From Aylan Kurdi to Bhopal baby, photographs of children that made the world cry a thousand tears

An image of an apathetic situation evoking empathy is perhaps another way of defining irony.

Published: 20th August 2016 10:29 PM  |   Last Updated: 10th October 2016 02:37 PM   |  A+A-

Online Desk

An image of an apathetic situation evoking empathy is perhaps another way of defining irony. Over the years, photojournalists have clicked several photographs from different periods of war, conflict and other tragedies.

From children fleeing napalm attacks to a malnourished child being stalked by a vulture, these images can shape the collective conscience of the entire humanity.

The recent image of a stunned and weary-looking boy covered in blood and dust encapsulated the terror inflicted in Syria by military airstrikes.

Several television anchors could not hold their tears while describing this image as a 'symbol of suffering'. What you see is a 5-year-old boy, Omran Daqneesh, sitting in an orange chair inside an ambulance without any emotion, completely oblivious to what is happening around him.

Mideast Syria Airstri_Geor.jpg

The miserable truth is that Omran isn't the only symbol of suffering. There are thousands of tragic images captured by photojournalists. But it's a handful of them that speak more than a thousand words that become engraved in public memory for years to come.


The power to shock people is always crucial to gathering attention. In 1993, Kevin Carter of New York Times clicked this picture of a malnourished Sudanese girl right outside the Sudan Relief Centre. A vulture stalks the weak girl to prey on her. Kevin received a Pulitzer Prize for the image but it so haunted him that he committed suicide the same year.


Journalists brought forth several images that struck a chord during the Vietnam War. Many reported the true face of war to the public, without censoring its horror. One such iconic image emerged on June 8, 1972, after US's napalm attack on the village of Trang Bang in South Vietnam. It was of a 9-year-old girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, fleeing naked - her clothes burned off in the attack - with other kids. Known as the napalm girl, Kim Phuc suffered 65 percent burn injuries. The photograph, which reflected the horrors that children had to endure during a war, was credited with ending the Vietnam war.


The photograph of three-year-old Syrian Kurd refugee Aylan Kurdi whose body washed ashore on a Turkish beach elicited much condemnation against the refugee policies of Europe. Wearing a red T-shirt, dark shorts and sneakers, the little boy's body was lying on the beach with the face partially buried in the sand. The image helped put politics aside and made Europe accept refugees into its countries.


The territorial battle between Israelis and Palestinians may have killed thousands of people but the death of these two little boys is made the world sit up and take notice of a conflict that has raged on for decades. In this photograph from November 20, 2012 shows Muhammed and his 2-year-old younger brother Suhaib Hijazi who were killed in an Israeli military strike being carried by their uncles to a perform their funerals in a mosque. This photograph received the World Press Photo Award.


This photograph was taken by the Indian photographer Raghu Rai on December 3, 1984, a day after the world's worst industrial disaster. Several people died in the most hideous way possible and Raghu who was at the cemetery found a man burying his tiny daughter. He buried the little corpse by then, but unable to part from his baby daughter he brushed the earth once to look at her for the last time. And Raghu Rai captured the tender, heartbreaking image. For the past 30 years, this image has symbolised the unimaginable suffering of the people of Bhopal.

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