Four Year Old Syrian WASN’T Alone In Desert
   By Keelan Balderson | Feb 18, 2014 | Syria | 19 comments

Headlines across the mainstream press early this morning reported on the sad story of a four year old Syrian boy found alone in the desert, fleeing to Jordan.

Syria 4 year old desert

Mirror.co.uk for example, published the following:

A four-year-old boy separated from his family while fleeing Syria has been found crossing the desert alone.

Clutching a plastic bag containing his possessions, Marwan makes his way across the border into Jordan.

The brave youngster was helped by United Nations staff who managed to reunite him with his worried family.

Skeptical of the emotional shot, I posted a link to the story on Facebook, with some comments:

I don’t like stories like this because they lack just the right amount of detail to tug at the most amount of heart strings. How long was he in the desert? Did he cross the whole entire desert? If the camera pans around is there really a road and some buildings there and he’s not so far out in the wilderness?

Readers quickly responded and it has become apparent that the boy was not alone as such – he was part of a massive troupe of refugees and was quickly reunited with his family by the UN.

The original close-up was taken by @And_Harper. He explains in his Tweets how the media took his photo out of context:

Original tweet said he was temporarily separated, it was the media who claimed he was alone … Marwan was safely reunited with his mother soon after being carried across the Jordan border.

Another photo confirms that he wasn’t alone or stranded in the desert, rather lagging behind a large group:

Guardian journalist @shivmalik1 later clarified that the child’s family was only “20 steps ahead of him”.

Of course it’s not like a four year old refugee is having a whale-of-a-time or anything, but this is just another example of how careless or deliberately contrived conflict reporting can be. It certainly isn’t hard to deceive the public or tug at their heart strings to help push an agenda.


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  • fukier

    Even though he was separated for a short period of time its still pretty sad that children have to walk threw the desert be it with family or not. its still tragic.

    • Okwhatever

      After more than ample disclaimers by the author you still manage to miss the point entirely.

      • fukier

        enliten me please.
        question 1. is he a refugee?
        2: did he have to cross the desert with his family
        I got the point how the media can take something and blow it out of porportion but still its a 4 year old kid who is a refugee crossing a friking desert! That alone is sad.

        • Keelan Balderson

          1) Yes
          2) Yes

          The point is, he wasn’t alone (in that there was a whole bunch of people crossing together with the help of the UN), nor was he far from his family (some 20 steps according to one journalist).

          The way it was ran by most outlets was to imply this 4 year old was by himself in the desert.

          Obviously it’s very very sad, and this is on the lower end of the scale in terms of media spin, but I think it’s still worth pointing out.

  • commandergreen

    What can you except from the mainstream media, its nothing more then a propaganda mill for the powers that be. Its the information age, and the surprise surprise the totalitarian control freaks are all about control, look at them freaking out about the internet as its levelling the playing field, no one is believing there bullshit anymore.

  • OpenMindedPS

    Wait you mean TV and The Internet lied to me?!?!?!

    • YourProblemDude

      Excuse me, but in Internet, it is you who lies to yourself.
      The sources are there, it’s your choice to keep reading/watching fox news.

  • fizbanic

    Breaking News!!!! This just in, reporters stretch the truth, give half the story and otherwise manipulate the info they give you to satisfy their views and could careless about the truth.

    Regardless of where the info comes from either on the net, on TV or in print I always treat it with skepticism.

  • Burt Wonderstone

    The whole scene is WORSE

  • bolo

    How is this “pushing an agenda?” Is it not just as shitty that a whole bunch of other kids had to be traipsing across that desert with him? Am I missing something?

    • Keelan Balderson

      Maybe my comments weren’t clear. I didn’t say it was pushing an agenda, I said it’s an example of how agendas can be pushed if people were so inclined. All you need is a heart wrenching photo.

      A good example would be the photo/footage of people being caged in a camp in the Balkans during the 90s, only they were looking in to the fence, not looking out. I.e. they weren’t actually in a camp.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmrmB1QLc54

  • Cole Stanchfield

    I didn’t read the s***ty article with no thought given to it but say you come across a crying kid in a mall, unable to find his parents. Would you not say that kid is alone? Even though he is technically surrounded by many people most likely. He’s sure as heck feeling lonely.

    • Keelan Balderson

      His family were 20 steps ahead of him … the media were disingenuous in their reporting and framing of the photo. It was an unneeded emotional hook.

      That doesn’t mean I don’t feel sorry for the kid.

  • Leisa Waldron

    Some people have nothing better to do than prove others wrong. I am glad they exploited the story a bit to get people’s attention, and it should pull on heartstrings of anyone that is a good human being. Do you have any kids? Because I have had a child run off and only been lost from me for minutes and it was still scary. I hope that if my family were in their situation the news all over the world would push any agenda to get my story out there. Whether it was filled with lies or anything just to get the story to others who only care about their first world problems. My thoughts were, THANK GOODNESS he wasn’t alone, not “I am going to prove this wrong!”

    • Leisa Waldron

      Looks like waaaaay more than 20 steps too.

    • Keelan Balderson

      While I understand that there is sometimes a smug mentality people have in proving others wrong, I do not believe that overrides the truth of any given situation. If we don’t have accuracy and integrity in the media, we may as well just live in fairy land.

      Propaganda is a very real thing, especially in wars and conflict. Yes, this seems more like a case of carelessness than true propaganda, but suppose the image became iconic … used in charity drives, used by the media in greasing the wheels for some kind of military intervention from the West. Is that right?

      I’m just a small time blogger, I thought the shot looked contrived, it was, I posted about it. Take from it what you want.

      • Shawn

        Others may not appreciate accuracy or facts for that matter but I for one do. Thank you for pointing this out.

  • j.listing

    Regardless of whether he was all alone of with a group of people, the moral of the story to me is that NO CHILD should have to trek miles on foot to get somewhere safe. It is reprehensible that in 2014 that this is going on with the world watching and onliners debating whether he was alone or not. Would you like your child, niece, or nephew to be made to trek through desert terrain with nothing in sight to get to safety? Even grown adults in the USa cannot or do not want to even walk 50 ft to enter a walmart. We Americans are so spoilt!

    • Keelan Balderson

      The world isn’t watching, many countries are very much involved in what is happening in Syria – on both sides of the conflict.

      “Would you like your child, niece, or nephew to be made to trek through desert terrain?”

      No of course not, what’s your point?