'My children slipped through my hands': father of drowned Syrian boy

Published: September 3, 2015
A Turkish police officer carries a migrant child's dead body off the shores in Bodrum, southern Turkey, on September 2, 2015 after a boat carrying refugees sank while reaching the Greek island of Kos. PHOTO: AFP

A Turkish police officer carries a migrant child's dead body off the shores in Bodrum, southern Turkey, on September 2, 2015 after a boat carrying refugees sank while reaching the Greek island of Kos. PHOTO: AFP

ISTANBUL: Father of the three-year-old Syrian boy, whose face-down body washed up on a Turkish beach, an image that shocked the world, said Thursday his children had “slipped through my hands” as their boat was taking in water en route to Greece.

Abdullah, whose surname is given by Turkish media as Kurdi but sources in Syria say is actually called Shenu, lost his three-year-old son Aylan, four-year-old son Ghaleb and wife Rihana in the tragedy.

“I was holding my wife’s hand. But my children slipped through my hands. We tried to cling to the small boat, but it was deflating. It was dark and everyone was screaming,” Abdullah Kurdi told Turkey’s Dogan news agency of the sinking.

Read: Image of dead boy piles pressure on Cameron over Syrian refugees

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 people seeking to cross the Aegean to Greece.

But attention has focused on three-year-old Aylan, whose tiny body was photographed washed up on a beach in the resort of Bodrum in an image that quickly became a viral symbol of the tragedy of refugees.

In a second image, a Turkish security officer cradles the boy in his arms.

Abdullah had been trying to cross along with his family, and three other Syrians from the town of Kobane, to the Greek island of Kos just south of Turkey’s Bodrum peninsula.

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

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

“I tried to swim to the shore with the help of the lights but couldn’t find my wife and children once I was there. I thought they got scared and ran away,” he said.

“When I couldn’t find them in our meeting point in city (Bodrum) where we normally meet, I went to the hospital and got the bad news.”

Abdullah said his family were trying to get to Canada from the Syrian flashpoint town of Kobane after fleeing to Turkey last year to escape Islamic State extremists.

But he only wants to return to Kobane now to bury his family.

A hospital official in Bodrum told AFP that the bodies would be flown to Istanbul late Thursday and then to the Turkish border town of Suruc before reaching their final destination Kobane.

Abdullah was quoted as saying the family had paid people-smugglers twice in the past to travel to Kos.

“At first attempt, the coastguard officials detained us and we were later released,” he said.

The next time “the traffickers (organisers) didn’t keep their promises and didn’t show up with the boat.”

As a result of their,previous experiences they had decided to embark on the final fatal journey independently.

As a result they, and the other Syrians from their hometown, “obtained a boat on our own means and tried to cross to the other side.”

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Reader Comments (10)

  • Pushtun Voice
    Sep 3, 2015 - 9:39PM

    This just breaks my heart. No kid deserves such an end.Recommend

  • Khalid Manzoor
    Sep 3, 2015 - 10:25PM

    One of the most shocking images ever….so sad…poor kid paid the price for a horrific war….that image wud continue to haunt for years to come…people are losing lives and we are concerned about archaeological ruins…
    cruel worldRecommend

  • ABCD
    Sep 4, 2015 - 12:09AM

    My heart is too weak to watch the picture splashed across all news papers. I feel as if it was my child. Shame on all of us being called human. Time for God to take revenge now as we don’t deserve to exist on his Earth. Recommend

  • AlfaR
    Sep 4, 2015 - 6:00AM

    Why cant Pakistan or any other Muslim country provide refuge to these Syrians? Most Muslims seem to hate the west and their culture, criticize them when they live in these countries, but want rush to these countries.

    & Majority of these Muslim countries are in trouble or cause trouble… Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Chechniya, Pakistan, Tajikistan..

    Pakistan seem to claim to be champion of muslims.. but then, ignoreRecommend

  • Aneela
    Sep 4, 2015 - 9:23AM

    Heart Breaking
    pain of father cant be imaginedRecommend

  • Sep 4, 2015 - 9:52AM

    In the Soviet Afghan war Pakistan took in unprecendented amount of refugees, millions of them, and about three million are still in Pakistan. Dont judge us.Recommend

  • M
    Sep 4, 2015 - 10:09AM

    @ AlfaR – Pakistan is already home to one of the largest refugee Afghani population. I believe its time for the western countries; who claim to be the champions of human rights to give refuge to the Syrian immigrants. After all it is their policies which created a void in the Middle East and gave rise to ISIS.Recommend

  • Stranger
    Sep 4, 2015 - 11:47AM

    Pak/ India / Europe every one cares about refugees/ immigrants. But there are logistics involved. Theres only so much the host countries can do . Please stop shouting from rooftops – No one cares … The Arab spring was a big joke .Why did they topple the earlier leaders. AT leat one portion of the population was happy under them. now no one is happy . Recommend

  • Sep 4, 2015 - 6:01PM

    Pakistan ,during cold war gave Pakistani passports to afghan refugees,now next generation of afghans also live as citizens of Pakistan,refuse to leave have free access to government hospitals have bought houses and properties here,since afghan is a neighboring country ,Pakistan did more than what was required in-spite of the fact that it is also a third world country.still so many afghans are present here.for Syrians the oil rich neighbors are to be blamed which share borders with Syria , they should rise above their differences and at least setup temporary relief camps for women and children .its very cruel that someone should be forced to leave their home, time to stop this senselessness.Recommend

  • Nora
    Sep 5, 2015 - 2:07AM

    @AlfaR it is because last time we let refugee from Afghanistan in, and they destroyed our country. Not saying it was 100% them but before that we didn’t have suicide bombers roaming the streets. Also I don’t think if Syria were to contact Pakistan and sign up a deal anyone would say no. But it makes me wonder why you picked Pakistan to blame as there are many other countries (well-off) that can help the needy, regardless of the religion or anything else for that matter.Recommend

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