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Photo of a Little Boy Crossing the Syrian Border Is Actually Not What Many Thought


Marwan is four years old.

A United Nations refugee official who posted a photo of a four-year-old Syrian boy crossing the border into Jordan unwittingly unleashed what turned into a viral phenomenon when observers concluded that the child had hiked through the desert unaccompanied. But that's not the actual story.

Here is the tweet that United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative to Jordan Andrew Harper posted on Sunday:

Marwan-UNHCR-1Soon after, Harper posted a second photo and message reporting that Marwan had reunited with his mother:


Harper never stated that Marwan was traveling alone.

Marwan’s photo was one of many that Harper had posted, describing the sight as an “endless tide” of refugees flooding out of Syria.

The photos are but the latest example of the severe humanitarian crisis that the Syrian conflict has inflicted. Harper also posted this photo of another child, 9-year-old Mohammed, who crossed the border this weekend, with spirits clearly lifted now that he was out of harm’s way:

Photo: Andrew Harper, UNHCR via Twitter Photo: Andrew Harper, UNHCR via Twitter

To ensure that there were no further misconceptions, Harper on Tuesday posted this photo showing Marwan right behind a larger cluster of refugees as they approached the Jordanian border.

Photo: Andrew Harper, UNHCR via Twitter Photo: Andrew Harper, UNHCR via Twitter

"He is separated - he is not alone," Harper noted.

“Unfortunately in every mass @refugees x'ing to #Jordan it is the elderly, sick, pregnant & often children that fall behind the main groups," Harper tweeted.

The bloody Syrian civil war has so far reportedly claimed 140,000 lives – a staggering number to comprehend. Perhaps for those of us thousands of miles away, it takes a photo of little boy to evoke a heartfelt connection with those suffering most.

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