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Viral Photo Of Syrian Refugee Prompts Hundreds To Help

posted on: Aug 28, 2015


BY: Adrian Tafesh/Contributing Writer    

At a moment when our country is marking ten years since the Hurricane Katrina disaster, we must ask ourselves, in the face of future calamity, will we once again stand idly by as our government does little to help those in need? Or will the people seize power for themselves in order to serve justice?

This photograph of a Palestinian-Syrian man selling pens on the street of Beirut has spread, at a blistering pace, across social media, and has inspired the likes of Icelandic activist Gissur Simonarson to begin a campaign to find and fund the man and his family.

His name is Abdul and he is a single father who has escaped Syria with his young daughter and son. Simonarson was successful in locating him, and the campaign has raised over $60,000 dollars, with that total rising steadily from moment to moment.

Perhaps what stands out most about this story is the remarkable ease with which everything has developed. From sharing the image, to seeking Abdul out in Beirut, and finally raising the money, we have seen the type of direct-action mobilization that has become imminently more possible in this age of social media.

This kind of activism has worked before and it can work again. However, the unfortunate reality outlined by Abdul’s case is that you must put an individual face to the suffering of many in order to engage the privileged en masse.

Arab America supports this call to help Abdul and his children, and we hope that it will be a reminder that with the power given to us by our ubiquitous viral connectivity, there is the potential to help so many more just like him.

Our own government has as of yet only accepted a tiny fraction of the droves of Syrian refugees seeking shelter from violence and displacement. Let what the world has done in this instance stand as a hopeful example of all that can be accomplished by a movement of the people, and not uncaring and dysfunctional governance.

To help Abdul start a new life see the Indiegogo campaign here.