Does a photograph show a Yemeni child sleeping between the graves of his parents? No, that's not true: The picture was staged by a photographer in Saudi Arabia in 2014 for an art project. He has given multiple interviews over the years about the image, saying the child is his nephew and the "graves" were staged.
The claim appeared in a post on Facebook on May 4, 2022. It opens:
We need to do better
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri May 6 17:34:20 2022 UTC)
Using Google reverse image search, Lead Stories traced the photo to a 2014 Instagram post. Abdul Aziz Al-Otaibi, the photographer, first posted the image in black and white on January 3, 2014, with the caption (according to Google Translate):
Find a dwelling among the living
He lived between his mother and father
I hope you like the idea
Everyone writes about this picture and tells the story they understood from the picture
(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Fri May 6 17:49:12 2022 UTC)
He posted the image in color on January 7, 2014, with the caption (according to Google Translate):
Some children may feel that the body of their dead parents
I yearn for living bodies whose hearts have been hardened 💡
(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Fri May 6 17:50:48 2022 UTC)
After the photo went viral with the wrong information, he posted an image of the boy flashing the peace sign on January 16, 2012, with the caption (according to Google Translate):
Behind the scenes of the photo that they stole and attributed to a child in the Levant
(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Fri May 6 17:51:33 2022 UTC)
While the image posted on Facebook in 2022 claims the child is Yemeni, in 2014 many claimed the child was from Syria.
Journalist Harold Doornbos posted the first interview with Al-Otaibi on January 17, 2014:
'Look, it's not true at all that my picture has anything to do with Syria,' Al-Otaibi says, 'I am really shocked how people have twisted my picture...
'I love photography,' he continues over the phone, 'Every artist has ideas in his head. So I had the idea to make a project whereby I show in pictures how the love of a child for his parents is irreplaceable. This love cannot be substituted by anything or anybody else, even if the parents are dead.'
To finalize his art project, Abdul Aziz al Otaibi took his car and drove three weeks ago to the outskirts of Yanbu, 250 kilometers away from Jeddah. Here he build from stones two graves. He asked the young son of his sister to lay in between the graves and cover himself with a blanket. 'Of course I would never ever put a child between two real graves,' he says, 'I would be very much against that.'
Lead Stories reached out to Al-Otaibi and will update the story if a response is received.