Dad of drowned Syrian refugee boy shares tragic details of losing family as they tried to reach Canada
The heartbroken father of the little Syrian refugee whose drowning shocked the world described the horrific moments when their overloaded dinghy began filling with water and he lost his wife and sons to the cruel sea.
“My children slipped from my hands,” Abdullah Kurdi said in an interview with the Dogan News Agency in Turkey. “We tried to hold onto the boat but it deflated rapidly. Everyone was screaming in pitch darkness. I couldn’t make my voice heard to my wife and kids.”
“I tried to swim to the beach by following the lights,” he said. “I looked for my wife and children on the beach but couldn’t find them.”
It wasn’t until the next day that 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi was found face down on a Turkish beach and photos of the dead child sparked fresh calls for action to deal with the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II.
The bodies of his 5-yearold brother, Galip, and mother, Rihan, 35, were found later.
Kurdi, an ethnic Kurd from the city of Kobani, said he was hoping to get his family to Canada where his sister lives in Vancouver. He said the Turkish smuggler they paid to ferry them to the Greek island of Kos got frightened when the seas got too rough and jumped ship rather than complete the trip. But Kurdi then gave a somewhat different account to the Associated Press of what happened next: “I took over and started steering,” Kurdi said. “The waves were so high and the boat flipped. I took my wife and my kids in my arms and I realized they were all dead.”
Kurdi said he has given up on going on to Canada. He told Canada’s National Post newspaper that he will now take his dead sons and wife back to Kobani to bury them.
The distraught dad’s sister, Teema Kurdi, said she has been trying for years to get her family to Vancouver, where she has lived for 20 years and works as a hairstylist.
“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,” she told the Canadian press. “I was even paying rent for them in Turkey, but it is horrible the way they treat Syrians there.”
Shocked by the plight of the Kurdi family, Canada’s immigration minister said he would investigate why their petition to immigrate was rejected. He said they don’t have any record of Kurdi applying for asylum. “Like all Canadians, I was deeply saddened by that image,” said Chris Alexander who advised that Canada is planning to accept 11,300 Syrian refugees and another 23,000 from Iraq.
Opposition Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said that’s too little and way too late. He also blasted Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government for ignoring pleas to accept more Syrian refugees.
“You don’t get to suddenly discover compassion in the middle of an election campaign,” Trudeau said of Harper, who is running for reelection. “You either have it or you don’t.”
Kobani, long ravaged by Syria’s civil war, was besieged by bloodthirsty Islamic State militants last year and mostly destroyed. The Turks barely lifted a finger to help the Kurds. The Kurdi family was trying to join the thousands of desperate Syrian citizens who have already made the exodus to Greece and have been fanning through Europe seeking asylum from a war that has ravaged their homeland. Some eleven million people - about half the population of Syria - have fled the country since fighting erupted in 2011 and more than 200,000 are believed dead.
Abdullah Kurdi, the Syrian refugee who survived a shipwreck that killed his wife
and two small boys, said he plans to go home to bury his family.