Harrowing images of three year old Aylan Kurdi circulated around the world after the young boys lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach. The boy along with his family had been attempting to leave Turkey when their overloaded boat flipped, his father attempted to save his family but there was nothing he could do.
Aylan Kurdi, along with his five year old brother, Ghalib, and their mother, Rehanna, drowned as they attempted to cross from Turkey to the Greek island of Kos.
The disturbing images of Aylans body washed up on the Turkish beaches of Bodrum have drawn attention to the desperate plight of many migrants fleeing Syria as well as other parts of the Middle East.
The boy’s father Abdullah Kurdi told The Associated Press of how he and his family had been attempting travel to Kos. Their dinghy had been overloaded, but the water was initially calm when they set out in the early and dark hours of Wednesday Morning. The journey was set to be a four kilo-metre, 30 minute crossing, the boat though was full beyond capacity, carrying 12 passengers as well as the captain.
Within five minutes of their journey, the waters became more aggressive and choppy. Kurdi explained that the panicked Captain jumped overboard and fled back to shore, leaving him in control of the small boat “I took over and started steering. The waves were so high and the boat flipped. I took my wife and my kids in my arms and I realised they were all dead.”
Abdullah told his sister, Tima Kurdi, of the awful events, explaining that he tried desperately to save his sons, fighting to keep their heads above water as the waves attacked them. Describing what she’d been told, Tima said that he soon became aware that his eldest son had died and had to let him go, he attempted to save his younger son, but soon realised that he too had drowned.
Talking to reporters she said “They didn’t deserve to die, they didn’t. They were going for a better life. It shouldn’t have happened to them.”
A second dinghy had also been attempting to cross the vicious sea and likewise capsized, with it’s 16 passengers being left to fight for their lives in the waters. In all, 12 were left dead, six of whom were children, according to Turkey state-run Anadolu Agency. The Agency revealed that four illegal smugglers had been taken into custody for questioning regarding the tragedy.
Tima Kurdi told reporters that her nephews hadn’t seen a “good life”, tearfully explaining “Two weeks ago, Ghalib said, ‘Auntie, can you buy me a bicycle?’ I said to my brother, one day I’ll send you extra money … and you can buy him a bicycle.”
Tima also explained that the boys mother, Rehanna Kurid, didn’t know how to swim, and was hesitant as she was worried about what may happen in the journey “I said to her, I cannot push you to go, if you feel like you don’t want to go, don’t go. But I guess they decided they wanted to do it all together.”
Talking to AP, Abdullah Kurdi explained his devastation at the loss of his family “My kids were the most beautiful children in the world, wonderful, they wake me up every morning to play with them. They are all gone now.”
“All I want is to be with my children at the moment.”
At her home in B.C, Tima told reporters that Abdullah plans to return to Syria to bury his wife and children “He said Turkey is not our country. They’re born in Kobani, and that’s where I want to take them…He said, ‘I’m going to be beside their graves.’”
The Kurdi family had been attempting to find a new home for them and their children. They had been forced to flee following fighting that had began in northern Syria four years ago, before Aylan had even been born.
Mustefa Ebdi – a journalist from Kobani, the families’ home town, – told the AFP news service that the family had been forced to flee fighting many times. After talking to a friend of the family, who is currently hosting Abdullah Kurdi, Ebdi told AFP of how, in 2012, the family had fled Damascus for Allepo, where endless clashes meant that they had to flee for Kobani, near the Turkish border. Continuos fighting found the family again fleeing, this time from Kobani to Turkey.
Housing over one million refugees Turkey was overwhelmed, and the family were left with no other option but to travel to Europe, explained Ebdi.
According to the United Nations reference agency, over 300,000 people from Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Iraq have travelled across the Mediterranean to Western Europe this year. Just short of 200,000 have landed in Greece, with 2,500 migrants reported to have either died or gone missing this year, as they attempted to reach Europe.
Tima Kurdi says her brother hopes that measures will be put in place to prevent future boat accidents on the treacherous Aegan channel “He doesn’t want any families to drown anymore.”
Tima Kurde also called for action after being asked whether she believes the Canadian government could do more to help Syrian refugees “This is not just Canada. I think the whole world should help…They’re taking a really dangerous route and I know why. They just want the better life, really.”
Tima hopes that her brother will move to Canada, and utilise his skills as a barber by working in a salon she owns in B.C. She explained that she is fearful for her brother, who she says, is insisting on travelling to a war-torn Syria to lay his family to rest.
“I’m really really scared, I’m worried about him. I told him not to go back to Kobani, but he refused.”