Aylan Kurdi's father is a people smuggler, refugee woman alleges

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 13, 2015 21:43 IST
Abdullah Kurdi, father of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, cries as he leaves a morgue in Mugla, Turkey. The family of Aylan, a Syrian toddler whose body washed up on a Turkish beach, had been trying to emigrate to Canada after fleeing the war-torn town of Kobani. (Reuters Photo)

A woman whose family was in the same dinghy as Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian boy whose drowning off the Turkish coast shook the world, has accused the toddler’s father of involvement in human trafficking.

Zainab Abbas – who lost her nine-year-old son Haider and 11-year-old daughter Zainab when the dinghy capsized on September 2 – has said Aylan’s father Abdullah Kurdi was at the helm at the time of the accident and have arranged to take a group of refugees to Greece.

Abbas, who is now in Iraq, levelled the allegation when she spoke to Ten News channel through her Australia-based cousin Lara Tahseen.

“He (Abdullah Kurdi) was a smuggler, he was the one driving the boat,” Abbas said, speaking in Arabic as her cousin translated.

Abbas said she and Kurdi had met another man named Abu Hussain in a cafe and she had handed over $10,000 to get her family to Europe.

Hussain assured her that the journey would be safe and that the “captain of the boat or driver is bringing his own two kids and his wife”, she said.

“Abdullah was speeding. There were too many people in the boat and not enough life jackets,” Abbas said.

Her husband asked Kurdi to be careful but he didn’t listen, she added.

The dinghy hit a wave and flipped over and Abbas’ two children drowned. Kurdi then pleaded with her not to turn him in, saying he had lost his sons and wife.

Later, Abbas heard Kurdi tell the media that a Turkish man was driving the boat.

Images of Aylan, lying lifeless on a Turkish beach in a bright red T-shirt, made their way around the world on social media and focussed global attention on the Syrian refugee crisis.

The Kurdi family was fleeing from Kobane in Syria, which has been repeatedly targeted by Islamic State (IS) militants. “When we were away from the Turkish coast, oh my God the waves, we died.

The Turk (smuggler) jumped into the sea, then a wave came and flipped us over. I grabbed my sons and wife and we held onto the boat,” Kurdi had said shortly after the death of his two sons.

Kurdi, who lived in Damascus and worked as a barber before Syria’s civil war began, had said he paid 4,000 Euros ($5,860) for four slots on the five-metre dinghy.

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