Death Toll Indifference: You Won't Care How Many People Die, Unless You Hear Their Heartbreaking Stories
Citing death toll numbers like 103 people killed in Syria in just the past 10 days doesn't "do anything", according to Arab Council Australia's CEO.
More than 100 people, including 26 children, have died in air strikes on civilian targets in north-west Syria in under two weeks, according to United Nations Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet.
While these are horrific numbers, Arab Council Australia CEO Randa Kattan told 10 daily they likely won't have an effect on the average Australian.
Kattan said rare moments of collective empathy -- like in 2015 when Syrian refugee toddler Alan Kurdi's lifeless body was photographed washed onto the shore of a Turkish beach -- are only found when personal stories go viral.
"Keeping everything in the abstract with [death toll] numbers won't do anything. The more we bring personal stories into people's homes, the more they can relate."
International response to the mounting civilian death toll from air strikes by the government and Russia in Syria is a "failure of leadership by the world's most powerful nations", Bachelet said in a statement.
Bachelet added the global "response seems to be a collective shrug, with the Security Council paralysed".
Included in the airstrike death toll were sisters Reham, five, and Rawan, three, who died after attempting to save their infant sister Turqa, who survived.
The harrowing image of the sisters buried under the rubble of their former home -- as their father watched in horror -- has been published worldwide.
More children have been killed in the last month in Idlib province than the total number killed last year in the same area, Save the Children said in a statement.
Idlib, along with the north of Hama province and western Aleppo, is one of Syria's last opposition strongholds after eight years of civil war.
More than 370,000 people have been killed, with millions displaced, since war in Syria started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.
George Najarian told 10 daily since he arrived in Australia as a Syrian refugee in 2017, he's spoken to "thousands of people" about life before and after war there.
Aleppo-born Najarian's advocacy work is dedicated to "telling the stories of people on the ground" to fight against people's compassion fatigue.
"Walking in their shoes is the most important thing. People have to focus on the stories to see the reality, not only from the media's perspective," he said.
Unlike media coverage of Western nations, Kattan said that any story from the Middle East is "placed in the too hard basket".
"The people have been demonised due to constant wars, so the world has turned a blind eye," Kattan said.
Najarian said Western media needs to change their narrative of representing people from the Middle East as "second-class global citizens".
"Europeans are somehow immediately viewed as good. Because our religion, colour and wealth may be different, Syrians are sadly not seen as important.
"But when you come to the ground and speak to the people, you will see how different it is. We can and do lead beautiful, normal lives," Najarian said.
Contact the author: email@example.com