Campaigners cover eye in solidarity with wounded Syrian baby

This combination of pictures created on December 19, 2017 shows Syrians covering one eye with their hands in the rebel-held town of Douma in Syria's besieged eastern Ghouta region, as part of a campaign in solidarity with a baby boy, Karim, who lost an eye, as well as his mother, in government shelling on the nearby town of Hamouria Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Residents of the besieged Eastern Ghouta pose with one eye covered in solidarity with Karim

Photos of a Syrian baby who lost an eye and suffered severe head injuries in a reported government attack have sparked a solidarity campaign on social media.

Karim, who is only two months old, was hurt when artillery shells struck a market in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area on the outskirts of Damascus on 29 October. His mother was killed in the incident.

Home to an estimated 400,000 people, towns and villages in the Eastern Ghouta have been under siege by government forces since 2013.

But despite the area being designated a "de-escalation zone", hostilities have intensified in recent weeks.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Monday that the situation in the area had reached a "critical point", with life "slowly becoming impossible".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Eastern Ghouta has been devastated by years of fighting

About 500 people are waiting to be evacuated for life-saving medical care. There are also severe shortages of food, fuel and medicines, and the cold weather threatens to worsen the hardship.

WARNING: Graphic image below

Images of Karim's injuries were first circulated in late November.

But the #SolidarityWithKarim campaign using them to raise awareness about the plight of children trapped in the Eastern Ghouta was only begun last week by Amer al-Mohilbany, a freelance photographer.

"The goal of the campaign is to... bring to the world the voice of this baby, who lost his eye and his mother," he told the AFP news agency.

Speaking to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency - in an article which also includes an image of the extent of Karim's injuries - Karim's father Abu Mohammed said his son needed "constant nursing".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Karim's father, four siblings and aunt have taken care of him since his mother's death

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#SolidarityWithKarim has been used more than 26,000 times since Monday.

Photos of Karim have since been shared hundreds of times on different social media platforms.

Many Syrian users have posted photos of themselves covering their left eyes to highlight Karim's suffering.

Members of the Independent Doctors Association (IDA), a Turkey-based non-governmental organisation that operates hospitals in rebel-held Syria, posted a picture of Syrian medics doing so.

The Syria Civil Defence, whose rescue workers are commonly known as the White Helmets, also tweeted in support.

But Karim's story has also caught the attention of politicians, journalists and activists outside Syria.

Staff at the German newspaper Bild took a group photo to "make a statement" about the ongoing violence in Syria.

The campaign reached as far as UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday, when the UK's permanent representative Matthew Rycroft mentioned Karim during a session of the Security Council.

"We must stand in solidarity with Karim," he said, calling for an end to the bombardment of the Eastern Ghouta.

This is not the first time the plight of a baby has led to a widespread campaign on social media.

Earlier this year, a similar push campaign took place in Yemen, where users shared photos of themselves with one eye closed in solidarity with a young girl injured and orphaned in an air strike by a Saudi-led coalition battling the rebel Houthi movement.

Additional reporting by Georgina Rannard