Sunday, 6 September 2015

Father of drowned Syrian boy speaks out

The smugglers had promised Abdullah Kurdi a motorboat for the trip from Turkey to Greece, a step on the way to a new life in Canada. Instead, they showed up with a 15-foot rubber raft that flipped in high waves, dumping Mr. Kurdi, his wife and their two small sons into the sea.

Mr. Kurdi tried to keep the boys, Aylan and Ghalib, afloat, but one died as he pushed the other to his wife, Rehan, pleading, “Just keep his head above the water!”

Only Mr. Kurdi, 40, survived.
Father of drowned Syrian boy speaks out

“Now I don’t want anything,” he said a day later, on Thursday, from Mugla, Turkey, after filling out forms at a morgue to claim the bodies of his family. “Even if you give me all the countries in the world, I don’t want them. What was precious is gone.”

It is an image of his youngest son, a lifeless child in a red shirt and dark shorts face down on a Turkish beach, that appears to have galvanized public attention to a crisis that has been building for years.
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Once again, it is not the sheer size of the catastrophe — millions upon millions forced by war and desperation to leave their homes — but a single tragedy that has clarified the moment. It was 3-year-old Aylan, his round cheek pressed to the sand as if he were sleeping, except for the waves lapping his face.
The child is thought to be part of a group of 12 Syrians who drowned off the coastal town of Bodrum in Turkey [AP]
Rocketing across the world on social media, the photograph has forced Western nations to confront the consequence of a collective failure to help migrants fleeing the Middle East and Africa to Europe in search of hope, opportunity and safety.

Aylan, perhaps more even than the anonymous, decomposing corpses found in the back of a truck in Austria that shocked Europe last week, has personalized the tragedy facing the 11 million Syrians displaced by more than four years of war.


The case of this young boy’s doomed journey has landed as a political bombshell across the Middle East and Europe, and even countries as far away as Canada, which has up to now not been a prominent player in the Syria crisis.

Canadian officials were under intense pressure to explain why the Kurdi family was unable to get permission to immigrate legally, despite having relatives there who were willing to support and employ them. So far, the government has only cited incomplete documents, an explanation that has done little to quiet the outrage at home and abroad.

Mr. Kurdi, a Syrian Kurdish barber, and his brother Mohammad wanted to immigrate under the sponsorship of their sister, Tima Kurdi, 43, who lives in a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia. She had invited Mr. Kurdi to live in her basement with his family and work in her hair salon.
Abdullah Kurdi, father of three-year old Aylan Kurdi, cries as he leaves a morgue in Mugla, Turkey, September 3, 2015. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
“They can work with me, doing hair, I can find them a job, and then when they are financially O.K., they can move out and be their own,” she said by phone on Thursday.

Mr. Kurdi, too, said his sister had told Canadian authorities that she would be “responsible for our expenses,” but that “they didn’t agree.”

In fact, Ms. Kurdi said, she had applied at first only for Mohammad’s family, teaming up with friends and relatives to make bank deposits to prove she could support the family.

But in June, she said, Mohammad’s application was rejected for lack of a required document proving he had refugee status. But under Turkish refugee policies, such documents are nearly impossible for Syrians to come by. In any case, the experience persuaded the family that neither brother would ever get a Canadian visa.

That, Ms. Kurdi said, was when she offered to help her brothers finance the boat trip — something, she said through tears, “I really regret.”

Now, she said, “All what I really need is to stop the war. That’s all. I think the whole world has to step in and help those Syrian people. They are human beings.” Abridged version from New York Times

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