Syrian baby who lost an eye in attack by Assad's regime sparks viral campaign

Syrian baby who lost an eye in attack by Assad's regime sparks viral campaign
Activists launch an online campaign in support of a Syrian infant who lost an eye and fractured his skull in two separate regime attacks on his besieged hometown near Damascus.
3 min read
20 December, 2017
Karim has lost an eye and fractured his skull [Qusay Noor/The New Arab]
A Syrian baby who lost an eye and had his skull crushed in two regime attacks on his besieged hometown near Damascus has garnered support from activists, who launched an online campaign in his support this week.

Karim was first wounded in late October, when artillery shells struck a market in the rebel-held district of Hammouria, Eastern Ghouta, killing his mother. The same attack also killed a pregnant woman and her unborn child.

Ten days later, after the weeks-old baby was discharged from a hospital, shrapnel tore through the roof of his house.

Since both attacks, Karim has lost an eye and fractured his skull.

Karim was picked up by volunteer rescuer Abu Loay, who said he found the infant unconscious and rushed him to the nearest hospital.

On their way, another shell hit blocking their route, and Abu Loay was forced to divert and drive to another hospital.

Locals and activists took to social media to post a picture of themselves covering one eye, in tribute to the now three-month-old infant, using the hashtag #SolidarityWithKarim, which quickly gained traction on Twitter.

The UK envoy to the UN Matthew Rycroft also participated in the campaign, tweeting a picture of himself covering one eye.

The campaign is the latest effort to bring attention to the government siege, which dates back to 2012, when residents rose up against President Bashar al-Assad during the country's Arab Spring uprising.

The conditions in Eastern Ghouta, home to some 400,000 people, have rapidly deteriorated in recent weeks as the government has tightened the siege, causing severe shortages of food, medicine and fuel as winter sets in.

One of hundreds

'Surrender or starve' in Eastern Ghouta

Read more here:

- Nine-month-old baby dies from malnourishment under brutal Assad siege in Eastern Ghouta

- Child malnutrition in besieged Eastern Ghouta is at 'highest rate ever recorded' since Syria war

- Eastern Ghouta: A ghetto of hunger and fear

- Food shortage forces Syrians to eat rubbish and animal refuse in Eastern Ghouta

- Assad regime has 'used cluster bombs' in Syria's besieged Eastern Ghouta

The New Arab's Qusay Noor visited Karim on Monday and said the baby's unemployed father is struggling to care for him while raising his other children.

"Doctors in Ghouta are taking care of Karim, but he needs specialists in neurology, ophthalmology and cosmetic surgery," Noor said. "The situation at their home is quite miserable."

A medical report following the first attack said Karim, who was 40-days-old at the time, suffered from loss of skull bone and severe tissue tearing that affected the eye socket, threatening to leave a permanent scare.

The report, shared with AP by a medic, said specialised care is needed but is not available in Eastern Ghouta.

"Karim is one of hundreds of cases in Eastern Ghouta. If shelling against civilians doesn't stop, there are going to be a hundred or a thousand like Karim," said Moayed al-Halafi, a member of the Syrian Civil Defence, volunteer first-responders known as White Helmets.

Last week, the UN's children's agency said that 137 children require immediate evacuation.

At least five children had already died because of the lack of medical care, the UNHCR added.

The Syrian regime has refused to allow the UN to transfer nearly 500 people requiring medical evacuation to hospitals minutes away.

"Infants – some of them just one or two months old – will die if evacuation permits are not granted immediately," UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the Security Council on Tuesday.

Some 16 people who had been waiting for permission to leave have died, including a 45-day-old infant, a nine-year old girl and a quadriplegic, Lowcock added.

"All that is needed is the green light from the Syrian authorities for these people to go to hospitals just a few miles outside of eastern Ghouta," he added.

Agencies contributed to this report