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Dead Syrian child's aunt calls for compassion

Alistair Walsh
September 6, 2018

The photograph of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi's lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach shocked the world in 2015. Three years later his family says that the West has a responsibility to help Syrian refugees.

Alan Kurdi's body lies on a beach on Kos
Image: Reuters/Stringer

The aunt of 3-year-old refugee Alan Kurdi, whose lifeless body was famously photographed washed up on a Turkish beach in 2015, wants his image to be a permanent reminder of the suffering of refugees.

Tima Kurdi told DW that she struggled to look at the photo of her deceased nephew, but that she and her family must "swallow our pain" to bring awareness to the world.

"Thousands of children continue to die until today and the world is silent. This image should be a permanent reminder," Kurdi told DW's What Happened Next show, speaking from Iraq.

Read more: Turkish court jails smugglers in death of Syrian toddler

What would you do?

She said she wants Europe to know that no refugees willingly leave their home, and wish to return when they can. She said Western leaders had an obligation to end the conditions that lead to refugees fleeing their home.

"Can you imagine yourself in their situation? What would you do?" she asked.

"I do understand that every country has a limit, and we're seeing huge numbers of refugees coming in. But I also understand that when you support one side of the war in those countries, you are responsible for the cause of the refugee crisis.

"Until we find a solution to stop the war and the crises in those countries, refugees have the right to seek asylum and to be in a safe place. Until then all those countries should take in refugees."

Read more: Data Analysis: Aid money alone will not be enough to stop the causes of migration

@dwnews - Worldwide shock at photo of Syrian boy in Turkey


Italy 'inhumane'

Kurdi criticized Italy in particular for its recent hard-line approach to migrants arriving by sea.

"It's very, very sad, especially in Italy. It really hurts me so much that they are almost saying, 'Let them die in those boats and drown and I'm not opening my border.' What kind of a human being can even have or say this kind of message. This is unacceptable and inhumane."

"Italy supported the war in Libya. So you support the war in Libya, you are responsible for the cause."

Read more: Italy's Salvini: Merkel has underestimated the challenges of migration

Father struggling

Kurdi said her brother Abdullah Kurdi, Alan's father, was devastated by his son's death. He had been trying to flee IS and the Syrian civil war when he decided to pay people smugglers to take him and his family to the Greek Island of Kos, having had their refugee application rejected by Canada.

Tima, already an accepted refugee in Canada, paid for the trip. But the tiny boat capsized five minutes after leaving Turkey and Abdullah's wife and two sons drowned.

"He is still struggling to move on. Every time I ask him, he says, 'My life ended the minute my family, my boys, slipped from my hand.' The only thing that gives him hope … is to work on the Kurdi Foundation, to help the children affected by war."

He and Tima started the foundation to help children affected by the war in Syria. Tima's memoir The Boy on the Beach was published in April.

Read more: 'The dying goes on,' complains father of drowned Syrian toddler

Refugee rescue trial begins