Little girl with swollen eyes has become a symbol of Yemen's conflict

Buthaina Mansour on the left, in the pose that has made her a symbol of the Yemen conflict.
Buthaina Mansour on the left, in the pose that has made her a symbol of the Yemen conflict.


One eye is bruised red-purple and swollen shut. With her right hand, 4-year-old Buthaina Muhammad Mansour tries to keep the other one open. The little girl managed to survive an airstrike on a residential building in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, on August 25, which killed everyone else in the building. This heartbreaking image has gone viral on social media, with people posting selfies imitating Buthaina Mansour’s gesture, to call attention to Yemen’s long conflict and the devastation it has caused.

Buthaina Mansour suffered a concussion and fractures to her skull in the airstrike, which killed her parents, five siblings and an uncle, but doctors told Reuters that she should survive her injuries. At least six other people in the building were killed.

The country's conflict began in 2015 and is being fought between a multinational Saudi-led coalition that supports the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels who are aligned with the previous president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Saudi-led military coalition took responsibility for the airstrike in a statement published the day after the strike, chalking it up to a “technical mistake”. A spokesperson expressed “sincere condolences” to the families of those killed.

Social media users in Yemen and around the world have started posting selfies on social media, with their right thumbs and forefingers around their right eyes in imitation of the gesture that Mansour makes in the photo. They have been posting these selfies under the hashtag #لعيون_بثينه, roughly translated as #For Buthaina’s eyes. In Arabic, the phrase ‘for your eyes’ can be used to mean ‘for you’, or to do something for or in homage to someone else, so Yemenis are both referencing Buthaini Mansour’s facial injuries and dedicating their posts to the little girl.

A selection of images from Twitter.

The strike was just the latest in a series of strikes by the coalition on residential areas. The coalition accused the Houthi opposition of setting up military bases within residential areas, in order “to use civilians like human shields”.

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The conflict in Yemen has resulted in at least 8,400 deaths and 48,000 injured since it began in 2015. A cholera epidemic is also afflicting the country, which has so far killed 2000 people. Several regions in the country are also suffering from a famine.

Human Rights Watch and other human rights and international civil society organisations sent a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday, calling for an independent investigation into the violations of international human rights law in Yemen.

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