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Death of Alan Kurdi

Death of Alan Kurdi
Three-year-old Kurdi lying lifeless on the beach, photographed by Nilüfer Demir from Turkish press agency, Doğan News Agency (DHA)
Date September 2, 2015 (2015-09-02)
Location Mediterranean Sea, near Bodrum, Turkey
Cause Drowning
Filmed by Nilüfer Demir
Participants Syrian and Iraqi refugees
Deaths At least 12
Burial September 4, 2015, Kobanî, Syria
Accused Four Syrians
Charges Smuggling migrants
Causing multiple deaths by conscious negligence

Alan Kurdi (initially reported as Aylan Kurdi)[1][2] was a three-year-old Syrian boy of Kurdish ethnic background[3] whose image made global headlines after he drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, as part of the Syrian refugee crisis. Photographs of his body were taken by Turkish journalist Nilüfer Demir and quickly spread around the world, prompting international responses.[4] Because Kurdi'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.


  • Biography 1
    • Fatal boating accident and body recovery 1.1
      • Arrests of alleged perpetrators 1.1.1
  • Photos 2
    • Reactions to the photos 2.1
      • Debate on the public responses to the pictures 2.1.1
    • Impact on the 2015 Canadian federal election 2.2
  • Legacy 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Kurdi is believed to have been born in Kobanî, Syria.[5] A Syrian journalist claimed that the family name was Shenu; Kurdi (as a last name) had been used in Turkey because of their ethnic background.[6] After moving between various towns to escape ISIL,[7] his family settled in Turkey for three years.[8] 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, hoping for a better life and a chance to get his family out of Turkey;[9][10] he therefore made the decision to move to Europe, which ended in tragedy.[7]

Kurdi smiling at a playground

It is alleged that Kurdi's family members were hoping to join their relatives in Vancouver, Canada, after his aunt Tima Kurdi filed for refugee sponsorship in Canada, but that this had been rejected by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada after the family members were denied an exit visa by Turkish authorities.[11] 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.[12] Abdullah Kurdi claimed the Canadian government denied his application for asylum and that they are responsible for the tragedy.[13]

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.[14] 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 fulfil.[15]

Fatal boating accident and body recovery

In the early hours of 2 September 2015, Kurdi and his family boarded a small plastic or rubber inflatable boat,[16] which capsized about five minutes after leaving a beach at 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 (or 2.5 miles) from Bodrum.[16] Kurdi's father said: "We had no life vests",[17] but also said they were wearing life jackets, but they "were all fake".[18] Others have stated that they believed that they were wearing lifejackets but the items were ineffective.[19]

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.[20] Tima Kurdi, Alan Kurdi's aunt, advised her sister not to go. The individuals on the boat evaded the Turkish coast guard by setting out from an isolated beach, going out late at night.[19]

Around 5 am authorities started an investigation, after an emergency call that a boat had capsized and bodies were coming ashore.[21] The bodies of Kurdi and another child were discovered by two locals at around 6:30 am on the same morning.[22] The two men moved the bodies from the water onto the dry part of the beach.[23] Later, Kurdi was photographed face-down on the water's edge by a Turkish press photographer.[24][25][23]

On 3 September 2015, Kurdi along with brother Galib and mother Rehana were taken to Kobanî for burials,[26] which took place the next day. It is Islamic tradition to bury the dead within 24 hours if possible.[27]

Arrests of alleged perpetrators

Turkish authorities later arrested four individuals in connection with the illegal journey, although they appeared to be low-level intermediaries.[17]

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. However, 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.[28][29]

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.[30][31]

In response, Abdullah denied the accusation, stating: "I lost my family, I lost my life, I lost everything, so let them say whatever they want."[32] The Reuters agency reported that interviews with two other passengers in the boat, Iraqis Ahmed Hadi Jawwad (Abbas's husband), and 22-year-old Amir Haider, corroborated Abbas's account.[33]


Reactions to the photos

The photograph of Kurdi's body caused grave international concern. French President François Hollande phoned Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and some European leaders after the images of Kurdi emerged in the world media. He said that the picture must be a reminder of the world's responsibility regarding refugees.[34] British Prime minister David Cameron said he felt deeply moved by images of Kurdi.[35] Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny commented on the photographs of Kurdi and described the refugee crisis as a "human catastrophe" and found his pictures "absolutely shocking".[36]

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.[37] The Daily Mail stated in a 10 September article that the "[h]arrowing" nature of Kurdi's death and the related images were "highlighting the horrific human cost of the global migrant crisis."[38]

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'".[39]

A Dagbladet article on 9 September 2015 reported that claims had surfaced on various websites, including Reddit, alleging that Kurdi's body had been moved so that photographs would be better.[40] Alan Kurdi's father blamed Canada for the boy's death, even though no application for asylum in Canada had been lodged.[41]

Debate on the public responses to the pictures

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."[42]

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 African-American civil rights activists 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 1965 Voting Rights Act.[43]

Impact on the 2015 Canadian federal election

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 in Canada had been rejected by his ministry.[44]

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 has been 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.[45][46] 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.[47] 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.[20][48][49] 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.[50]

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."[51] Trudeau also reiterated the Liberal promise made several months before the election to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees.[51]

Green Party leader Elizabeth May criticized Stephen Harper's response to the crisis, noting the difficulty to sponsor 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".[52]


A beach event was held by Defend International in memory of Alan Kurdi and other refugees, 4 September 2015.[53]

Prayer events and

  • Middle East Eye article
  • Nei, Aylan ble ikke flyttet for at bildene skulle bli bedre (in Norwegian: No, Aylan was not moved so that the pictures would become better)
  • No Asylum Application from Syrian Boy's Father

External links

  1. ^ "Tima Kurdi is comforted by friend". Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  2. ^ "Canada denies Alan Kurdi's family applied for asylum". BBC. 3 September 2015. 
  3. ^ "Aylan and Galip Kurdi: Everything we know about drowned Syrian refugee boys".  
  4. ^ "'"Syrian toddler's dad: 'Everything I was dreaming of is gone. CNN. 3 September 2015. 
  5. ^ "'They were all dead: Abdullah Kurdi describes losing his family at sea'".  
  6. ^ Father of drowned boy Aylan Kurdi plans to return to Syria
  7. ^ a b 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"'". Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  8. ^ Smith, Helena (3 September 2015). "Aylan Kurdi: friends and family fill in gaps behind harrowing images". Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  9. ^ Joe Parkinson in Istanbul and David George-Cosh in Toronto (3 September 2015). "Image of Drowned Syrian Boy Echoes Around World". WSJ. 
  10. ^ "Canada denies Alan Kurdi's family applied for asylum". BBC News. 
  11. ^ "Death of Syrian toddler throws global spotlight onto refugees crisis".  
  12. ^ "Canada denies Alan Kurdi's family applied for asylum". BBC. 3 September 2015. Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  13. ^ The Canadian Press (11 September 2015). "Abdullah Kurdi faces smuggling allegations".  
  14. ^ "Alan Kurdi drowned off the shores of Turkey. His family was trying to reach Canada".  
  15. ^ "Aylan Kurdi’s Death Resonates in Canadian Election Campaign". The New York Times. 3 September 2015. 
  16. ^ a b "Migrants mass in Turkey to take shortest route to Europe". Deseret News. August 16, 2015. Retrieved September 5, 2015. 
  17. ^ a b Death of Syrian toddler throws global spotlight onto refugees crisis - LA Times
  18. ^ Timmons, Heather (4 September 2015). "The father of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi on the boat ride that killed his family". Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  19. ^ a b Hopper, Tristin (3 September 2015). "The sad odyssey of Alan Kurdi and his family: Their search for new life ended in death". Retrieved 11 September 2015. 
  20. ^ a b Thanh Ha, Tu. "Family of drowned boy did not apply for asylum: Ottawa". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 4 September 2015. 
  21. ^ "Aylan bebeği taşıyan Mehmet Çıplak konuştu".  
  22. ^ Turkish barman who found body of migrant toddler Aylan Kurdi on beach relives horror | Daily Mail Online
  23. ^ a b ‘Their eyes were open. I closed them softly’: Turkish barman who found body of toddler Aylan Kurdi on beach relives his horror
  24. ^ Aylan’s story: How desperation left a 3-year-old boy washed up on a Turkish beach
  25. ^ Image of Drowned Syrian Boy Echoes Around World
  26. ^ "Drowned migrant boy Alan Kurdi is buried in Syria". Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  27. ^ Iraqi family's dream of Europe ends in terror, loss
  28. ^ He slipped through my fingers" says father of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi""".  
  29. ^ "Anguished dad of drowned Syrian boys: ‘I realized they were all dead’".  
  30. ^ "Aylan Kurdi: Aylan Kurdi's father is a people smuggler, woman claims".  . Also contains the video of Zainab Abbas' interview on Network Ten
  31. ^ "Aylan Kurdi: Drowned boy’s father accused of being people smuggler in charge of boat that crashed".  
  32. ^ (paywalled)Wall Street Journal"Account of Capsized Migrant Boat Is Disputed", by Ali Naban and Safa Majeed,
  33. ^ "Syrian toddler Aylan's father drove capsized boat, other passengers say". Reuters. 11 September 2015. Retrieved 12 September 2015. 
  34. ^ "French President calls Erdoğan over images of drowned Syrian boy, calls for common EU refugee policy".  
  35. ^ "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".  
  36. ^ "'A young boy... washed up on beach like driftwood' - Taoiseach describes migrant crisis as 'human catastrophe'".  
  37. ^ Henley, Jon (3 September 2015). "Britons rally to help people fleeing war and terror in Middle East". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  38. ^ a b 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. 
  39. ^ Alan Kurdi was not a climate refugee
  40. ^ Nei, Aylan ble ikke flyttet for at bildene skulle bli bedre
  41. ^ The Globe and Mail"Drowned Syrian migrant boy’s father says he blames Canada for tragedy", by Canadian Press, via
  42. ^  
  43. ^  
  44. ^ Donnelly, Aileen (3 September 2015). "Chris Alexander suspends campaign after news that boy’s family was planning to come to Canada".  
  45. ^ "Life, death and politics The death of Alan Kurdi and the federal election campaign of 2015".  
  46. ^ "Canada says it never denied a refugee application for Alan Kurdi and his family".  
  47. ^ Kestler-D’Amours, Jillian, Tonda MacCharles, and Jacques Gallant (3 September 2015). "Tima Kurdi’s pleading letter to allow brother to enter Canada revealed".  
  48. ^ "Aunt of Alan Kurdi, drowned Syrian boy, did not apply to sponsor family in Canada". CBC News. Retrieved 4 September 2015. 
  49. ^ "Canada denies Alan Kurdi's family applied for asylum". BBC. Retrieved 4 September 2015. 
  50. ^ "Mulcair stands behind Donnelly, after Kurdi family confusi".  
  51. ^ a b "Refugee crisis, drowned Syrian boy shift focus of election campaign".  
  52. ^ "Statement by Elizabeth May on the Syrian Refugee Crisis date=3 September 2015". 
  53. ^ a b c d "Refugee Crisis: Minutes of Mourn for Alan Kurdi and other refugees". Defend International. Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  54. ^ "A Child's Body on a Turkish Beach". Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  55. ^ "Drawing depicting three-year-old Alan Kurdi reads 'Omission also kills' during a candle-light tribute Friday in Barcelona". Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  56. ^ "Minutes of Mourn for Aylan Kurdi". Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  57. ^ "May Alan Kurdi’s Death Inspire Us to Create a World Without Borders". Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  58. ^ "Berlin Must Reform or Abolish Its Refugee Policy". Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  59. ^ "Berlin Must Reform or Abolish Its Refugee Policy". Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  60. ^ "A child of three". Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  61. ^ "Alan Kurdi and Canada's Refugee Policy". Retrieved 24 September 2015. 
  62. ^ "Artists Around The World Respond To Tragic Death Of 3-Year-Old Syrian Refugee". Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  63. ^ "Cartoons pay tribute to drowned Syrian boy". Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  64. ^ "Cartoonists Memorialize Alan Kurdi". Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  65. ^ "Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi's photograph sparks social media tributes". Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  66. ^ German paper Bild removes all photos in protest over Alan Kurdi complaints


See also

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".[38]

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".[66]

[53][65][64][63][62][61][60] Artists and poets from all over the world shared tributes to Alan Kurdi.[59][58] suggested that Berlin needs to "reform or abolish its refugee policy".Spiegel Online while a commentary published at [57] A host of a daily radio program wished that "Alan Kurdi’s death would inspire us to create a world without borders",[56][53] 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".[55][54][53]

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