Boat on the river
He would dream of being a veterinarian perhaps. Or maybe an engineer. From the war-torn city of Kobane, he and his family had come to the resort town of Bodrum. He imagined growing up there. Going to school, playing with cats on the streets, talking to the Yalıkavak farmers every Thursday while they put up their stands for the weekly farmers’ market. “Life could be nice here,” he imagined.
Imagine little Aylan and his brother Galip coming back to these shores as tourists 20 years from now. They had made it to Germany, Aylan had become a lawyer, defending the rights of migrant workers, his brother Galip a doctor. They had worked very hard to learn the language. Both brothers were talented in football, so their parents allowed them to play in local teams provided it did not interrupt their schoolwork.
Twenty years after they set foot on European soil, they would come to Bodrum to meet their relatives from Kobane. They would remember the dangerous journey that would take them to freedom and hope of a better life. In the dark, they had left their small bunker, walked to the beach and stepped inside the orange safety boat that had become their lifeline to Greece.
This would be the story I would, (maybe I should) write 20 years from now.
Human Rights Watch’s Emergencies Director Peter Bouckaert’s email made it to my inbox, as I was writing these sentences.
“What struck me the most were his little sneakers, certainly lovingly put on by his parents that morning as they dressed him for their dangerous journey. One of my favorite moments of the morning is dressing my kids and helping them put on their shoes. They always seem to manage to put something on backwards, to our mutual amusement. Staring at the image, I couldn’t help imagine that it was one of my own sons lying there drowned on the beach,” wrote Bouckaert.
His words tell us about different Syrians than we see and complain about every day in Istanbul.
“All morning yesterday at the Serbian-Hungarian border, I saw Syrian parents determinedly walking with their children – trying to remove them from the horrors of the slaughter in Syria, which have been allowed to continue for four years, and to the promise of security in Europe. Those parents are heroes; I admire their sheer determination to bring their children to a better life.”
Despite all the high talk about our gracious hospitality to Syrian refugees, let us admit it, we have failed to make Turkey safe and secure for them. They could have moved into a village in Kastamonu or Zonguldak for example. By settling into the smaller towns and cities they could have brought life, joy and youth. They could have easily become one of us. By good planning and good policies, they could have become our new neighbors in marketplaces, parks, libraries and schools. We could have taken care of them better.
Aylan and Galip’s destiny was written on this land. That is why the waves brought them to our shores. For all the Syrian, Turkish, Kurdish kids, we could and we must do better.
“And all roads lead to tranquility base/Where the frown on my face disappears/
Take me down to my boat on the river/And I won’t cry out anymore,” (Styx 1979).