The boy in the photo
May 18, 2019 2:01 AM   Subscribe

In the summer of 2018, BBC cameraman Andy Alcroft was waiting to film an interview at Exeter St David’s railway station, when he was approached by one of Amar’s friends. “You should do a report about him - Amar. The boy who came over from Iraq. Remember him? He’s got an amazing story,” he said. Andy took some contact details and we went to meet Amar in the Devon village where he still lives. We thought we might end up doing some kind of “catch-up” feature. “Whatever happened to the orphan Amar?” - that kind of thing. But when Amar revealed he had been receiving unexpected social media messages from a stranger, the story took an unexpected turn.
posted by satoshi (25 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
Amazing story that turned out better than expected. It’s been a brutal week and I really needed to read something positive. Thanks for posting!
posted by kinnakeet at 3:51 AM on May 18 [16 favorites]

Damn. It got really dusty in here.
posted by scruss at 4:02 AM on May 18 [7 favorites]

FYI: the main subject of the article suffered severe burns as a child in the midst of war, and there are photos in the article both of his initial injuries and his scars.

I was startled, so I figured others might appreciate a heads up, too.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:19 AM on May 18 [7 favorites]

Such an amazing story. I thought that the man who found him after seeing his mother interrupt the interview was so cool for just jumping in to help for no reason other than being a good human.
posted by RandomInconsistencies at 5:40 AM on May 18 [17 favorites]

That was so moving and I'm so glad he's reconnecting and feeling hopeful.
posted by victoriab at 7:03 AM on May 18

My birth mother died from cancer this week. It has been continually surprising to me how much knowing basic info about my birth family sets me at ease. I was able to get some of my most pressing questions answered by her before she passed but I still have so much more I would have liked to know.

I hope Amar is able to rest his mind a bit and make a life for himself. It really sounds like he was stuck in a place of anxiety and questioning to say nothing of the foreignness and trauma. I hope having a connection to his family, his blue dots, will give him true grounding and a sense of purpose.
posted by amanda at 7:19 AM on May 18 [23 favorites]

Simply astonishing.
posted by waitingtoderail at 7:23 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]

War is terrible but this is beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
posted by Jellybean_Slybun at 8:10 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]

I read this. As a child, Amar wasn’t just handsome, he was beautiful with lovely big eyes. I do feel for his mother. I’m glad they all found each other again. Gavin Maxwell, famed for the book ‘Ring Of Bright Water’ went to those marshes to get an otter. He wrote a book about it. The United States in my opinion really betrayed the Marsh Arabs, who are really very good people. Their ancestors built Babylon.
It is an utter shame what was done to the Marsh Arabs and the marshes.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:15 AM on May 18 [7 favorites]

Thanks so much for posting this!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:16 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]

So so dusty. What a miracle that they found each other. I hope he finds opportunities to help his family.
posted by gryphonlover at 9:59 AM on May 18 [2 favorites]

This is amazing. I think what I find most compelling is how Amar was somehow in a chrysalis, waiting, for the last thirty years, until he found his family, and now he is unfurling himself, looking to get back into the Foundation's work and planning to move to London... it's just amazing how much we can do when we only know that we are truly loved.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 10:01 AM on May 18 [11 favorites]

Wow. I had a couple thoughts.

Think of how he would have found his family sooner if social media weren't such a toxic cesspool that Amar immediately thought anyone claiming to put him in touch from his family must be scamming him

How heartbreaking that he had a tattoo to make it easier for his family to identify him if he were lost.

It's sad to see the poverty of his family.
posted by medusa at 10:06 AM on May 18 [4 favorites]

Thank you so much for posting this.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:42 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]

What struck me was that even though his face was altered, you could see that he and his mother had the same smile.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:08 PM on May 18 [5 favorites]

I think if I was trying to contact a stranger that I think I saw their mother on tv looking for them I'd lead with that. "I have urgent news about your family" sounds exactly like a scam, why not just "I saw this lady on tv, she might be your mom, look into it maybe"

Also it's beyond shitty that Lady Emma couldn't find some fake job for him at the Foundation. Like the sons of nobility haven't been placed in jobs they were unqualified for for centuries, and nothing for this one who really deserves it? Wonderful, Emma, you did half of a good thing, congrats.
posted by bleep at 1:38 PM on May 18 [23 favorites]

And I mean before anyone corrects me, eventually it seems that he does "start doing some things" at the Foundation, but my point is is that I highly doubt that if they had their own son he would be left alone in an unheated flat and relying on welfare, no matter what kind of arguments they got into. He shouldn't have to do any work at all.
posted by bleep at 2:17 PM on May 18 [9 favorites]

Thank you for posting this. What a moving story.
posted by maurice at 3:28 PM on May 18

adoptees in and out of reunion, this story is a bit on the challenging side. amanda adressed it upthread but I wanted to acknowledge it as well. I am delighted Amar has found his original family. I am so sorry for his experience.
posted by mwhybark at 5:16 PM on May 18 [4 favorites]

Crying quietly on the train, the description of how they talked, oh.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 11:21 PM on May 18 [4 favorites]

Also it's beyond shitty that Lady Emma couldn't find some fake job for him at the Foundation.

The story mentions that he didn't contact her very much, and also that he refused to be adopted. I get the impression that she might have offered him a job but that he didn't want to be caught all the way up in her business as the only thing happening in his life and probably refused it. Especially because he immediately got work with the foundation after reaching out as a result of this story.

It sounds like a complicated relationship that isn't really the point of the article but I can easily empathize with choosing not to be around some certain rich people over having heat, especially when her deceased husband is apparently the one he really connected with.
posted by fomhar at 11:00 AM on May 19 [12 favorites]

I was thinking more about the type of job that you get a paycheck but nobody is expecting you to show up. The kind of jobs that rich people give each other.
posted by bleep at 11:48 AM on May 19 [4 favorites]

In another longer coverage of the Panorama special this is based on it seems like he feels she stopped responding to him, while she says he wouldn't reply to her. No idea where the truth is but it did sound like her husband dying was just overwhelming for both of them at the time and he stayed in Devon and she moved to London and then they became estranged.

Not offering this up as an excuse and haven't found a way to watch the episode myself so no idea how much they go into that.

Either way, I am so happy for this family that they found each other again. I hope they get a lot of happy time together. They deserve it
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:24 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]

Family stuff is complicated.
posted by amanda at 2:43 PM on May 19 [1 favorite]

The writing and pictures were great. Thanks for sharing.
posted by SyraCarol at 7:09 PM on May 19

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