I thought long and hard before I retweeted the photo. It shows a lifeless toddler, lying face down on a popular Turkish beach, one of eleven Syrians who have almost certainly died as they tried to reach safety in Europe by boarding a smuggler’s boat. Instead they ended up as the latest victims of Europe’s paltry response in the face of a growing crisis.
What struck me the most were his little sneakers, certainly lovingly put on by his parents that morning as they dressed him for their dangerous journey. One of my favorite moments of the morning is dressing my kids and helping them put on their shoes. They always seem to manage to put something on backwards, to our mutual amusement. Staring at the image, I couldn’t help imagine that it was one of my own sons lying there drowned on the beach.
I am currently in Hungary, documenting the journeys of Syrian refugees, the very journey that today took another young life. It’s easy to blame the parents for exposing their son to such deadly danger, but only if you forget the barrel bombs and Islamic State (also known as ISIS) beheadings that they are fleeing. All morning yesterday at the Serbian-Hungarian border, I saw Syrian parents determinedly walking with their children – trying to remove them from the horrors of the slaughter in Syria, which have been allowed to continue for four years, and to the promise of security in Europe. Those parents are heroes; I admire their sheer determination to bring their children to a better life.
[…] Some say the picture is too offensive to share online or print in our newspapers. But what I find offensive is that drowned children are washing up on our shorelines, when more could have been done to prevent their deaths.
It was not an easy decision to share a brutal image of a drowned child. But I care about these children as much as my own. Maybe if Europe’s leaders did too, they would try to stem this ghastly spectacle.
Human Rights Watch, Peter Bouckaert: “Why I Shared a Horrific Photo of a Drowned Syrian Child”.
« Je l’ai vue floutée, je l’ai vue pas floutée. Je pense qu’il n’était pas nécessaire de la flouter. Je pense que ça ne se floute pas, ça se prend dans la gueule. » — Sorj Chalandon, sur France Inter.
Le Monde, Claire Guillot : Pourquoi cette photo, selon vous, a-t-elle pu autant émouvoir les gens, par rapport à toutes celles publiées avant sur le sujet ?
Nilüfer Demir : Je ne sais pas. Peut-être que le monde, en fait, attendait une image qui puisse changer les choses, faire bouger. Peut-être que ma photo a été le déclic que le monde attendait. J’ai surtout été au bon moment au bon endroit.
Quelques exemples de photographies ayant eu un impact similaire, parmi celles qui me viennent immédiatement à l’esprit :
Gare de Shanghai-Sud. Photo H. S. Wong, via Wikipedia. 28 août 1937.
Bhopal, Inde. Photo Raghu Rai, via Magnum Photos. 3 décembre 1984.
Soudan du Sud. Photo Kevin Carter, via Iconic Photos. Mars 1993.
Oklahoma City. Photo Charles Porter IV. 19 avril 1995.