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The truth behind this heart-breaking viral photo

The heart-breaking photo that has gone viral showing a four-year-old Syrian girl surrendering to a cameraman after mistaking his telephoto lens for a gun is real, BBC reports.

Some critics had branded the picture as either fake, staged or not contextualised. But the BBC tracked down the photographer who took the picture that many say could win several global awards.

The photo began to go viral Tuesday last week, when it was tweeted by Nadia Abu Shaban, a photojournalist based in Gaza. “photojournalist took this photo 4 Syrian child, thought he has a weapon not a camera so she gave up! #Surrended (sic),” read Nadia’s tweet which has garnered more than 20,000 retweets.

After digging around, the BBC got hold of Osman Sağırlı, the Turkish photojournalist who took the picture, to Tanzania where he now works.

“The child is in fact not a boy, but a four-year-old girl, Hudea,” reports BBC. “The image was taken at the Atmeh refugee camp in Syria, in December last year. She travelled to the camp – near the Turkish border – with her mother and two siblings. It is some 150km from their home in Hama.”


Here’s the story behind the photo as told by Sağırlı: “I was using a telephoto lens, and she thought it was a weapon.”

“I realised she was terrified after I took it, and looked at the picture, because she bit her lips and raised her hands. Normally kids run away, hide their faces or smile when they see a camera.”

He says he finds pictures of children in the camps particularly revealing.

“You know there are displaced people in the camps. It makes more sense to see what they have suffered not through adults, but through children. It is the children who reflect the feelings with their innocence.”

The image was first published in the Türkiye newspaper in January, where Sağırlı has worked for 25 years, covering war and natural disasters outside the country.

It was widely shared by Turkish speaking social media users at the time. But it took a few months before it went viral in the English-speaking world, finding an audience in the West over the last week.