The story behind the picture that tells it all

The story behind the picture that tells it all

Belgin Akaltan -
The story behind the picture that tells it all Turkey is a beautiful country. The Akyarlar beach, the one that the tiny body of a Syrian toddler washed up on the other day, is one of the most beautiful places in this country. 

Before going any further, I saw some nasty comments on social media about the picture, saying things like, “Have you not made enough money, taking advantage of this tragic situation? Stop printing the picture.” 


Guys, our job is to report, to let the world know what is going on. This is what we do. If we don’t show this picture, it does not make poor three-year-old Aylan Kurdi get up and run to his mother. 

This is the blank truth. The child is dead, washed ashore. It is up to you to ignore the picture or cry over it, but don’t blame the journalists. 

The Doğan News Agency (DHA) offices are right next to our offices on the other end of the same floor. They are a hard-working group and their Bodrum correspondent, Nilüfer Demir, is a hard-working person. She knows the region very well; I have worked with her for our “South weekly” supplement. She was interviewed by her own agency and television broadcasters after her picture became world-famous. She said she felt pain and wanted to reflect the pain while taking the picture, and never thought it would circle the world. 

The officer carrying the baby was also interviewed. The whole gendarmerie team said they were wrecked with sorrow. They said they rushed to the scene and it reminded them of their own children. They handled the small corpses with the utmost care, but could not help feeling sad, very, very sad.

Thank you photo-reporter Nilüfer Demir and thank you to the gendarmerie forensic team over there in Bodrum; thank you in the name of humanity…  

The Akyarlar beach, which is on the southwestern Bodrum peninsula, near Bodrum, Turkey’s most popular summer resort, is a paradise. I and my husband discovered this beautiful place a few years ago and we fell in love with Akyarlar. I am not good at describing venues but I can write about my feelings. I felt that, “No other place on earth can be any more beautiful than this beach, these nice people…” There were big trees you could lie in the shade of for the rest of your life… I would have, if only it were closer to Istanbul. 

Anyway, the photos we took at Akyarlar were my wallpaper on my computer for a long time (until a kitten replaced them). 

When I saw the dead child’s picture and read the name “Akyarlar shore,” I could not believe it. “Death of a child and Akyarlar?” The two don’t go together. But this one and other Turkish coasts are full of refugees, quietly waiting their turn to make the journey… 

The Greek island Kos is so close you think you can swim there. Some local people there say the Greek coast guard is piercing the dinghies with spear-like instruments, maybe using underwater fish spears, so illegal immigrants drown before reaching “European shores.” People have heard fishermen ask why so many dinghies would sink one after the other on a windless summer night on a smooth sea under a full moon at a short distance of only a few miles. Why are they all capsizing, taking on water? Other writers have referred to this accusation also. I don’t think this is true. 

Now what you will read next has nothing to do with Turkey. It is a badly written children’s story. 

There was a beautiful land with not-so-beautiful people living on it. Then one man won elections and started ruling them. He engaged this beautiful country in a meaningless war. Now the country has millions of refugees, some of whom are trying to pass onto nearby countries in rubber dinghies. Small children die.  

By the way, the Akyarlar beach has gone back to normal, it has been reported. This incident happened very early in the morning and a few hours later, domestic and international tourists plus local people were swimming and sunbathing and doing other beach activities. 

A three-year-old holiday maker was digging holes on the sand where Aylan’s body was found…