Gazans, Moroccans pay tribute to Aylan with sand sculpture

Palestinian children put flowers Monday on a sand sculpture on Gaza city beach depicting Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old boy who drowned off Turkey.
Palestinian children put flowers Monday on a sand sculpture on Gaza city beach depicting Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old boy who drowned off Turkey.PHOTO: AFP

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories (AFP) - Palestinians paid tribute to the tiny boy who drowned while fleeing the Syrian war by building a sand sculpture of him Monday on a beach in the Gaza Strip.

The sculpture measuring a few metres in length depicts three-year-old Aylan Kurdi in the same position and with red and blue clothing like he wore when his lifeless body was found last week.

Aylan's body was photographed lying face down in the sand near Bodrum, one of Turkey's prime tourist resorts, in a bleak image that rapidly went viral on social media.

The sand sculpture is located a short distance from where an Israeli strike killed four Gazan children as they played football during last year's 50-day Gaza war.

"When I saw this statue representing Aylan Kurdi, the child drowned while fleeing Syria, I felt a deep sadness and great emotion," said resident Arwa Arbijan.

"It reminded me of the children of the Bakr family who were killed on the Gaza beach during the last war," she said.

Last year on July 16, cousins Ahed Atef Bakr and Zakaria Ahed Bakr, both aged 10, nine-year-old Mohamed Ramez Bakr and 11-year-old Ismail Mohamed Bakr were playing on the beach in Gaza City when they were hit in two separate Israeli air strikes.

Their death was one of the most widely covered and controversial incidents of last year's war.

At the other end of the Mediterranean, dozens of people paid tribute to Aylan on a Rabat beach on Monday by re-enacting the heart-wrenching scene of how his body was found washed ashore.

Around 30 people took part, some wearing the same combination of clothes, and lay rooted face-down in the sand for about 20 minutes.

"As an artist, my duty is to react and to come here with my colleagues to say that a small gesture can be worth a lot," said Moroccan actress Latifa Ahrar, one of the organisers.

"We are here to say that the Mediterranean should remain a space for sharing and exchanges, not a barrier for those who are victims of dictatorships, civil wars and terrorism," said journalist Rachid el-Belghiti.