The drowned Syrian boy, whose picture continues to captivate the world, is Aylan Kurdi. He was three years old. His brother, Ghalib, 5 years old, also drowned with him. Pictured above are the brothers. Aylan is the one in white shirt, Ghalib in blue.
His mother died, too, when their boat capsized as they make their journey to a new life. Only Aylan’s father, Abdullah Kurdi, was able to survived and tell the world of their harrowing ordeal; and his pain, both as father and husband.
While traveling that fateful night, high waves started rocking their boat vehemently, Abdullah told reporters after going out of the morgue to see his family. The captain of their boat decided to jump into the ocean when dangers became obvious. Abdullah decided to row the boat at this point. However, the waves were so high and the boat capsized.
Abdullah said they all tried to cling unto the boat. At the same time he was also trying to hold his two sons and his wife. But the waves were unyielding and one by one his family slipped away from his hands.
“I was holding my wife’s hand. My children slipped away from my hands. We tried to hold on to the boat. Everyone was screaming in pitch darkness. I couldn’t make my voice heard to my wife and kids,” Abdullah recalled. Jenan Moussa, a journalist with Dubai’s Al Aan TV, reported that after losing his family, Abdullah waited for three hours before getting rescued by Greek coast guard.
With his whole family now gone, Abdullah hopes the world will take notice and the deaths of his loved ones be a wakeup call. “The things that happened to us here, in the country where we took refuge to escape war in our homeland, we want the whole world to see this. We want the world’s attention on us, so that they can prevent the same from happening to others. Let this be the last.”
Nilufer Demir, the photographer who took Aylan’s photo, has also spoken of Aylan being the significant call for officials to heed the calls of the refugees. “When I realized there was nothing to do to bring that boy back to life I thought I had to take his picture… to show the tragedy. I hope the impact this photo has created will help bring a solution,” Demir was quoted as saying by The Independent.
According to a report from the National Post, Abdullah decided to take his family by boat in the hopes of bringing them to Canada where his sister had been living for the past 20 years. Moussa further reported that Abdullah paid 4000 Euros to have his family on board that boat. He had even borrowed money. Moussa further said that it was not their first attempt to get to Greece.
Speaking with the National Post, Teema Kurdi, Abdullah’s sister in Vancouver, said she was trying to sponsor Abdullah and his family to come to Canada. “I was trying to sponsor them, and I have my friends and my neighbors who helped me with the bank deposits, but we couldn’t get them out, and that is why they went in the boat.” Teema said. The Independent reported that Abdullah shared with Teema a heartbreaking moment when he swam from one body to another, “finding one son who seemed to be alright and then going to another, finding him drowned… and then going back to the first boy and finding him drowned.”
One of the rescue operatives who responded in the accident described the boat to The Independent, saying it “wasn’t a proper boat. The rescuer added that “It was like a boat for children – a toy. They bought it from a shop, along with an electric motor that’s like a toy, too.”
Teema explained to National Post that she was trying to sponsor Abdullah under a “G5” sponsored refugee application. However, this application was rejected in June with Canadian authorities saying that Turkey’s policy on refugee applications is complicated. According to a report from The Associated Press, Teema explained that Canadian immigration authorities denied Abdullah’s application because they lack exit visas for their departure from Turkey. The family also lacked documents that could validate their refugee status.
Canada’s Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, however, clarified that his department received no request made for Abdullah’s family. What the office received was a request for another member of the family identified as Mohammad Kurdi.
There are varying reports regarding Abdullah’s application for a refugee status in Canada. Other unconfirmed reports said that Canada will take in Abdullah after the tragedy. However, coming to Canada was no longer important for Abdullah.
At this point, he only wants one thing – to bury his wife and children and sit by their graves. “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,” Abdullah said.