Death of Alan Kurdi
Alan Kurdi (Kurdish: Alan Kurdî), initially reported as Aylan Kurdi, was a three-year-old Syrian boy of Kurdish ethnic background whose image made global headlines after he drowned on 2 September 2015 in the Mediterranean Sea. He and his family were Syrian refugees trying to reach Europe amid the European refugee crisis (see timeline). Photographs of his body were taken by Turkish journalist Nilüfer Demir and quickly spread around the world, prompting international responses. Because Kurdî's family had reportedly been trying to reach Canada, his death and the wider refugee crisis immediately became an issue in the 2015 Canadian federal election.
Three-year-old Kurdi lying lifeless on the beach
|Date||September 2, 2015|
|Location||Mediterranean Sea, near Bodrum, Turkey|
|Burial||September 4, 2015, Kobanî, Syria|
Causing multiple deaths by conscious negligence
Kurdi is believed to have been born about 2012 in Kobanî, Syria. A Syrian journalist claimed that the family name was Shenu; 'Kurdi' was used in Turkey because of their ethnic background. After moving between various cities in northern Syria to escape the civil war and ISIL, his family settled in Turkey. The family returned to Kobanî at the beginning of 2015, but returned to Turkey in June 2015 when ISIL attacked Kobanî again. Following two failed attempts to take the family to the Greek island of Kos, Kurdi's father arranged a third attempt.
Kurdi's family members were hoping to join their relatives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, after his aunt Tima Kurdi filed for refugee sponsorship, but this was rejected by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada after the family members were denied an exit visa by Turkish authorities. According to the department an application by Abdullah's brother, Mohammad, was rejected as it was incomplete, and no application was ever received from Abdullah Kurdi. Abdullah Kurdi said that the Canadian government denied his application for asylum and that they were responsible for the tragedy.
Canadian New Democratic Party (NDP) MP Fin Donnelly told the media that he had hand-delivered their file to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander earlier this year, but the application was rejected in June 2015 because it was incomplete. The Kurdi family tried to obtain entry to Canada under a private sponsorship program whereby groups of five people may also sponsor an individual or family. They are required to demonstrate that they can provide roughly 27,000 Canadian dollars to support a family of four refugees. According to Alexandra Kotyk, project manager of Lifeline Syria, a refugee settlement group in Toronto, the program requires that people seeking to come to Canada from Turkey first be declared refugees by the Turkish government. She said that was often a difficult or impossible condition to fulfill.
Fatal accident and body recoveryEdit
In the early hours of 2 September 2015, Kurdi and his family boarded a small plastic or rubber inflatable boat, which capsized about five minutes after leaving Bodrum in Turkey. Sixteen people were in the boat, which was designed for a maximum of eight people. They were trying to reach the Greek island of Kos, about 30 minutes (4 kilometres or 2 1⁄2 miles) from Bodrum. Kurdi's father said: "We had no life vests", but also said they were wearing life jackets, but they "were all fake". Others have stated that they believed that they were wearing lifejackets but the items were ineffective.
It was later stated on Syrian radio that the Kurdi family paid $5,860 for their four spaces on the boat, which had twelve passengers on it despite being only about five meters long. Alan Kurdi's mother joined in the trip even though she had a fear of being on the open sea. Tima Kurdi, Alan Kurdi's aunt, advised her sister not to go. The individuals on the boat evaded the Turkish Coastguard by setting out from an isolated beach late at night.
Around 5 am authorities started an investigation after an emergency call that a boat had capsized and bodies were coming ashore. The bodies of Kurdi and another child were discovered by two locals at around 6:30 am. The two men moved the bodies from the water onto the dry part of the beach. Later, Kurdi was photographed face-down at the water's edge by a Turkish press photographer.
On 3 September 2015, Kurdi along with brother Galib and mother Rehana were taken to Kobanî for burials, which took place the next day. It is Islamic tradition to bury the dead within 24 hours if possible. The Siege of Kobanî ended in March 2015 and Islamic State attacks on what was left of the city stopped completely in August 2015.
Arrests of alleged perpetratorsEdit
Turkish authorities later arrested four individuals in connection with the illegal journey, although they appeared to be low-level intermediaries.
Alan Kurdi's father, Abdullah Kurdi, has stated in some of his interviews that the inflatable boat became uncontrollable as its engine had failed, with the 'captain' abandoning it and everyone else. Some Turkish sources claimed that in his first interview with the Doğan News Agency, he gives a different account of the event; he also states that following two unsuccessful attempts to cross into the Greek island Kos, his family provided its own boat with its own means. However, Abdullah never confirmed the Doğan News Agency interview.
An Iraqi survivor from the same boat, Zainab Abbas, who also lost two children from the disaster, told reporters that Abdullah had been presented to her as the 'captain', that he was driving the overcrowded boat too fast, causing it to flip over, and that he pleaded with her while they were still both in the water not to report him to anyone in authority. Abbas said her family escaped out of Baghdad from ISIS and she was angry because all the media attention was on Aylan Kurdi and Abdullah Kurdi and not on her family. She later returned to Baghdad and said her dead children's bodies had not been correctly prepared for burial and called on Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to grant her family asylum so they can escape Islamic State. The Reuters agency reported that interviews with two other passengers in the boat, Iraqis Ahmed Hadi Jawwad (Zainab Abbas's husband), and 22-year-old Amir Haider, corroborated Abbas's account.
Abdullah denied the accusation, stating: "If I was a people smuggler, why would I put my family in the same boat as the other people? I paid the same amount to the people smugglers." and "I lost my family, I lost my life, I lost everything, so let them say whatever they want." According to Turkish authorities, investigations into the smuggling operations in Turkey showed that refugees were often tasked with helping smugglers sign up passengers for smuggling trips. It was also not uncommon for one of the passengers to be given the responsibility of driving the boat. No smuggler, with family in Turkey and a steady income from the lucrative smuggling trade, would want to end up illegally in Europe and risk not being able to return home, where he would be likely to face arrest anyway. The President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan offered Alan's father Abdullah citizenship of Turkey.
Reactions to the photosEdit
The photograph of Kurdi's body caused a dramatic upturn in international concern over the refugee crisis. French President François Hollande phoned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and some European leaders after the images of Kurdi emerged in the media. He said that the picture must be a reminder of the world's responsibility regarding refugees. British Prime Minister David Cameron said he felt deeply moved by images of Kurdi. Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny commented on the photographs of Kurdi and described the refugee crisis as a "human catastrophe" and found the pictures "absolutely shocking".
The picture has been credited with causing a surge in donations to charities helping migrants and refugees, with one charity, the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, recording a 15-fold increase in donations within 24 hours of its publication. The Daily Mail stated in a 10 September article that the harrowing nature of Kurdi's death and the related images were "highlighting the horrific human cost of the global migrant crisis".
In a Guardian article Karl Mathiesen criticised media for calling Kurdi a "climate refugee", saying that "David Butter, an associate fellow with Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa programme, said such a conflict 'could have happened at any time in Syria, irrespective of the drought'".
Another article in The Guardian, on 22 December 2015, outlined a collection of what it described as "outrageous claims" against Abdullah Kurdi. It was said that he was an opportunist who used his status as a Syrian refugee for personal gain. Another source said that Abdullah was profiting from the tragedy, including selling his dead son’s clothes to a museum in Paris. Australian politician Cory Bernardi claimed that “The father sent them on that boat so he could get dental treatment”. Some anti-immigration politicians claimed that the image of Alan on the beach had been faked.
Debate on the public responses to the picturesEdit
Brendan O'Neill wrote in The Spectator on 3 September 2015 that: "The global spreading of this snapshot ... is justified as a way of raising awareness about the migrant crisis. Please. It’s more like a snuff photo for progressives, dead-child porn, designed not to start a serious debate about migration in the 21st century but to elicit a self-satisfied feeling of sadness among Western observers."
In contrast, Nick Logan of Global News argued on 4 September 2015 that: "Photojournalists sometimes capture images so powerful the public and policymakers can’t ignore what the pictures show." He compared the images of Kurdi's body to the pictures taken during the 'Bloody Sunday' event in which civil rights activists during the Civil Rights Movement were beaten by Alabama state troopers, and he said that widespread viewership of those images helped peaceful demonstrators in the passage of measures such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Impact on the 2015 Canadian federal electionEdit
The death of Kurdi and reports that his family had been trying to ultimately reach Canada had an immediate impact on domestic Canadian politics. Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party Stephen Harper cancelled a photo opportunity and addressed the issue in a campaign event. "Yesterday, Laureen and I saw on the Internet, the picture of this young boy, Alan, dead on the beach. Look, I think, our reaction to that, you know the first thing that crossed our mind was remembering our son Ben at that age, running around like that" Harper said. Minister of National Defence and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney cancelled an important announcement on Conservative efforts to protect the integrity of Canada’s immigration system and the security of Canada. Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced he would be temporarily suspending his campaigning in the 2015 Canadian federal election to return to Ottawa to resume his ministerial duties and investigate the case of Alan Kurdi, whose uncle's application for refugee status had been rejected by his ministry.
Leader of the Opposition and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said that "Chris Alexander has a lot to answer for, but that’s not where we are right now. We’re worried about how we got here, how the collective international response has been so defective, how Canada has failed so completely." NDP MP Fin Donnelly was accused of using the tragic event as a means to garner votes, because he initially told reporters that he had personally handed a letter to Immigration Minister Chris Alexander urging the minister to look at the refugee application of Alan Kurdi's family, but that Canadian immigration authorities denied the family's application. However, later the aunt of Alan Kurdi revealed that the application was made only for Kurdi's uncle and was rejected because it was not complete. Meanwhile, the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office clarified that they had not received the proper documentation to certify refugee status for the uncle's family. Mulcair later defended Donnelly, saying that no apology was warranted because the letter had mentioned both families, and stated that he "couldn’t be prouder to have someone of the strength, integrity and hard work as Fin Donnelly" in caucus.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said that "you don't get to suddenly discover compassion in the middle of an election campaign" and that "All different stripes of governments in Canada have stepped up in times of crisis to accept people fleeing for their lives", he said. "Canadians get it. This is about doing the right thing, about living up to the values that we cherish as a country." Trudeau also reiterated the Liberal promise made several months before the election to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May criticized Stephen Harper's response to the crisis, noting the difficulty of sponsoring a refugee in Canada. On the Green Party website, May accused the government of lacking credibility on the issue, "having failed to honour previous [refugee] announcements".
Reactions in the artsEdit
A week following his death, around 30 Moroccans recreated the discovery of three-year-old's body in tribute in the Moroccan capital. In January 2016 the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei posed like the drowned Alan Kurdi by imitating his dead body as shown in the pictures in the media. The picture was published first in the Indian magazine India Today together with an interview of Ai Weiwei, and was also shown at the India Art Fair.
In April 2017 Mint of Finland revealed a commemorative coin celebrating the centenary of Finnish independence, using a picture of Alan Kurdi's body on the obverse side of the coin. This picture is accompanied with a text 'Global Fairness' (Globaali oikeudenmukaisuus). The death of Alan Kurdi is contrasted with a Finnish public library on the reverse side of the coin.
Prayer events and moments of silence were held by various organisations including those held by NGOs. President of Defend International "called on the international community to share equitably the responsibility for protecting, assisting and hosting refugees in accordance with principles of international solidarity and human rights". A host of a daily radio program wished that "Alan Kurdi’s death would inspire us to create a world without borders", while a commentary published at Spiegel Online suggested that Berlin needs to "reform or abolish its refugee policy". Artists and poets from all over the world shared tributes to Alan Kurdi.
Over three months later, on Christmas Eve 2015, 3 News New Zealand said "Pictures of his lifeless body on a beach came to symbolise the wider tragedy. Can there have been a more moving, a more powerful image than the photograph of the tiny lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi being carried from the sea?"
On 2 January 2016 a feature article on the BBC News website opened with the words: "It was one of those moments when the whole world seems to care." It went on to quote Alan Kurdi's aunt Tima Kurdi:
|“||It was something about that picture, God put the light on that picture to wake up the world.||”|
On 8 September 2015, the publication Bild removed all pictures, including those of Kurdi, from its print edition and website in response to complaints about its decision to publish images of Kurdi; the newspaper said that "when one does not see them, one understands the magic which creates photos".
The ISIL terrorist group incorporated Kurdi's death into their propaganda campaigns, using an image of Kurdi's corpse while claiming that God will punish those that dare to emigrate from nations with ISIL influences. The group also asserted that those who leave are likely to become apostates who will have their souls enter hell upon death. The actions brought condemnation in publications such as the Daily Mail, labeling it "[d]epraved" and "sick".
Channel 4 in the UK present an annual Christmas message as an alternative to the Christmas Message of Queen Elizabeth II. In 2015 their speaker was Abdullah Kurdi, who said: "If a person shuts a door in someone's face, this is very difficult. When a door is opened they no longer feel humiliated. At this time of year I would like to ask you all to think about the pain of fathers, mothers and children who are seeking peace and security. We ask just for a little bit of sympathy from you. Hopefully next year the war will end in Syria and peace will reign all over the world."
- "Tima Kurdi is comforted by friend". news.yahoo.com. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
- "Canada denies Alan Kurdi's family applied for asylum". BBC. 3 September 2015. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
- "Aylan and Galip Kurdi: Everything we know about drowned Syrian refugee boys". The Telegraph. 3 September 2015.
- "Syrian toddler's dad: 'Everything I was dreaming of is gone'". CNN. 3 September 2015.
- Hopper, Tristin (3 September 2015). "The sad odyssey of Alan Kurdi and his family: Their search for new life ended in death". news.nationalpost.com. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
- "'They were all dead: Abdullah Kurdi describes losing his family at sea'". CTV News. 3 September 2015.
- Jessica Elgot. "Father of drowned boy Aylan Kurdi plans to return to Syria". the Guardian. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
- Rayner, Gordon; Squires, Nick (3 September 2015). "'Let this be the last', says heartbroken father of Aylan and Galip Kurdi as he prepares to bury them". telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
- Smith, Helena (3 September 2015). "Aylan Kurdi: friends and family fill in gaps behind harrowing images". theguardian.com. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
- Joe Parkinson in Istanbul; David George-Cosh in Toronto (3 September 2015). "Image of Drowned Syrian Boy Echoes Around World". WSJ.
- Chappell, Bill (28 November 2015). "Relatives of Drowned Syrian Boy Will Move to Canada". NPR. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
- "Death of Syrian toddler throws global spotlight onto refugees crisis". LA Times. 3 September 2015.
- The Canadian Press (11 September 2015). "Abdullah Kurdi faces smuggling allegations". Ottawa Community News. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
- "Alan Kurdi drowned off the shores of Turkey. His family was trying to reach Canada". National Post. 3 September 2015.
- "Aylan Kurdi’s Death Resonates in Canadian Election Campaign". The New York Times. 3 September 2015.
- "Migrants mass in Turkey to take shortest route to Europe". Deseret News. August 16, 2015. Retrieved September 5, 2015.
- Los Angeles Times (3 September 2015). "Death of Syrian toddler throws global spotlight onto refugees crisis". latimes.com. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
- Timmons, Heather (4 September 2015). "The father of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi on the boat ride that killed his family". qz.com. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
- Thanh Ha, Tu. "Family of drowned boy did not apply for asylum: Ottawa". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
- "Aylan bebeği taşıyan Mehmet Çıplak konuştu". Haberturk. 6 September 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
- "Turkish barman who found body of migrant toddler Aylan Kurdi on beach relives horror". Mail Online. 3 September 2015. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
- Justin Wm. Moyer (3 September 2015). "Aylan’s story: How desperation left a 3-year-old boy washed up on a Turkish beach". Washington Post. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
- Joe Parkinson in Istanbul; David George-Cosh in Toronto (3 September 2015). "Image of Drowned Syrian Boy Echoes Around World". WSJ. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
- "Drowned migrant boy Alan Kurdi is buried in Syria". bbc.com. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
- "Iraqi family's dream of Europe ends in terror, loss". Retrieved 12 November 2015.
- "Syrian Kurds 'drive Islamic State out of Kobane'". BBC News. 26 January 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
- "Islamic State kills at least 145 civilians in Syria's Kobani". Reuters. 26 June 2015.
- "Syria crisis: IS makes deadly return to Kobane - BBC News". BBC News.
- ""He slipped through my fingers" says father of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi". Doğan News Agency. 3 September 2015. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
- "Anguished dad of drowned Syrian boys: ‘I realized they were all dead’". New York Post. 3 September 2015. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
- "Aylan Kurdi: Aylan Kurdi's father is a people smuggler, woman claims". The Sydney Morning Herald. 11 September 2015. Retrieved 27 September 2015.. Also contains the video of Zainab Abbas' interview on Network Ten
- "Aylan Kurdi: Drowned boy’s father accused of being people smuggler in charge of boat that crashed". The Daily Telegraph. 11 September 2015. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
- "Aylan Kurdi's father is a people smuggler, woman claims". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
- "Syrian toddler Aylan's father drove capsized boat, other passengers say". Reuters. 11 September 2015. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
- "If I was a people smuggler, why would I put my family in the same boat as the other people? I paid the same amount to the people smugglers.". RT. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
- "Account of Capsized Migrant Boat Is Disputed", by Ali Naban and Safa Majeed, Wall Street Journal (paywalled)
- "Alan Kurdi's father on his family tragedy: ‘I should have died with them’". The Guardian. 22 December 2015. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
- "Aylan'ın babası: Erdoğan vatandaşlık teklif etti - BBC Türkçe". BBC Türkçe (in Turkish).
- "French President calls Erdoğan over images of drowned Syrian boy, calls for common EU refugee policy". Daily Sabah. 3 September 2015.
- "Aylan Kurdi: David Cameron says he felt 'deeply moved' by images of dead Syrian boy but gives no details of plans to take in more refugees". The Independent. 3 September 2015.
- "'A young boy... washed up on beach like driftwood' - Taoiseach describes migrant crisis as 'human catastrophe'". Irish Independent. 3 September 2015.
- Henley, Jon (3 September 2015). "Britons rally to help people fleeing war and terror in Middle East". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- Hall, John (10 September 2015). "ISIS use photo of tragic Syrian toddler Aylan in a sick propaganda article warning brutally oppressed Muslims not to flee the jihadis". Daily Mail. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
- Karl Mathiesen (8 September 2015). "Alan Kurdi was not a climate refugee". the Guardian. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
- "Nei, Aylan ble ikke flyttet for at bildene skulle bli bedre". Dagbladet.no. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
- O'Neill, Brendan (3 September 2015). "Sharing a photo of a dead Syrian child isn't compassionate, it's narcissistic". The Spectator.
- Logan, Nick (September 4, 2015). "These images changed public opinion. Has Alan Kurdi’s photo done the same?". Global News. Retrieved September 11, 2015.
- Donnelly, Aileen (3 September 2015). "Chris Alexander suspends campaign after news that boy’s family was planning to come to Canada". National Post. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- "Life, death and politics The death of Alan Kurdi and the federal election campaign of 2015". Maclean's. 3 September 2015.
- "Canada says it never denied a refugee application for Alan Kurdi and his family". National Post. 3 September 2015. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
- Kestler-D’Amours, Jillian, Tonda MacCharles, and Jacques Gallant (3 September 2015). "Tima Kurdi’s pleading letter to allow brother to enter Canada revealed". Toronto Star. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
- "Aunt of Alan Kurdi, drowned Syrian boy, did not apply to sponsor family in Canada". CBC News. Retrieved 4 September 2015.
- "Mulcair stands behind Donnelly, after Kurdi family confusi". CTV News. 11 September 2015. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
- "Refugee crisis, drowned Syrian boy shift focus of election campaign". CBC News. 3 September 2015. Retrieved 5 September 2015.
- "Statement by Elizabeth May on the Syrian Refugee Crisis". 3 September 2015.
- Aylan Kurdi's death recreated by 30 people dressed as Syrian boy on Moroccan beach
- CNN, Stephy Chung. "Ai Weiwei poses as dead Syrian child on beach". CNN. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
- "Chinese artist Ai Weiwei poses as a drowned Syrian refugee toddler". Washington Post. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
- Harmon, Steph (2016-02-19). "Missy Higgins releases Oh Canada, inspired by drowned Syrian boy Alan Kurdi: 'I cry every time I watch it'". the Guardian.
- Reuters (2016-03-11). "Germany city displays giant mural of drowned refugee child". New York Post. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
- "Drowned asylum seeker child, civil war execution special coins spark online fury". www.yle.fi. Retrieved 2017-04-26.
- "Refugee Crisis: Minutes of Mourn for Alan Kurdi and other refugees". Defend International. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- "A Child's Body on a Turkish Beach". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- "Drawing depicting three-year-old Alan Kurdi reads 'Omission also kills' during a candle-light tribute Friday in Barcelona". Retrieved 10 September 2015.[dead link]
- "Minutes of Mourn for Aylan Kurdi". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- "May Alan Kurdi’s Death Inspire Us to Create a World Without Borders". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- "Berlin Must Reform or Abolish Its Refugee Policy". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- "Berlin Must Reform or Abolish Its Refugee Policy". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- "A child of three". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- "Alan Kurdi and Canada's Refugee Policy". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
- "Artists Around The World Respond To Tragic Death Of 3-Year-Old Syrian Refugee". Retrieved 10 September 2015.
- "Cartoons pay tribute to drowned Syrian boy". Retrieved 10 September 2015.
- "Cartoonists Memorialize Alan Kurdi". Retrieved 10 September 2015.
- "Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi's photograph sparks social media tributes". Retrieved 10 September 2015.
- "Syrian father makes harrowing Christmas message". 3 News. 24 December 2015. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
- "Alan Kurdi’s aunt: ‘My dead nephew’s picture saved thousands of lives’". BBC News website. 2 January 2016. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
- Jasper Jackson. "German paper Bild removes all photos in protest over Alan Kurdi complaints". the Guardian. Retrieved 12 November 2015.