- By Catherine A. TraywickCatherine A. Traywick is a fellow at Foreign Policy.
Syrian opposition leader Ahmed Jarba tweeted a disturbing photo Friday morning that purportedly depicts an orphaned Syrian boy sleeping between the graves of parents. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, he made sure to finger Assad as the culprit behind the pictured boy’s sad fate, tweeting:
The photo has been making the rounds on Twitter, where it has stirred up fresh outrage about the human toll of the conflict in Syria.
Too bad it’s totally fake.
Far from being a chronicle of war, the photo was actually part of an art project by Saudi Arabian photographer, Abdul Aziz Al-Otaibi. Journalist Harald Doornbos was perhaps the first to point out the gaffe. He reached out to a “pretty annoyed” Otaibi, who said, “Look, it’s not true at all that my picture has anything to do with Syria… I am really shocked how people have twisted my picture.”
Otaibi noted that the graves are not actually graves, and the boy is his nephew — and a very good sport:
Jarba deleted the photo about 30 minutes after posting it but, as we all must learn the hard way, nothing on the internet is ever really dead.
Was the unvetted photo an ill-advised attempt to turn public opinion against Assad ahead of Wednesday’s Geneva talks? It’s no secret that some members of the opposition coalition believe Assad’s willingness to relinquish his chemical weapons cache has undeservedly helped him rebuild credibility in the eyes of the international community. Reminding the world of his victims might have taken him down a notch or two. Unfortunately, the whole fiasco sends a rather different message: The opposition is getting a little desperate and its P.R. apparatus needs some work.