Editor’s Note: This story contains images that may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.
As Syria’s civil war drags on into its fifth year, families are faced with an impossible choice — stay and brave the bombs and artillery raining down on Syria’s cities, or leave and take the chance on a dangerous journey to Europe.
It’s hard to say which is safer when both could easily lead to death.
Images of Syrian children caught in the middle of this conflict have illustrated this point particularly powerfully.
First, late last year, a photo of three-year-old Alan Kurdi lying dead on a beach shocked the world at the height of the refugee crisis. Kurdi drowned while attempting to cross the Mediterranean and escape the war in Syria.
Then, this week, a photo and video of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh being pulled from the rubble of his home near Aleppo went viral. The boy’s home had been hit by an airstrike carried out by either the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or Russia, which is backing the regime.
Political cartoonist Khalid Albaih contrasted the two images in his illustration, which he gave Business Insider permission to republish.
“My inspiration came from the fact that I consider myself as a refugee,” Albaih, who now lives in Qatar but was born in Romania while his father was based there as a Sudanese diplomat, told Business Insider via email. “My children are within the same age and could also be in the same situation.”
Nearly half a million people have died in the Syrian civil war, and nearly 5 million have fled.
The conflict started with a rebel uprising against Assad, widely regarded as a dictator, who has been accused of relentlessly bombing his own people in an effort to hang onto power.
Terrorist groups are now also in the mix in Syria — ISIS holds territory in some parts of the country, and Al Qaeda-linked jihadists have become a major player on the battlefield.
Analysts contend that the bloodshed will continue for as long as Assad remains in power. The US has called for him to step down, but has stopped short of intervening to depose him.
Civilians, including children, have been caught in the crossfire — those who remain in their homes face daily bombings and airstrikes, and those who attempt to flee face the daunting task of obtaining asylum in another country.
Albaih does not seem optimistic about the situation changing anytime soon.
“My cartoon of Alan went viral as well but the situation is still the same,” Albaih said. “Children are the biggest victims of the grownups’ world.”