Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 19th, 2014

These pictures are Not from Syria: Taken in Saudi Arabia…

There is only one problem: The picture is not from Syria, but from Saudi Arabia.

There are more problems regarding the picture: Because there are no bodies in the graves either.

And the graves are not graves but piles of stones made to look like graves.

Harald Doornbos posted this Jan. 17, 2014

Saudi photographer tells me: This is not Syria, its not a grave and the boys parents are not dead

There’s a big chance you have seen this dramatic picture of a Syrian boy covered by a blanket sleeping between the two graves of his dead parents. It went viral after some big accounts published it yesterday on twitter.


And the sad sleeping boy did not lose his parents at all. He is the little son of the photographers’ sister, who made these pictures as part of an art project.

The photographer is a 25-year old Saudi national Abdul Aziz al Otaibi. I decided to call him and ask for his comments. And sure – he is pretty annoyed by all of it.

“Look, it’s not true at all that my picture has anything to do with Syria,” Al-Otaibi says, “I am really shocked how people have twisted my picture.”

I talked to Al-Otaibi over the phone via an interpreter. He is in the town of Yanbu al Bahr (Spring by the Sea) in Saudi Arabia, where he is a keen photographer. In the meantime, I am in southern Turkey, on the border with Syria.

“I love photography,” he continues over the phone, “Every artist has ideas in his head. So I had the idea to make a project whereby I show in pictures how the love of a child for his parents is irreplaceable. This love cannot be substituted by anything or anybody else, even if the parents are dead.”

To finalize his art project, Abdul Aziz al Otaibi took his car and drove 3 weeks ago to the outskirts of Yanbu, 250 kilometers away from Jeddah.

Here he build from stones two graves. He asked the young son of his sister to lay in between the graves and cover himself with a blanket. “Of course I would never ever put a child between two real graves,” he says, “I would be very much against that.”

During the first week of January he posted the pictures of his art project on FB. Initially, there was not a lot of response. Al-Otaibi made it very clear on Facebook that the graves weren’t real and that there were no bodies in it.

He even published pictures of the little son of his sister smiling next to the “graves”. Al-Otaibi: “I also published the backstage story. I just wanted to be sure that people drew no wrong conclusions.” (see pic below)

Screenshot 2014-01-17 14.49.00

Resurrected from amid the rubble

But exactly that is what happened when American Muslim convert @americanbadu publishes on his twitter the picture of the boy sleeping between the two graves.

In his tweet @americanbadu  – who lives in Saudi Arabia – claims the picture is from Syria and suggests the dead parents of the boy were killed by the Assad-regime. @americanbadu has over 187,000 followers on twitter.

Within minutes hundreds of accounts re-tweet @americanbadu’s picture and his Syria caption. Especially in jihadi circles the image spreads like wildfire.

For example, an Islamic NGO from Kuwait tweets the image to their 175.000 followers on @Yathalema.

Shortly after, Western tweeps also begin noticing the dramatic picture. They too put it on twitter and Facebook.

By now the picture goes viral.

Nobody checks if the image was indeed from Syria. I was the first reporter who called Al-Otaibi to ask.

In the meantime, photographer Al-Otaibi complains via Direct Message (DM) to @americanbadu. He asks the American convert: “Why did you take my picture and claim it is an image from Syria? Please correct it.”

@americanbadu’s reply in DM was the following:

“Why don’t you just let go and claim it is a picture from Syria and gain a reward from God. You are exaggerating.”

Shortly after this, @americanbadu removed his tweet. But the damage was already done and irreversible.

Al-Otaibi told me over the phone he is upset about the incident. “I Am really very annoyed by this,” he says, “It is just not fair to take one of my photos totally out of context and use it for your own propaganda.

Share your experience in a Lebanese Prison

I am not sure from whom Cedric got this story and decided to share TS post on FB. Sounds like a story of a girl who was attacked in the street and she fought back… and was incarcerated in the Sakiyat Janzir police station near Ain Tineh.

Actually, a police official was rambling tonight on the TV news that reforms are underway to correct injustices and brutality committed in (makhfar Hobeich) police station on Bliss Street in Hamra, particularly injustices done on foreign maids and immigrants…

Apparently the British ambassador contributed to the renovation of station prison in order to be designed according to human dignity standards...

The Experience of a Lebanese Prison: The Glittering Moments

“I feel no need to recall the tale here.

Although that sentence is the antithesis of storytelling, I’d rather describe what is on the surface of my soul before digging deep and recalling quick and confusing events.

I walked the long way home today, after visiting Salman for reassurance and his yummy curry. I chose to walk.

I clenched my fists and walked right in the middle of the street. There were no cars around. The streets were extending their arms in apology after they betrayed my trust.

I was chased after, hid, was found and  caught while the people in Hamra Street were simply watching.


I clenched my fists, ready to pummel anything with that glint of malice that pudding and her husband pinned in their eyes.

The air was different. I felt no matter what they do now, I have my fists, which were lauded by my friend’s fiancé as potent in dealing damage, and I have Salman.

Above all, I have righteousness on my side, a technicality as I was told later.

I am happy.  I feel proud to know I was in the company of inmates for a whole day. People who defend human rights should step away from textbook Philosophy and make-believe situations. You want to be an activist? Get your head in the grit and fight from your heart.

My newest cause may be the condition of inmates in Lebanon, or just the entire criminal justice system.

I must say though, all the policemen, investigators and detectives were very nice and polite with me. They were a very welcome surprise after so many tales of insult, rape, and battering, that one so often hears from distraught friends.

My inmates were 5, very nice as well. Each deserving a fair dose of justice… except the guy who killed a guy… who, sadly, is my favorite.

 I shared my tale, and they sympathized. They treated me to what little they had.

They gave me a blanket, a sandwich, and water, and told me how my situation will play out.

I never felt more fulfilled.

My suspicions were correct. I was in jail.

My handcuffs were made in Taiwan. Police can be nice when you seem polite, cultured, and timid.

I was falsely accused by that entertainingly furious woman.

But, I turned poison into wine.

How fulfilling it is to know you can turn what was meant to harm you, relish it, sulk in it, make it yours, wear it as a badge on your chest, and of course, recall it as a colorful thread in what has been woven of your life.

Thank goodness I have so many of these glittering, gem-encrusted threads, and by the looks of it I’ll have many more… though hopefully, less frustrating.

T.S. is a regional intern at the World Youth Alliance Middle East.




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