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The Image of the Slain Child in Banias

renoirby Elie Chalala. Why would a child be slaughtered? What threats does he pose to the Assad regime or any tyrannical regime? Yassin al-Haj Saleh tackles these difficult questions in his article, “Image of the Slain Child in Banias,” published in Al Modon, the electronic Lebanese newspaper on May 21, 2013.

The horrific image of a slaughtered child becomes transfixed in many a viewer’s mind; it is a picture powerful enough to be eternally memorized.

Instinctively, we envelop childhood in a layer of innocence and playfulness; a child, full of wonder and delight, has yet to be corrupted. We are thus unable to wrap our heads around his slaughter, a “foolish and unnecessary, even more than being an absolute evil” deed, to use Saleh’s words. A child’s age and fragility explains why most people would dismiss slaughtering as unthinkable. When we hear of a child’s death, we immediately express shock and disbelief, unconsciously attributing the incident to possible random accidents or even collateral damage of violence. But this slaughtering was deliberate, a wickedness we can’t understand.

Children are soft targets. They lack the physical strength to fight adults, learning from a young age that they should find protection under the wings of their elders. On the surface their slaughter is not only a great betrayal, but madness. Both humanist and rational thinking suggest that a child is not worthy of being slaughtered morally or strategically; the killer would be better off spending his time on more valuable military tasks. But the deadly logic of genocide operates differently: the child is dangerous, not at young age, but when he grows up, in the future.

The slaughtering of children sends an important message to all of us, writes Saleh. In a world in which a child is methodically slaughtered, “none of us are safe from slaughter,” regardless of age.

This essay appears in Al Jadid, Vol. 17, no. 65

© Copyright 2013 AL JADID MAGAZINE

Featured image, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Bambina con annaffiatoio, 1876, cm. 100 x 73, National Gallery of Art, Washington.