Middle East

Young Yemeni girl who lost her entire family in an airstrike becomes symbol to stop civil war

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A young girl who was the sole survivor of her family, after an airstrike that killed eight of her relatives, has inspired a campaign calling for the end of the war in Yemen.

Photographs of six-year-old Buthaina Muhammad Mansour from her hospital bed with eye injuries so severe they are swollen shut have been making the rounds on social media.

An airstrike carried out last week led by Arab coalition forces caused the death of 14 people and injured another 16, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

One of the injured was Buthaina who was pulled from the rubble in the residential neighbourhood of Faj Attan in the south of Sana’a.

A photographer snapped pictures of the young girl from her bed with one of them capturing her trying to pry one of her eyes open with her forefinger and thumb.

This image has gone viral on social media with people across the globe posting photographs of themselves in the same pose with the hashtag “Buthaina” or “Picture Ur eye 4 Bothinah” – an alternative spelling for her name.

One of the first people to tweet out her image was Institute of Gulf Affairs director Ali al-Ahmed.

“I saw the video from local media in Yemen but the image captured much more than the video, the colour of her lips, her face, her left eye," Mr al-Ahmed told SBS World News.

“She was trying to open her eyes - that movement, that gesture it was very powerful and it struck my heart. I promoted this movement. I thought we should name it after her, Buthaina.

“I have two daughters, one is four and one is two, who are about her age. I was moved by the picture.”

Mr al-Ahmed will be using Buthaina’s photograph at a protest he is helping organise on September 11, outside the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

“This young innocent child is a victim… she has nobody now,” he told SBS World News.

Buthaina was stuck underneath the debris for more than 14 hours - from 2am on Friday when the airstrike happened to about 5pm - before she was rescued.

Relatives say she still remembers everything clearly and surrounds herself with toys to remind her of her siblings who died in the airstrike.

She is in the care of another uncle, her father’s younger brother, right now but UNICEF will help her with counselling and make sure she goes to a good home after her recovery.

Buthaina suffered a concussion and skull fractures, according to Reuters.

Arab coalition forces have admitted to carrying out the airstrike but say "the presence of a technical mistake was the cause of [an] accidental as well as unintentional incident [which has been] proven not to be directly targeting [residents]".

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