The ongoing conflict in the Middle East has ruined the lives of so many families everywhere. Even if they do seek refuge in European countries, there’s still no assurance if they’re going to be accepted. The sad part is, these people are innocent. They had nothing to do with the ongoing wars in their respective countries and yet they are being treated as if they’re less than animals. We all see photos of them, tired from all the traveling and waiting if they have a place in a foreign country, with their kids and pets in tow. Let’s look at the story of one refugee who’s story broke the hearts of many.
This is a photo that went viral late last year: It showed a man selling pens on the streets of Beirut while carrying his daughter who was asleep. His face showed the desperation he had to make ends meet even if it meant carrying his daughter while he worked.
It made a lot of people all over the world feel for the man: The photo reached millions of people all over the world. It was a cruel realization that things like this happen frequently in the Middle East. While the media only covers the conflict itself, it has failed to show what the citizens have to deal with daily.
His name is Abdul Halim al-Attar: Abdul only had his 4-year old daughter, Reem and his 9-year old son, with him in Beirut. His wife was in Syria and he didn’t want his daughter to grow up in such a war torn area.
After his photo went viral, people raised money for him: People all over the world raised money for Abdul and his daughter. In just 24 hours, nearly $80,000 was raised for the two of them. All because of those photos.
He was surprised when activists went to his apartment: He was surprised when activists knocked on his door. They had finally found him. The pen-seller of Beirut. While they happily informed him of the funds that were raised for him, he was heartbroken.
He had no idea what the rest of the world had done: He got upset because someone took photos of him during a low point in his life. It hurt his pride. He didn’t understand why someone had to do that, but it was a blessing in disguise.
He felt heartbroken because he felt like he lost his dignity when those photos leaked: The only thing Abdul had left aside from his daughter was his dignity. He felt like the photographs took away his dignity as well because it showed him on the verge of tears, practically begging people to buy pens.
He was a chocolate maker before the conflicts rose: Back in Damascus, Abdul worked as a chocolate maker in a candy factory. He said he didn’t earn a lot of money, but it was enough to raise his family.
After finding himself out of a job, he resorted to selling pens on the streets of Beirut: After he fled to Beirut with his daughter, he couldn’t find a job. He can’t just leave Reem alone as she always got scared. And no company would hire him if he had to carry his daughter around all the time.
He was lucky to earn $2 in one day: Even if the photographs showed his sadness, he was known to be someone who always had a smile on his face no matter how difficult things got.
Abdul received almost $190,000 in donations: He was astonished that so many people in the world cared about him and his family.
Currently, he owns two restaurants and provides jobs to his fellowmen: Four months later after the photos had leak, Abdul now runs two other restaurants with other refugees as his employees.
Abdul can now proudly say that he got his dignity back: He has also sent some of the money to his other relatives so they can start building businesses to help their community.
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