Vietnam War survivor hopes dead Syrian boy 'will wake up the whole world'

The subject of an iconic, tragic photograph taken 40 years ago was in Winnipeg today speaking out against the atrocities forcing thousands of Syrians to flee their homeland.

Kim Phuc, subject of iconic 1972 photo taken during Vietnam war, visits Winnipeg

Kim Phuc signs copies of the Girl in the Picture after speaking at Grant Memorial Baptist Church in Winnipeg on Sunday.

The subject of an iconic, tragic photograph taken 40 years ago was in Winnipeg today speaking out against the atrocities forcing thousands of Syrians to flee their homeland.

An image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi lifeless on a beach in Turkey is garnering international attention and has put the mounting Syrian refugee crisis into perspective in a new and troubling way. It resonated with Kim Phuc, who knows firsthand what kind of impact powerful images of tragedy can have on history.

Phuc was just nine years old when she was photographed naked and screaming after being burned in a napalm attack during the Vietnam War in 1972. Since then, Phuc has become a living symbol of the atrocities of war.

She was at the Grant Memorial Church in Winnipeg Sunday sharing her story and joined a growing chorus of voices calling on world leaders to work together to solve the Syrian refugee crisis.
Nick Ut's 1972 photo of five children fleeing an aerial napalm attack during the Vietnam War is widely believed by historians to have been a major inspiration for the anti-war movement. One of the most recognizable photos in the world, it centres on nine-year-old girl Kim Phuc, whose terror-stricken face and burned naked body became a catalyst for peace. (Nick Ut/AP)

"I cried a lot. Why do more innocent children have to die like that," said Phuc, about her reaction to the image. "I know that picture will wake up the whole world. We have to help people."

Phuc, who came to Canada and later studied to be a doctor, said she is still thankful for the freedom her new home afforded her. She said the photo of Kurdi underscores the impact war has on children and the future that is robbed from them.

"They're so innocent and they should have a great life ... and enjoy their childhood, not dying and suffering like that."

Phuc said she hopes Canada and governments around the world continue to open their borders to Syrian refugees.

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