Father of drowned toddler buries family in Syria

BODRUM • The father of a three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach - in an image that shocked the world - has returned home to Kobane in Syria to bury his family.

Mr Abdullah Kurdi arrived at the Turkish border town of Suruc yesterday with the caskets of his son, wife and another son who also drowned while trying to get to Europe. The car carrying the father and the caskets entered Kobane and returned to Turkey while a convoy of journalists and activists was stopped at the border.

Mr Abdullah, whose surname is given by Turkish media as Kurdi but sources in Syria say is Shenu, lost his three-year-old son Aylan, five-year-old son Galip and wife Rehan in the tragedy.

"I was holding my wife's hand.

Mr Abdullah Kurdi with his sons Aylan (left) and Galip in an undated photo. He was trying to cross the Aegean Sea towards the Greek island of Kos when the boat started to take in water shortly after it set off. His wife and children, who were swept away, drowned. PHOTO: REUTERS

"But my children slipped through my hands," he told Turkey's Dogan news agency on Thursday, describing the moment the boat began to sink. "It was dark and everyone was screaming."

Twelve Syrian migrants drowned on Wednesday when two boats sank in Turkish waters as they were heading towards the Greek island of Kos, in the latest tragedy to hit migrants in the Aegean Sea.

But global attention has focused on Aylan.

His tiny body was photographed washed up on a beach in the resort town of Bodrum on Wednesday, in an image that quickly became a viral symbol of the tragedy of the refugee crisis. In a second image that also caught worldwide attention, a Turkish security officer cradled the boy in his arms.

Mr Abdullah had been trying to cross the Aegean Sea with his family and up to three other Syrians from the flashpoint town of Kobane, Turkish media said.

The town was the subject of a months-long battle between Kurdish militias and Islamist militants last year.

He said the boat started to take in water shortly after it set off in the dead of the night, sending the migrants on board into a panic.

"The boat started to take in water 500m from the shore.

He tried to take hold of his children and his wife as he clung to the capsized boat, but they were quickly washed away.

The Ottawa Citizen newspaper reported that the family had been trying to immigrate to Canada.

It said Mr Abdullah's sister Teema Kurdi, a Vancouver hairdresser who went to Canada 20 years ago, had sponsored a refugee application that Canada's immigration authorities rejected in June.

"I was trying to sponsor them, and I have my friends and my neighbours who helped me with the bank deposits, but we couldn't get them out, and that is why they went in the boat," the newspaper quoted her as saying.

However Canada's immigration department said there was no record of an application from Mr Abdullah and his family, but an incomplete form from his brother Mohammed Kurdi for his immediate family.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2015, with the headline 'Father of drowned toddler buries family in Syria'. Print Edition | Subscribe