This heartbreaking photo of a Syrian child isn’t what it seems

The photographer tells the real story behind this shocking image.


Fernando Alfonso III


Published Jan 17, 2014   Updated May 31, 2021, 9:04 pm CDT

Reddit users called the image “depressing,” “heartbreaking,” and the saddest photo they had ever seen. 

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It featured a young Syrian boy sleeping on the ground between the graves of his parents. With no context or caption, many in the community assumed both adults were killed in the ongoing Syrian Civil War that has taken the lives of more than 100,000 people

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But just as quickly as the photo tugged at redditors’ heartstrings, the fact finding sleuths of r/pics discovered that it was staged.

The photo was originally taken on Jan. 3 by photographer Abdel Aziz Al-Atibi in Saudi Arabia as part of a conceptual art project. 

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“I’m a photographer and I try to talk about the suffering that is happening in society, it’s my hobby and my exaggeration is intended to deliver my idea,” Al-Atibi told Beirut

The original photo was found through Al-Atibi’s Instagram account

The account also contained a photo of the boy from a different angle.

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Many redditors felt betrayed, while a few pointed out that while the photo may be a fabrication, its message is not.

“In the end it doesn’t matter,” crerin commented. “A lot of children have their parents ripped away because of war. A lot of parents have their children ripped away because of war. Western-European folks just aren’t allowed to see the pictures very often. Take what little emotional connection to an understanding of the atrocities of war that you can get.”

H/T Beirut | Photos by Abdel Aziz Al-Atibi

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*First Published: Jan 17, 2014, 2:36 pm CST