Amal Hussain is a 7-year-old Yemeni girl with a haunting gaze whose image sits atop our latest report from Yemen, a country plunged into war and on the brink of a catastrophic famine.
Amal is skin and bones, and her head is turned away, as if she cannot bear to meet the eyes of those looking at her.
Some readers may feel they want to look away, too. And if experience is any guide, some are going to demand to know why we are asking them to look at all.
But we are asking you to look — and not just at Amal, but also at Shaher al-Hajaji, a scarred 3-year-old boy in the grip of malnutrition, and at Bassam Mohammed Hassan, an emaciated, listless young boy with an empty look in his eyes.
This is our job as journalists: to bear witness, to give voice to those who are otherwise abandoned, victimized and forgotten. And our correspondents and photographers will go to great lengths, often putting themselves in harm’s way, to do so.
This report, “The Tragedy of Saudi Arabia’s War,” was written by Declan Walsh, and the photographs were taken by Tyler Hicks. To bring it to you, they not only had to navigate their way through a country devastated by war but also through their own emotional trauma.
Then, after they filed their report, came the time for the hard discussions in New York City.
Times editors don’t decide lightly to publish pictures of the dead or the dying. The folders of photo editors bulge with powerful images that did not make the cut because they were considered too horrific, too invasive or too gratuitous.
The images we have now published out of Yemen may be as unsettling as anything we have used before. But there is a reason we made this decision.
The tragedy in Yemen did not grow out of a natural disaster. It is a slow-motion crisis brought on by leaders of other countries who are willing to tolerate extraordinary suffering by civilians to advance political agendas.
And yet somehow the vast catastrophe has failed to catch the world’s attention as much as the murder of a single man, the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
The story of Yemen and all its suffering is one that must be told, and as powerful as Declan’s writing is, it cannot be told in words only.
Yes, Tyler’s images are hard to look at. They are brutal. But they are also brutally honest. They reveal the horror that is Yemen today. You may choose not to look at them. But we thought you should be the ones to decide.
We welcome your thoughts in the comments.