A few months later, in the summer of 2015, it was the photograph of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi that made international headlines after his lifeless was captured on the shore of the Greek island of Kos, where his family was seeking refuge. Aylan’s image launched a thousand debates and editorials, and was immortalized in cartoons around the world. His photo, we thought (and were told) was truly a turning point in this awful conflict.

Kos, Greece, September 2015.
Kos, Greece, September 2015.
Image: AP Photo/Nilufer Demir, DHA

But it wasn’t. And so in August of 2016, it was Omran Daqneesh’s face who stirred international anger. The little boy was photographed sitting stunned in the back of an ambulance, his tiny body covered in rubble and blood after a bombing in Aleppo. His was the picture that would surely prove to be the last straw, the media said, the one that would turn emotion into action. Except, of course, it was not.

In December 2016, seven-year-old Bana Alabed ”went viral” after she began live-tweeting the fall and destruction of Aleppo (she survived and was rescued with her family). Months after the world followed, through her words, the destruction of her city, she is still asking the world to stop being a passive spectator to her people’s annihilation.

On Apr. 5, the US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley showed images of the children hit by the chemical attack were in an emergency UN security council meeting. By using these emotionally charged weapon, Haley hoped to compel the UN to stage a military intervention in the region. US president Donald Trump, too, once uncertain about the responsibilities of the Syrian government, said the images moved him to call the attack “an affront to humanity,” and convinced him to change his attitude towards Assad.

And yet, outrage doesn’t equal compassion. Aya, Ahmed, Hudea, Aylan, Omran, Bana, and all the others—surviving in horror, or dying, mostly, in silence—are the same children the world doesn’t want. Their parents are the refugees that populist candidates have promised to keep away, and their communities Donald Trump labels as breeding grounds for terrorists.

Moved as he may be by the beautiful little babies” who died in yesterday’s attack, or by Ivanka Trump’s heartbreak and outrage over the latest batch images coming out of Syria, he doesn’t seem to reconsider that, perhaps, the US could offer them shelter. And so, while the images of the chemical attack may have ultimately moved Trump to order a military strike against Assad’s regime, intervention still doesn’t make up for the solidarity that the watching world should have shown too many children ago.

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