed some 170,000 people. This image illustrated the sheer chaos of the conflict, a reality the Lebanese are reminded of today by the bombed out buildings and bullet holes left behind.
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Image 2 of 12:  2 / 12August 8, 1986,Tariq al-Jdideh, Lebanon - A woman screams out for her children after a bomb explosion during the 15-year-long Lebanese Civil War that killed some 170,000 people. This image illustrated the sheer chaos of the conflict, a reality the Lebanese are reminded of today by the bombed out buildings and bullet holes left behind.

Enlarge
Sept. 30, 2000, Gaza - The film of Palestinian boy Muhammed al Durrah being fatally shot in a firefight between Israeli soldiers and militants shocked the world. For many Jews, who believed the footage was doctored, the incident illustrated the media bias against them. For Arabs and others, it epitomized IDF brutality. (Talal Abu Rahma)
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Image 3 of 12:  3 / 12Sept. 30, 2000, Gaza - The film of Palestinian boy Muhammed al Durrah being fatally shot in a firefight between Israeli soldiers and militants shocked the world. For many Jews, who believed the footage was doctored, the incident illustrated the media bias against them. For Arabs and others, it epitomized IDF brutality. (Talal Abu Rahma)

Enlarge
Jan., 2005, Iraq - This photo, which shows 5-year-old Samar Hassan moments after U.S. soldiers fired on her family’s car in Tal Afar, Iraq in 2005, was one of the most iconic images to emerge from the Iraq War. Both of Hassan’s parents were killed in the incident, and her brother was seriously injured. (Chris Hondros, Getty)
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Image 4 of 12:  4 / 12Jan., 2005, Iraq - This photo, which shows 5-year-old Samar Hassan moments after U.S. soldiers fired on her family’s car in Tal Afar, Iraq in 2005, was one of the most iconic images to emerge from the Iraq War. Both of Hassan’s parents were killed in the incident, and her brother was seriously injured. (Chris Hondros, Getty)

Enlarge
Feb., 1991, southern Iraq - Photographer Kenneth Jarecke was covering the Gulf War when he stumbled on a convoy of vehicles that had been bombed by US forces. His photo of a charred Iraqi soldier, who had been trying to escape his burning truck, was shunned by the US media, but for the Arab world the pic brought home the human toll of the war.
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Image 5 of 12:  5 / 12Feb., 1991, southern Iraq - Photographer Kenneth Jarecke was covering the Gulf War when he stumbled on a convoy of vehicles that had been bombed by US forces. His photo of a charred Iraqi soldier, who had been trying to escape his burning truck, was shunned by the US media, but for the Arab world the pic brought home the human toll of the war.

Enlarge
April, 2004, Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq - Arguably the most iconic photos to emerge from the Iraq War were a slew of images from Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, taken by US soldiers, which showed the torture, humiliation and even dead bodies of detainees. The images galvanized opposition to the US occupation of Iraq.
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Image 6 of 12:  6 / 12April, 2004, Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq - Arguably the most iconic photos to emerge from the Iraq War were a slew of images from Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, taken by US soldiers, which showed the torture, humiliation and even dead bodies of detainees. The images galvanized opposition to the US occupation of Iraq.

Enlarge
Dec. 17, 2010 - It had been a long morning of bureaucratic problems for Mohammed Bouazizi when the 26-year-old went to a provincial headquarter of the Tunisian government and lit himself on fire. Starting in his own country, his self-immolation would be the spark that ushered in a new era in the Middle East — that so-called Arab Spring.
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Image 7 of 12:  7 / 12Dec. 17, 2010 - It had been a long morning of bureaucratic problems for Mohammed Bouazizi when the 26-year-old went to a provincial headquarter of the Tunisian government and lit himself on fire. Starting in his own country, his self-immolation would be the spark that ushered in a new era in the Middle East — that so-called Arab Spring.

Enlarge
Dec., 2011, Cairo, Egypt - The full chaos gripping Tahrir Square was captured in a YouTube video whose screenshots showed a veiled female protester being beaten by security forces. Above her, one man winds up a kick, the rest tear at her clothing. “Blue Bra Girl” captured the world’s attention and fueled anger on the ground.
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Image 8 of 12:  8 / 12Dec., 2011, Cairo, Egypt - The full chaos gripping Tahrir Square was captured in a YouTube video whose screenshots showed a veiled female protester being beaten by security forces. Above her, one man winds up a kick, the rest tear at her clothing. “Blue Bra Girl” captured the world’s attention and fueled anger on the ground.

Enlarge
Jan., 2015, Kobani, Syria - The image of a Kurdish fighter walking with his son was taken hours after Kurdish forces recaptured the Syrian city from Daesh forces (ISIS). Marked by street battles and ill-equipped civilians, the battle for Kobani was a brutal one, which made its recapture a pivotal turning point for he Kurds. (AFP)
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Image 9 of 12:  9 / 12Jan., 2015, Kobani, Syria - The image of a Kurdish fighter walking with his son was taken hours after Kurdish forces recaptured the Syrian city from Daesh forces (ISIS). Marked by street battles and ill-equipped civilians, the battle for Kobani was a brutal one, which made its recapture a pivotal turning point for he Kurds. (AFP)

Enlarge
January, 2015, northern Syria - A gruesome video of Jordanian Pilot Moaz Al Kasasbeh being burned alive in a cage is released by ISIS social media accounts. The footage is played thousands of times on Arab TV networks, prompting outrage at ISIS but also questions over why Jordan is helping the U.S.-led bombing campaign in the first place. (ISIS)
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Image 10 of 12:  10 / 12January, 2015, northern Syria - A gruesome video of Jordanian Pilot Moaz Al Kasasbeh being burned alive in a cage is released by ISIS social media accounts. The footage is played thousands of times on Arab TV networks, prompting outrage at ISIS but also questions over why Jordan is helping the U.S.-led bombing campaign in the first place. (ISIS)

Enlarge
Winter, 2014 - When a Turkish photojournalist raised his camera to take a photo of this 4-year-old Syrian girl in a refugee camp, the girl, named Hudea, raised her hands in surrender, thinking the telephoto lens was a weapon. The photo went viral, raising global outrage at the inhumanity of the Syrian conflict. (Osman Sağırlı)
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Image 11 of 12:  11 / 12Winter, 2014 - When a Turkish photojournalist raised his camera to take a photo of this 4-year-old Syrian girl in a refugee camp, the girl, named Hudea, raised her hands in surrender, thinking the telephoto lens was a weapon. The photo went viral, raising global outrage at the inhumanity of the Syrian conflict. (Osman Sağırlı)

Enlarge
Sept., 2015, Bodrum, Turkey - Images of a dead 3-year-old Syrian boy on a Turkish beach finally forced the world to confront the massive refugee crisis that’s been going on for years now. Photos of the boy, Aylan Kurdi, who drowned while trying to reach Europe, drove home the urgency of the need for action on the crisis. (AP)
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Image 12 of 12:  12 / 12Sept., 2015, Bodrum, Turkey - Images of a dead 3-year-old Syrian boy on a Turkish beach finally forced the world to confront the massive refugee crisis that’s been going on for years now. Photos of the boy, Aylan Kurdi, who drowned while trying to reach Europe, drove home the urgency of the need for action on the crisis. (AP)

Enlarge

1

April 1948, Jordan River - Palestinians cross the Jordan River during the first Palestinian exodus known as the Nakba (catastrophe). Some 700,000 either fled or were forced out of villages during the 1948 Palestinian War, many of whom crossed into what is today Jordan. This one strikes a chord because it depicts the actual moment families left.

Image 1 of 12April 1948, Jordan River - Palestinians cross the Jordan River during the first Palestinian exodus known as the Nakba (catastrophe). Some 700,000 either fled or were forced out of villages during the 1948 Palestinian War, many of whom crossed into what is today Jordan. This one strikes a chord because it depicts the actual moment families left.

2

August 8, 1986,Tariq al-Jdideh, Lebanon - A woman screams out for her children after a bomb explosion during the 15-year-long Lebanese Civil War that killed some 170,000 people. This image illustrated the sheer chaos of the conflict, a reality the Lebanese are reminded of today by the bombed out buildings and bullet holes left behind.

Image 2 of 12August 8, 1986,Tariq al-Jdideh, Lebanon - A woman screams out for her children after a bomb explosion during the 15-year-long Lebanese Civil War that killed some 170,000 people. This image illustrated the sheer chaos of the conflict, a reality the Lebanese are reminded of today by the bombed out buildings and bullet holes left behind.

3

Sept. 30, 2000, Gaza - The film of Palestinian boy Muhammed al Durrah being fatally shot in a firefight between Israeli soldiers and militants shocked the world. For many Jews, who believed the footage was doctored, the incident illustrated the media bias against them. For Arabs and others, it epitomized IDF brutality. (Talal Abu Rahma)

Image 3 of 12Sept. 30, 2000, Gaza - The film of Palestinian boy Muhammed al Durrah being fatally shot in a firefight between Israeli soldiers and militants shocked the world. For many Jews, who believed the footage was doctored, the incident illustrated the media bias against them. For Arabs and others, it epitomized IDF brutality. (Talal Abu Rahma)

4

Jan., 2005, Iraq - This photo, which shows 5-year-old Samar Hassan moments after U.S. soldiers fired on her family’s car in Tal Afar, Iraq in 2005, was one of the most iconic images to emerge from the Iraq War. Both of Hassan’s parents were killed in the incident, and her brother was seriously injured. (Chris Hondros, Getty)

Image 4 of 12Jan., 2005, Iraq - This photo, which shows 5-year-old Samar Hassan moments after U.S. soldiers fired on her family’s car in Tal Afar, Iraq in 2005, was one of the most iconic images to emerge from the Iraq War. Both of Hassan’s parents were killed in the incident, and her brother was seriously injured. (Chris Hondros, Getty)

5

Feb., 1991, southern Iraq - Photographer Kenneth Jarecke was covering the Gulf War when he stumbled on a convoy of vehicles that had been bombed by US forces. His photo of a charred Iraqi soldier, who had been trying to escape his burning truck, was shunned by the US media, but for the Arab world the pic brought home the human toll of the war.

Image 5 of 12Feb., 1991, southern Iraq - Photographer Kenneth Jarecke was covering the Gulf War when he stumbled on a convoy of vehicles that had been bombed by US forces. His photo of a charred Iraqi soldier, who had been trying to escape his burning truck, was shunned by the US media, but for the Arab world the pic brought home the human toll of the war.

6

April, 2004, Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq - Arguably the most iconic photos to emerge from the Iraq War were a slew of images from Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, taken by US soldiers, which showed the torture, humiliation and even dead bodies of detainees. The images galvanized opposition to the US occupation of Iraq.

Image 6 of 12April, 2004, Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq - Arguably the most iconic photos to emerge from the Iraq War were a slew of images from Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, taken by US soldiers, which showed the torture, humiliation and even dead bodies of detainees. The images galvanized opposition to the US occupation of Iraq.

7

Dec. 17, 2010 - It had been a long morning of bureaucratic problems for Mohammed Bouazizi when the 26-year-old went to a provincial headquarter of the Tunisian government and lit himself on fire. Starting in his own country, his self-immolation would be the spark that ushered in a new era in the Middle East — that so-called Arab Spring.

Image 7 of 12Dec. 17, 2010 - It had been a long morning of bureaucratic problems for Mohammed Bouazizi when the 26-year-old went to a provincial headquarter of the Tunisian government and lit himself on fire. Starting in his own country, his self-immolation would be the spark that ushered in a new era in the Middle East — that so-called Arab Spring.

8

Dec., 2011, Cairo, Egypt - The full chaos gripping Tahrir Square was captured in a YouTube video whose screenshots showed a veiled female protester being beaten by security forces. Above her, one man winds up a kick, the rest tear at her clothing. “Blue Bra Girl” captured the world’s attention and fueled anger on the ground.

Image 8 of 12Dec., 2011, Cairo, Egypt - The full chaos gripping Tahrir Square was captured in a YouTube video whose screenshots showed a veiled female protester being beaten by security forces. Above her, one man winds up a kick, the rest tear at her clothing. “Blue Bra Girl” captured the world’s attention and fueled anger on the ground.

9

Jan., 2015, Kobani, Syria - The image of a Kurdish fighter walking with his son was taken hours after Kurdish forces recaptured the Syrian city from Daesh forces (ISIS). Marked by street battles and ill-equipped civilians, the battle for Kobani was a brutal one, which made its recapture a pivotal turning point for he Kurds. (AFP)

Image 9 of 12Jan., 2015, Kobani, Syria - The image of a Kurdish fighter walking with his son was taken hours after Kurdish forces recaptured the Syrian city from Daesh forces (ISIS). Marked by street battles and ill-equipped civilians, the battle for Kobani was a brutal one, which made its recapture a pivotal turning point for he Kurds. (AFP)

10

January, 2015, northern Syria - A gruesome video of Jordanian Pilot Moaz Al Kasasbeh being burned alive in a cage is released by ISIS social media accounts. The footage is played thousands of times on Arab TV networks, prompting outrage at ISIS but also questions over why Jordan is helping the U.S.-led bombing campaign in the first place. (ISIS)

Image 10 of 12January, 2015, northern Syria - A gruesome video of Jordanian Pilot Moaz Al Kasasbeh being burned alive in a cage is released by ISIS social media accounts. The footage is played thousands of times on Arab TV networks, prompting outrage at ISIS but also questions over why Jordan is helping the U.S.-led bombing campaign in the first place. (ISIS)

11

Winter, 2014 - When a Turkish photojournalist raised his camera to take a photo of this 4-year-old Syrian girl in a refugee camp, the girl, named Hudea, raised her hands in surrender, thinking the telephoto lens was a weapon. The photo went viral, raising global outrage at the inhumanity of the Syrian conflict. (Osman Sağırlı)

Image 11 of 12Winter, 2014 - When a Turkish photojournalist raised his camera to take a photo of this 4-year-old Syrian girl in a refugee camp, the girl, named Hudea, raised her hands in surrender, thinking the telephoto lens was a weapon. The photo went viral, raising global outrage at the inhumanity of the Syrian conflict. (Osman Sağırlı)

12

Sept., 2015, Bodrum, Turkey - Images of a dead 3-year-old Syrian boy on a Turkish beach finally forced the world to confront the massive refugee crisis that’s been going on for years now. Photos of the boy, Aylan Kurdi, who drowned while trying to reach Europe, drove home the urgency of the need for action on the crisis. (AP)

Image 12 of 12Sept., 2015, Bodrum, Turkey - Images of a dead 3-year-old Syrian boy on a Turkish beach finally forced the world to confront the massive refugee crisis that’s been going on for years now. Photos of the boy, Aylan Kurdi, who drowned while trying to reach Europe, drove home the urgency of the need for action on the crisis. (AP)

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This is hardly the first time asylum seekers have drowned at sea — Aylan himself was just one of 12 who lost their lives when his raft sank on Thursday. Looking more asleep than dead, the lifeless body has us stuck on the details — the little boy’s tiny black sneakers and red t-shirt; the Turkish police officer’s blank face as he carries the body away.

For a lot of people, the scene has encapsulated everything that’s wrong with how we’ve dealt with Syria, filed away as another symbolic capture that changed the tide.

We can recall the world’s most famous — the naked child running down the streets of Vietnam after a napalm attack; Robert Capa’s blurry D-Day soldier, swimming for cover on Omaha beach in WWII.

But the Arab world has its own set of immortals. Some you may recognize making headlines across the globe, while others have just bounced around the region, surfacing every now and then as reminders of what so many years of conflict have looked like.

Here’s our selection of photos that swayed the Arab world.

 

Warning: Some content is graphic and may be disturbing to viewers. 

 

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