World

Syrian Refugee Whose Photo Went Viral Receives Enormous Help From Social Media

| by Alexander Rubinstein

A heartbreaking photograph of a Syrian man selling pens in Beirut, Lebanon, as he carried his sleeping daughter went viral.

The photograph prompted a worldwide search for the man, who later told BuzzFeed News he was stunned by the support.

The photo, tweeted by @GissiSim, is captioned “Syrian father selling pens in the streets of #Beirut with his sleeping daughter #Lebanon #Syria.” The tweet has almost 3,500 retweets and more than 1,500 favorites.

Eventually, the Internet managed to track down the subject, Abdul Haleem al-Kader.

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Kader is a Palestinian-Syrian refugee. As a single father, he used to live in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria with his daughter, 9-year-old Reem, as well as his 4-year-old son Abdelillah.

The Yarmouk refugee camp was created in 1957 to hold Palestinians fleeing the Arab-Israeli conflict.

After two years of bombings by the Syrian government, Palestinian refugees at the Yarmouk refugee camp, near Damascus, were raided by forces of the Islamic State group. The militants seized the camp and defeated several militia groups nearby.

An estimated 18,000 refugees were trapped in the camp between the grips of Islamic State group and the Syrian regime. The situation was described by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as “the deepest circle of hell,” reported CNN.

In a phone interview with BuzzFeed, Kader said he left Syria four years ago with his wife and children to move to Egypt. His wife urged him to return to Syria and left him with the children when he declined.

“I had nothing to do in Syria anymore since the chocolate factory that I used to work in before is closed,” Kader told BuzzFeed News. “Some of my friends told me, ‘Why not go to Lebanon and try there.’”

He was hoping to find work in a chocolate factory in Lebanon, but none were hiring. “So I have no other options to feed my kids but selling stuff in the streets,” he said.

After the man’s identity was discovered, the founder of the website Conflict News, Gissur Simonarson, who tweeted the photo of Kader selling the pens, also opened an Indiegogo campaign for him and raised more than $80,000 in one day.

“I hope I can take the kids and live in Europe,” Kader said. “There they will have a much better chance for a good education. I really hope I can do that.”

Sources: BuzzFeed, CNN / Photo Credit: Twitter via @Buy_Pens