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My family died in my arms, one by one: Aylan Kurdi's father

The father of Aylan Kurdi, the toddler whose tragic drowning off the Turkish coast has shaken the world, has recounted the final hours of both his sons as the family tried desperately to reach the Greek island of Kos with the hope of a better life in Europe.

world Updated: Sep 09, 2015 10:48 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Syrian refugees,Aylan Kurdi,Migrant crisis
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)

The father of Aylan Kurdi, the toddler whose tragic drowning off the Turkish coast has shaken the world, has recounted the final hours of both his sons as the family tried desperately to reach the Greek island of Kos with the hope of a better life in Europe.

The rubber dinghy carrying the Kurdi family and eight others capsized shortly after leaving the Turkish coast on Wednesday and Abdullah Kurdi’s sons – three-year-old Aylan and five-year-old Ghalib – and his wife Rehan died one by one in his arms as they clung to the overturned vessel.

“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,” Abdullah told Syria’s opposition Radio Rozana.

“We stayed like that for an hour, then the first (son) died and I left him so I could help the other, then the second died, so I left him as well to help his mom and I found her dead. . .what do I do. . .I spent three hours waiting for the coast guard to come. The life jackets we were wearing were all fake,” he said, speaking slowly in Arabic and struggling for words, according to Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper.

Abdullah collapsed into sobs, saying: “My wife is my world and I have nothing, by God. I don’t even think of getting married again or having more kids. . .I am choking, I cannot breathe. They died in my arms.”

Images of Aylan, lying lifeless on a Turkish beach in a bright red T-shirt, made their way around the world on social media on Thursday 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.

Read:Italy PM says Europe 'cannot just get emotional' about migrants

https://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2015/9/syrian-toddler-2.jpg

Aylan Kurdi, who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos, lies on the shore in the Turkish coastal town of Bodrum, Turkey. (Reuters Photo)



Abdullah, who lived in Damascus and worked as a barber before Syria’s civil war began, said he paid 4,000 Euros ($5,860) for four slots on the five-metre rubber dinghy for what should have been a 30-minute journey across four kilometres of water.



Abdullah claimed he had declined the Canadian government’s offer of citizenship in the wake of the tragedy and that he intended to return to Kobane to fight the IS.

Read:Canada woman had tried to sponsor family of Syrian boy who drowned

https://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2015/9/syria-crisis.jpg

Aylan Kurdi with his five-year-old brother Galip. (Image via

Twitter,

@monaeltahawy)



“I will return to Kobane to fight against Daesh,” he said. “I have nothing to live for. I will not go to Canada despite the invitation, nor to Europe. I’m not crazy about living in those places. I was only hoping to provide a better life for my children. I have nothing now, no family, no life. But I am now speaking for other refugees so that perhaps they will be saved.”



“Daesh has taken everything from us. We came to the Turkish government and they were useless,” he said. “I couldn’t provide anything to my children, and my parents were helping us with the essentials even though I had a small salary.”

Watch:

Drowned Syrian toddler's image becomes tragic symbol of migrant crisis

The bodies of Abdullah’s wife and sons were taken to a morgue in southern Turkey on Thursday and will be moved back to Kobane for burial.

Kobane is now under the control of Kurdish militias, who recaptured it with the help of a US-led bombing campaign. The city Kobani continues to witness frequent clashes between Kurds and IS.

First Published: Sep 04, 2015 11:38 IST