Rayan is the name of the Moroccan child who entered every house in the Arab world and became a symbol of the humanity of all the inhabitants of the region, and all the villages of our afflicted region were called Ighran, the name of his village.
His story quickly spread on social media, accompanied by debates, controversies and conflicts. Now may be the time to discuss some of the political, economic and current debates that have come to light.
Perhaps the most important observation is the connection people feel to each other across the Arab world. Rayan’s tragic story coincided with Egypt’s qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations finals and the region discussed both events as if they were personal matters.
The majority of the people of the Arab States forgot their differences and their own problems and focused on Rayan and the Egyptian team, although in practice they could only offer prayers and hopes.
Media coverage has undoubtedly played a major role in spreading Rayan’s story, but it’s obvious that media coverage hasn’t matched the care and attention that people themselves have given to the story.
Some media have questioned people’s interest in Rayan’s story at a time when millions of Arab children are suffering terrible tragedies from loss of security, hunger, collapsing health and the risk of death in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine and Palestine. elsewhere, without adequate media coverage.
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In principle, the question seems fair and logical and should not be criticized, but some of those who raised it have been attacked on social media. It is natural and very understandable that those bereaved by the tragedies caused by conflict are saddened by the lack of attention and media coverage given to their problems.
However, perhaps such questions could have waited until the rescue efforts to save Rayan were over.
Rayan’s story was “news”, unlike the story of the suffering of millions of people in Yemen, Syria and Palestine, which means they are no longer “newsworthy” and the level of attention that the followers grant them gradually decreases.
But Rayan’s story was compelling because of his unique nature. It is about a child who suddenly fell into a well on an ordinary day, when there are no political or military conflicts. This is a single person whose face and image were known. This adds to the “media value” of the story. In the case of other tragedies in the Middle East, the victims are many, and they live in war zones where suffering has become “normal”, their faces and images are unknown, so media interest is reduced.
It sounds harsh and devoid of human feelings, but it is the reality and the truth. Suffering and tragedy alone are not “newsworthy story” that commands attention. This explains, for example, the international media coverage of the story of Alan Kurd, who drowned at sea as his family tried to flee the conflict in Syria, although he was not the only child whose life ended in this tragic way.
Far from the scale of the tragedy and the feelings of anticipation, joy and sadness that accompanied attempts to save Rayan, the economic and development dimensions of the event were absent from the media. Rayan’s story ended tragically. Media interest in him will die down in a few days, no doubt. However, another tragedy started before this story and did not end after it, yet it was absent from the media. We are talking about the tragedy of weak economy and lack of development in Arab countries, where villages and towns suffer from a major imbalance in terms of development and lack safe roads, security factors and safety, electricity and water, and the necessary capacities that qualify local authorities to deal with unforeseen emergencies and accidents.
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The village of Ighran in the Moroccan province of Chefchaouen resembles thousands of villages and towns in Arab countries that suffer from marginalization, poverty, misery and lack of development. These cities are waiting to become “worthy” of media attention to highlight their ongoing tragedies.
A reporter told his station that Ighran was “gloomy” following the tragic loss of Rayan, but that was also true because the village had no electricity. Rayan’s story may diminish from the headlines, but the power cuts, underdevelopment, economic marginalization and ostracism of many villages in the Arab world will live on and we must work to bring this to light, fight it and make sure they are never forgotten. .
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 February 9, 2022
The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.