Abdul Halim Attar is a Syrian refugee photographed selling pens with his exhausted sleeping daughter slumped over his shoulder in Beirut. After the heartbreaking photo went viral on the internet, a crowdfunding was started in his name by Conflict News founder Icelandic activist Gissur Simonarson who created the twitter account @butpens and an Indigo page on Wednesday 26th August and within 24 hours initial £3,000 was raised on his behalf by online donations.
Mr Attar, a Palestinian-Syrian with two children, was reportedly living in the besieged Damascus refugee quarter of Yarmouk before fleeing to Lebanon three years ago.
Well after three months of fundraising, crowdfunding campaign had raised more than enough – it raised £186,282 to enable Abdul to open three businesses and employ other asylum seekers to work for him.
In the last two months, the 33-year-old Abdul was able to first open a bakery, and then later a kebab shop and a small restaurant. He can afford to give away about £16,530 to friends and relatives in Syria.
He also moved with his children from their small one bedroom to a two bedroom flat in an unfurnished building in southern Beirut. Though his wife have left him and went back to Syria, and they are currently separated.
While the apartment is tastefully furnished, his four-year-old daughter Reem – who was sleeping on her dad’s shoulder in the viral photo have few new toys to play with. After three years of being at home, his nine-year-old son Abdullalah is back to school.
“Not only did my life change, but also the lives of my children and the lives of people in Syria whom I helped,” Abdul said.
Organisers said more funds would be dispensed to the family through a local refugee charity, possibly in instalments. When Mr Attar was informed of the rising donation total, he told a member of the campaign: “I want to help other Syrians”.
Although the Mr Attah’s image at the roadside was by no means unique – four million Syrians have fled their homeland since it spiralled into civil war four years ago – it offered a stark reminder of the daily reality for those who have been forced into live hand-by-mouth as part of the largest migration crisis since the Second World War.
Mr Simonarson said the fundraising campaign had touched a chord with people around the world as an antidote to the hardening of public sentiment against the plight of Syria’s displaced.
“The news you read about refugees these days is all negative – people are dying, they are hungry, and a lot of people say they don’t want them in their countries,” he said. “This single case showed the reality of what was happening – and people couldn’t look away from that.”