My children slipped from my hands, mourning Syrian father says
ISTANBULThe father of the Syrian boy whose body washed up on the coast of Turkey’s resort town Bodrum has spoken out about what happened on the boat that sank on Sept. 2 in a failed attempt to reach to Greece.
The photo of the lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi, a migrant from the Kurdish town of Kobane in northern Syria, who drowned with his family after their boat sank in the Aegean Sea early on Sept. 2, hit media outlets across the world.
Aylan, his five-year-old brother Galip, and his 27-year-old mother Zahim were all killed after their boat sank off the Bodrum district of Turkey’s Muğla province.
Galip’s body was also washed up on the shore of the Bodrum a few meters away from his little brother and mother. His family had applied to Canada as refugees, but decided to take to Europe after Canada rejected their application in June.
Twelve people, including eight children, drowned early on Sept. 2 after their boat en route to the Greek island of Kos sank in the Aegean Sea.
Father Abdullah Kurdi, the only member of Kurdi family who survived the accident, said he will bury his children and wife in Kobane, across Turkey’s border with Syria, Doğan News Agency reported. He said his son slipped from his hands into the sea and he learned that he lost all his family after he managed to swim back to Bodrum.
He said they had decided to take off without the help of human traffickers after two previous attempts failed.
“We paid the organizers [human traffickers] twice before to cross over to Kos. In our first attempt, coastguards captured us in the sea and then they released us. In our second attempt, the organizers did not keep their word and did not bring the boat,” said Abdullah, according to Doğan News Agency.
‘My children slipped from my hands’
Abdullah said they decided to take off with their own efforts after paying for the previous two failed efforts, but their boat filled with water shortly after setting out.
“People panicked when water filled the boat and it sank. We had life vests. I was holding my wife’s hands. My children slipped from my hands. We tried to hold onto the boat but it deflated rapidly. Everyone was screaming. I could not hear the voices of my children and my wife. I tried to swim to the beach by following the lights. I looked for my wife and children on the beach but couldn’t find them,” said Abdullah.
He said he initially did not think they were dead.
“I thought they had run away out of fear [of being caught] and I went back to Bodrum. When they did not come to our meeting point in the town I went to the hospital and learned the bitter truth,” Abdullah added.
Health workers accompanied Abdullah when he later went to the morgue to identify his family.
A relative said the family’s application to Canada as refugees was rejected in June, after which they decided to go to Europe. Teema Kurdi, Abdullah’s sister, a Vancouver hairdresser who emigrated to Canada more than 20 years ago, told Ottawa Citizen on Sept. 3 that Abdullah and Zahim Kurdi and their two boys were the subject of a “G5” privately sponsored “refugee application that was rejected by Citizenship and Immigration in June, owing to the complexities involved in refugee applications from Turkey.”
The U.N. did not register them as refugees, and Turkey did not grant them exit visas, said the relative.
“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. I was even paying rent for them in Turkey, but it is horrible the way they treat Syrians there,” Teema Kurdi said.
Fin Donnelly, the MP for Port Moody-Coquitlam in Vancouver, said he had hand-delivered the Kurdis’ file to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander earlier this year but their application was rejected in June. “This is horrific and heartbreaking news. The frustration of waiting and the inaction has been terrible,” Donnelly said.
The picture of the three-year-old boy lying on the sand as if he was sleeping hit the media outlets and social media around the world, with many people voicing their anger at Europe’s reaction to the growing migrant crisis.
Meanwhile, Turkish security forces in Muğla detained four people suspected of human trafficking resulting in the death of 12 people on Sept. 3.
Sources from the smuggling and organized crime police department said four Syrian citizens had been apprehended for taking refugees from the Turkish coast to Greek islands.
The suspects were captured on the Gümbet coast in Bodrum after they boarded a boat. Authorities said they had been referred to court.
In the first five months of 2015, over 42,000 people arrived by sea to Greece, most of them refugees, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.