These photos will change how the West sees the Syrian refugee crisis by Annalisa Merelli

Several newspapers, including the Independent, the Guardian, and the Times, will run variations of the same picture on their front pages, this morning. It’s the image of a Syrian child, lying face-down on a beach. He reportedly drowned, and so did his five-year-old brother, when the boat carrying him to Europe sank in the waters between Turkey and Greece.

His body was found in the town of Bodrum, Turkey. At least 11 other Syrian migrants are said to have died with him in an attempt to reach the Greek island of Kos.

Some publications have elected not to show these photos, or not to show only parts of them. Others have been criticized for making them public, as if it were indecent to show this most heartbreaking of deaths. What is indecent is that this death happened, when it could have been avoided.

The image below is disturbing. But sometimes we should be disturbed.

Turkish gendarmerie stand by the body of a child in Bodrum.

Turkish gendarmerie stand by the body of a child in Bodrum.

The boy is thought to be a three-year-old named Aylan from the Syrian town of Kobani, according to the BBC.

Although he is one of many, this photo, released by a Turkish news agency, seems to have stirred the conscience of Europe in a new way. Perhaps that’s because it puts a new perspective on what the bureaucratic jargon about a “migrant crisis” looks like in real life. This is what barbed wire erected around luckier nations looks like. This is what xenophobia and ignorance look like.

The Guardian front page, Thursday 3 September 2015: The shocking, cruel reality of Europe’s refugee crisis http://t.co/icaawmYPPk
Guardian news (@guardiannews) September 02, 2015

+++ SOMEBODY’S CHILD. Tomorrow’s @Independent. Sign the petition: http://t.co/CBswr5rdYq +++ #refugeeswelcome pic.twitter.com/AhpGwQVUgv

— amol rajan (@amolrajan) September 2, 2015

Thursday’s Times front page: Europe divided #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers pic.twitter.com/10qfrNfJS3

— Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) September 2, 2015

Powerful UK newspaper front pages #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers pic.twitter.com/HzeXkhSYi1

— Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) September 2, 2015

Ne abbiamo discusso a lungo ma alla fine #laprima del manifesto tra poco in edicola, sito e app è questa. pic.twitter.com/UWAPMoYbUi

— il manifesto (@ilmanifesto) September 2, 2015

Artists have already begun turning the photo into a symbol of the continuing tragedy at Europe’s gates:

The #Syria -n Child on Turkey’s shores emerging as a symbol for crisis. Photo via @AdiKhair : pic.twitter.com/MqDpluH30q

— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) September 2, 2015

https://twitter.com/Joyce_Karam/status/639157539951747073

#Khartoon – I Hope Humanity Finds a Cure for Visas #Syria #refugeeswelcome #refugeecrisis #Germany #Italy #Greece pic.twitter.com/zbyGMSrIsO

— ALBAIH (@khalidalbaih) September 2, 2015

It’s easy to forget the exact numbers—that 638 migrants died crossing the Mediterranean in August alone, and more than 3,600 worldwide this year, according to the International Organization for Migration—but it’s hard not to grieve the loss of a little boy in a red t-shirt.

Every once in a while, a simple photo reveals what the world really looks like when our humanity fails. This is one of those photos. If we look long enough, maybe we will find the courage to do something more about it.

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