The 5-year-old boy was trapped in a 104-foot well for five days before his body was retrieved, albeit too late.
After five days of painstaking digging to save Rayan Oram that drew solidarity from across the globe, the body of the young boy was retrieved from the 104-foot well in Morocco, but with no heartbeat.
News of his passing was announced by the royal palace moments after the boy’s lifeless body was carried to the ambulance on Saturday, silencing the thunderous cheers and applause from onlookers who thought little Rayan survived.
The little boy’s story was followed relentlessly throughout the week by millions of people across the globe. Dozens of online posts were pouring in by the second, as onlookers refreshed their feeds incessantly, with hopes for new updates.
Such mass focus brought attention to a prominent dilemma that is often faced when a humanitarian story takes the world by a storm, which is: the capitalising on tragedies.
A mere few hours after the rescue operation started, ‘Save Rayan’ t-shirts, mugs, and bracelets went on sale on different marketplace sites under the fake motive that all the proceeds will be ‘donated’ to the family. Meanwhile, on the social media sphere, many commentators were either employing ‘whataboutism’ to draw attention to their own tragedies, or using the sad event to push forth their profiles and brand via ‘hot-takes’, presented under the veneer of concern.
Tragicrafting for profit
The speed in which the marketing tactics were used in a time of worry to profit off the tragic incident, which in no way helped the victim, is deemed unethical—but is within itself nothing new. In fact, the sad reality of it is that it is rooted in the very capitalist phenomenon embedded within our societies.
This phenomenon of online retailers making products in response to tragedies has become increasingly widespread over the last few years, so much so that it has been named “tragicrafting”. Unfortunately, for young Rayan’s story, the situation was no different.
Disgusted by the retailers, a journalist at Al-Jazeera told Doha News that, “Several websites were selling t-shirts with ‘Save Rayan’ on them for sums between $30 and $40, claiming that they will donate the proceedings to Rayan when he gets out of here. I don’t know how much they ended up selling, but the entire concept of it is unethical. No one knows where the money is going.”
Self-promotion through tragedy
As the story raged on, several media organisations and social media influencers and general commentators took to the hashtags to promote themselves, some going to extents of spreading fake news to get views. Others took to opening platforms on GoFundMe and similar donation avenues that were in no way reliable or confirmed that they had access to Rayan’s family, yet were shared aplenty across social media.
“Then of course, all these named influencers jumped on the bandwagon saying things like ‘Oh, please save him’, despite having no idea what was happening – or did not know the full picture beyond the trends on their front-pages.” she added.
The journalist went on to say that, “it is unethical on all sides, even those who did not know that they were promoting crooks, it’s unethical to support something you’re not absolutely sure of, nor know where the money is going. At the end of the day, the father of the young boy does not even have a social media account.”
The incident exposed the thin line between solidarity and ego-boosting, highlighting the need for general ethics surrounding such incidents, and tragedies in general—and how they’re dealt with on social media. With everyone having ‘a voice’ on the platforms, commentators of all sorts are able to give their two-cents, some undoubtedly sincere whilst others hiding behind veneers of concern and solidarity albeit with other agendas.
The sticky issue with having a platform and being encompassed within this global conversation that is live at all times, is that it comes with pressure to speak or write, thus making one’s intention, sometimes, indiscernible to their own selves. This is not to say that solidarity and prayers cannot come genuinely, but it is important to always think whether such action is helpful to the victim or whether it is the pressure from social media to feel ‘included.’
The five-year-old boy fell down a deep well whilst playing on his family’s property near the village of Ighran in Chefchaouen, Morocco. Tens of workers dug carefully around the clock for days in an effort to save him, but were unfortunately unsuccessful.
The exact day the boy passed away remains unclear. Footage from earlier in the week showed Rayan covered in blood and breathing heavily, however no other footage was released after that.
Food and drinks were lowered to the boy during the days of the mission, though it also remains unclear whether he was able to eat or drink after his fall, and whilst being stuck.
Rayan’s death was felt not just in his home country, but all over the world, with millions rushing to social media to offer his parents and community their sincere condolences and prayers.
— Qatar Embassy_Rabat (@QatarEmb_Rabat) February 5, 2022
Hashtags including #Save_Rayan, #Little_Rayan and #Rest_In_Peace were amongst the top trending hashtags in Qatar, and regionally, during the weekend. The tweets were filled with hopeful prayers, by-the-second updates and live coverage of the mission.
After the sad news came out, thousands rushed to commemorate his memory by offering prayers and thanking all those who helped in retrieving his body.
Qatar’s embassy to Morocco offered condolences to Rayan’s parents, family and all the Moroccan people, through a tweet.
People remain in mourning as the young boy’s story touched the hearts of millions across the globe, whilst the hashtags are no longer trending—many continue to write and voice their sadness over the situation.
Little Rayan’s story will certainly be an incident imprinted within many — and here’s hoping that the profiteering from it will cease as the ethics of solidarity become more apparent and discernible to those who care.