“Azam Found.” Words cannot do justice to the elation I felt when I first read those words on social media. After cross-checking with other major news sources, I confirmed that it was true; John Sweeney, the BBC journalist who first reported the heartbreaking story of the missing and seriously injured five-year-old Syrian refugee, had found Azam safely in Germany.
As a former refugee, I feel an emotional connection with the hardships that refugees endure. It's more dangerous to be a refugee now perhaps than it has ever been. The suffering of these people has been neglected by the world for far too long.
I also feel that we must address the issues arising from this boom in the human trafficking business, which is often dangerous and illegal. Families are torn apart, and young children fall into the hands of dangerous individuals who wish to exploit them. This could be your son, my daughter, and we must address this global disaster as quickly as possible.
The story of Azam inspired me to write an article published by the Huffington Post to raise awareness of the viral campaign to find Azam. I used my social media connections to spread the word to whomever would listen, including tagging Interpol and other officials who could possibly find Azam. Although I couldn't be there to physically search for Azam, I made sure I used every resource at my disposal to get more people involved in the cause.
“The good news is that Azam is doing well,” Sweeney said. “You can still see his jaw is slightly swollen and scarred, but otherwise he seemed a normal and happy little boy going from total shyness to making monkey faces at our cameraman in about 10 minutes.”
When I wrote an article about the missing Azam in the Huffington Post a couple weeks ago, I knew that there was a chance Azam would never be found. The conflict in Syria has caused hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees to pour into Europe, and European governments have been struggling to properly identify and process the massive influx of migrants.
This large-scale population movement has meant booming business for human traffickers, who reportedly rake in more than $1 billion per year from the crisis. Many migrant families have been torn apart in the chaos, and human rights organizations such as Save the Children have warned that these conditions expose young children like Azam to the risk of abduction and exploitation.
“Some are being forced into manual labor, domestic work, drug smuggling and prostitution,” a Save the Children spokesperson said to The Independent.
Although I am relieved we have confirmed that Azam is alive and safe, my heart remains heavy. The viral efforts to find the missing young boy were truly inspiring — but what about the millions of refugees whose stories go untold? For a vast majority of these people, there is no name, no hashtags and no international campaign to save them. In the time it took for us to locate this one child, how many others have perished?
While we may still be far off from solving the refugee crisis, finding Azam certainly represents a symbol of hope.
We have shown the power we have as people to band together and make an impact, but it’s imperative that we do not stop here. Let Azam be the symbol we rally behind, proof that the virtues of humanity still exist even in heart of the darkest of tragedies.
I truly believe it is the duty of journalists like me to provide a voice to voiceless, to help relieve the Syrian people of the suffering they have endured for far too long.
But the Syrian people don’t need just one of us, or some of us — they need all of us if we wish to retain any hope that this catastrophe is coming to an end.