“Don’t bury me.” 6-year-old Fareed Shawky cries as doctors treat his many shrapnel wounds. He is just a child. But more than six months of war in his country, Yemen, had taught him the bitter realities of conflict. People die, then they are buried. “Don’t bury me,” Fareed says again through tears. His young father stands across from him and smiles as if to dismiss his child’s fears. “I was trying to calm him down and at the same time my tears are falling, but I did not want him to feel it,” al-Thamry Shawky says, “I told him, ‘Don’t be afraid, my son. You will get better.'” The interaction was filmed that month by Ahmed Basha, a local photographer who recounted the story to CNN. “I thought he was just injured,” Basha says from his home in Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city. “I wasn’t even sure I had been recording when he said this. I was more concerned with my still photography.”
Four days later, Fareed died of wounds to his head. The boy was buried, hurriedly, by relatives. His own father could not bring himself to break his promise to his son. “I didn’t bury him. I couldn’t bury him.” The father told Basha through tears, “I stood far away as they put him in the ground.” When Basha got word of the child’s death, he began sifting through his footage. He published the video of the boy begging to live and began telling the world his story. It was quickly picked up by social media at a time when little else on Yemen’s war seems to gain much attention. The video got over 50,000 views on facebook alone, I couldn’t find out how many on twitter.
It is the war the world forgot, activists say, and Fareed Shawky is reminding us. His words, “don’t bury me”, echo all through Yemen now as a plea for peace.
“With every day that passes, children see their hopes and dreams for the future shattered,” Julien Harneis, the Unicef representative in Yemen, said earlier this month. “Their homes, schools and communities are being destroyed, and their own lives are increasingly threatened by disease and malnutrition,” said UNICEF advisor.