Rugby Star Sparks Controversy With Pictures Of Dead Refugee Children

New Zealand All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams causes a social media stir after tweeting explicit images following his visit to Syrian refugee camps.

New Zealand Rugby Star Sonny Bill Williams

A World Cup winning rugby player is getting heat for highlighting the trials and tribulations of children fleeing the conflict in Syria.

New Zealand All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams recently visited the refugee settlements in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley as a U.N. Children's Fund ambassador. During his time traveling with the organization, the athlete met with a number of families who fled their homes in Syria to seek safety.

However, almost an entire month after his return from the refugee camps, Williams shared an explicit image on Twitter to draw people’s attention to the predicament of the 1.2 million refugees.

“What did these children do to deserve this?” he tweeted on Tuesday, along with an image of two bloodied and disfigured dead children. “This summer share a thought for the innocent lives lost every day in war.”

The tweet was sent out to his 550,000 followers and made the sports star the focus of both support and anger. While some social media users have lauded Williams for drawing attention to the problem, others criticized him for positing “such a gruesome image” without any trigger warnings.

Recommended: A Year In The Life Of Syrian Refugees

UNICEF reporting guidelines dictate children have a right to privacy and control over how they are portrayed by the media even after their death, which is why the organization has distanced itself from Williams.

“This is not a UNICEF process. We didn’t take those images, he wasn’t with us when those images were taken, he didn’t take those images, he didn’t see that on his trip to Lebanon with us, and certainly he didn’t consult with us before posting those images,” stated organization’s New Zealand spokesman Patrick Rose. “We’re as surprised — and I think disturbed  as everyone by seeing these images posted.”

He said that while it is a fundamental infringement of those children's rights, UNICEF does not have the capacity to “censor or edit private citizens' showing what they find on their individual explorations online.”

Meanwhile, William has not taken down the controversial post from this Twitter account.  

There is no questioning the fact that he should have added some sort of warning for his unassuming social media followers. However, the images and the message itself was a much needed reminder that these young children are experiencing more darkness than anyone should ever have to in a lifetime.

Watch Sonny Bill Williams visit Syrian refugee settlements in the video below:

Read More: Shattered Dreams Compel Syrian Migrants To Leave Europe