A refugee who landed in Germany after fleeing war-torn Syria never thought his hardships were far from over. Anas Modamani, a Syrian refugee, who reached Berlin after a long journey waited hours to have a picture with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a refugee shelter in Berlin.
He eventually succeeded in doing so, however, he didn’t know the selfie would change his life completely. The photo went viral on social media making him the most recognized refugee in Germany and ever since then he has been the subject of various false stories on social media. News stories have linked him to terrorist attacks across Europe. One such attack was the Christmas market attack in Berlin.
Modamani was also linked to another terror incident as one of the refugees who set fire to a sleeping homeless man in Berlin.
However, the refugee’s ordeal didn’t end there; he was also falsely linked to the Brussels bombings in March 2016. News outlets claimed that the German Chancellor had taken a selfie with a terrorist.
“That photo changed my life. I cried when I saw it. I want to live in peace in Germany. I fled from the war and bloodshed in Syria to live in safety ... I was too afraid to leave my house after I saw what people wrote about me. This is not just my problem. It's a problem of our time," he said.
Tired of being associated with terrorist attacks, Modamani decided to sue Facebook and accused the social media giant of failing to act up against the defamatory posts he flagged.
Modamani’s lawyer, Chan-jo Jun said, “We think that Facebook has to delete all defaming content ... We want the photo to be deleted everywhere on the platform, and we want Facebook to take action that the photo will not be uploaded again.”
“We see Facebook as a content provider, as a journalistic medium, which through its guidelines, algorithms and journalist-bots, influences which content we see and in what way,” added Jun.
Modamani left his family and friends in Damascus. He took a dangerous journey across Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece. From moving to one refugee settlement to another, he finally reached Germany in July 2015.
"It was one of the toughest times in my life," he recalled. "I had little to eat, I didn't speak English and my family wasn't with me," he recalls.
He now has foster friends and family in Berlin and works for a fast-food chain. He wants to live a normal life in Germany. He wants to learn German and get a better job. However, he remains uncertain about his future.
“I'm scared thinking about it, even when I just send off an application online. It makes me feel helpless and powerless,” added Modamani.