The stories of Syrian children that went viral in 2015

Around 2 million Syrian children live as refugees, but it's the heart-breaking stories of a small number of individuals that struck a chord on the internet.

BBC Trending looks at the stories of five Syrian refugee children who captured the attention of the world in 2015.

1. The girl who mistook a camera for a weapon

A photo of a young girl holding up her arms up in front of a camera after she mistook it for a weapon went viral in early 2015 - but little was known about the child.

The original tweet that brought attention to this girl's story was retweeted over 25,000 times. Back in March, BBC Trending tracked down the Turkish photojournalist, Osman Sağırlı, who took the picture in Atmeh camp on the Syrian border with Turkey. The photo was actually taken in 2014, and the girl's name is Huda. "I was using a telephoto lens, and she thought it was a weapon," Sağırlı explained.

BBC Trending tracked down Huda's father to find out what has happened to the family since the photo of his three-year-old daughter went viral. "Nothing changed," he said. "Our situation has gone from bad to worse, especially now that it's winter." Huda's father says basic things, like water, are not always available at the camp where they've been living for the past three years.

Image copyright Osman Sağırlı
Image caption The original photo was taken by Turkish photographer Osman Sağırlı in 2014

2. The pen-seller's daughter

A photo of a distressed-looking refugee selling pens on the street in Beirut while carrying his sleeping daughter caught the attention of millions.

These migrants had their lives dramatically changed after an Icelandic journalist and web developer, Gissur Simonarsonn, set out to find them after seeing the image and tweeting it.

It turned out that 33-year-old Abdul Halim Attar and his daughter Reem are Palestinians who were living in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria until it was heavily affected by the fighting.

Simonarsonn started a Twitter account and an online crowdfunding campaign aiming to raise $5,000 (£3,200) for Attar and his daughter. He managed to raise over $190,000 (£126,000).

Attar used the money to open three businesses in Beirut: a bakery, a kebab shop and a small restaurant. He says he employs 16 Syrian refugees and is settling in Beirut with his two children, although he's separated from his wife who returned to Syria.


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3. The girl who's frightened of men in uniform

An emotional video showing a 5-year-old girl shaking and crying hysterically when approached by a policeman in Turkey has been viewed more 2 million times since it was uploaded in April.

The video shows a Turkish policeman unsuccessfully trying to calm the girl down, while she worries that she will get in trouble for selling tissues on the street.

"I won't do it again," she keeps repeating to the officer in the video. Many people commenting on the video pointed out that trauma caused by war has led some Syrian children to panic on the mere sight of men in uniform.

The girl, Aisha, was returned back to her family safely, but little is known about what happened to them. BBC Trending contacted the Turkish humanitarian organisation that uploaded the video, but they said they've lost contact with Aisha and her family.

4. The boy beaten up for selling tissues

Like Aisha, 13-year old Ahmed Abayed was selling tissues on the street when he ran into trouble. But his encounter ended differently.

In July images of a restaurant manager in Izmir beating up Abayed circulated widely on Turkish social media. People on the street intervened, and photos showed the boy with a bloody nose.

Many people in Turkey were enraged and took to social media to express anger at how some refugees are being treated.

Ahmed was quoted by local news outlets, saying: "I was only selling tissues. While I was about to sell a pack to a lady there, they pulled me aside and hit me. They stepped on me. Syrians on the other side of the road rushed and poured water on me and I gained consciousness only then."

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption Photos of teenager Ahmed Abayed were shared widely on social media

What happened to Ahmed? According to local media the Turkish authorities tracked down the teenager and his family, but they didn't want to file a complaint against the restaurant manager.

Ahmed's mother, who reportedly suffers from a heart condition, was offered health care. His father was promised a job and the whole family was given a short vacation in a hotel. But Ahmed said he will continue to sell tissues to help support his family.

5. The dead toddler who changed everything

Image copyright Mai Noman

If there was one photo that captured the world's attention, it was the picture of three-year-old Alan Kurdi's body washed up on a Turkish beach. That one image came to symbolise the struggles of Syria's refugees and helped galvanise global appeals to help them.

Alan, along with his brother Galib and mother Rehan, died on 2 September when their boat capsized, killing 12 Syrian migrants on their way to Greece. His father Abdullah was the only member of the family who survived. He now says he's given up on his dream of going to Europe and that he will return to Syria.

In an interview with BBC Trending, Alan Kurdi's aunt, Tima Kurdi, says that Alan's death changed the way the world viewed refugees, "It is very painful to go through this tragedy, but in other ways. we are so proud of this picture [which] saved thousands of refugees," she says.

Blog and illustrations by Mai Noman

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