These heartbreaking images shows the grief-stricken father of two little boys who drowned at sea while trying to make it to Europe. The man not only lost his sons, but he also lost his wife .
Reliving the moments after the dinghy capsized and the Mediterranean waves crashed around them, Abdullah yesterday described how he’d pleaded with his sons to keep breathing, telling them he didn’t want them to die.
It was only when he looked down at their faces and saw blood in Aylan’s eyes that he realised the boys had died in his arms and he was forced to let them go. Looking around in the water, he spotted the body of his wife Rehan ‘floating like a balloon‘. She had also drowned.
Abdullah’s sons, who were just five and three, slipped from his grasp in pitch-black waters off Bodrum in Turkey.
Yesterday his sister Tima – who is also known as Fatima – revealed how the grief-stricken father had relived the final moments of his boys’ lives in a phone conversation she’d had with him.
‘When a bigger wave came and flipped the boat upside down, Abdullah right away caught both his kids and tried so hard with all the power he had to keep them up from the water, screaming, ‘Breathe, breathe, I don’t want you to die!’,’ ‘In his left arm was Galip and he saw he was dead and he told me, ‘I had to let him go’, Then he looked at Aylan and could see blood from his eyes, so he closed them and said, ‘rest in peace my son,’
she went on to say.
She went on to say that while he was still in the water, Abdullah saw his wife’s dead body floating in the water ‘like a balloon’, causing him to struggle to recognise her.
‘[Later he said] now the whole world is going to watch my story, where was the whole world before when my kids were hungry, when I didn’t have a job?
Sobbing uncontrollably Abdullah yesterday recalled his terror when the flimsy and overcrowded dinghy overturned, causing the night to be pierced by the screams of his fellow Syrian refugees as he clung on to his wife.
‘I was holding her, but my children slipped through my hands,’ he said.’We tried to cling to the boat, but it was deflating. It was dark and everyone was screaming. I could not hear the voices of my children and my wife.’
Over the following three hellish hours in the water, Mr Kurdi battled for survival, while frantically searching for his sons and his wife, who had also been pulled from his reach. He found one child but it was too late – the boy had drowned.
‘My first son died from the high waves,’ he said. ‘I was obliged to leave him to save the other one. I tried to swim to the beach by following the lights.’I looked for my wife and child on the beach but couldn’t find them. I thought they had got scared and had run away and I went back to Bodrum.’When they did not come to our meeting point I went to the hospital and learned the bitter truth.’
The barber had paid people smugglers £2,900 over the course of three attempts to reach Greece from a refugee camp in Turkey.
But he has told friends he wished he had also drowned to be spared a lifetime of self-recrimination over the family’s desperate gamble for a better life. Pictures of Aylan and Galip have been shared by social networkers around the world, prompting calls for politicians to do more for fleeing Syrians.
Recounting her conversation with her brother, Tima revealed that the waters had been calm when the family left Turkey.
‘He said the water was so calm, crystal clear and that’s how he knew it was safe to [cross], and Aylan was so happy, so excited for that trip, and he told him, “We’re going to have fun.” Alan asked, “Where we are going?” and he told him Europe,’ she said.
‘He said 20 minutes later a big wave came in on the jet boat. He was upset with the smugglers, but they said “Don’t worry about it, we’ve done this plenty of times and its very safe”.’
They had been at sea for only four minutes when the dinghy began taking on water.
‘The captain saw that the waves were so high and as he tried to steer the boat we were hit immediately,’ said Mr Kurdi. ‘He panicked and dived into the sea and fled.’I took over and started steering, but the waves were so high that the boat flipped immediately.’I took my wife and my kids in my arms. Now all I want is to lie in a grave next to them.’
‘All I want is to be with my children – they were the most beautiful children in the world,’ he said.
‘Is there anybody in the world for whom their child is not the most precious thing? They woke me every morning to play with me. Now everything is gone.’
Mr Kurdi and his wife Rehan, 35, fled Damascus in 2012, first for Aleppo and then Kobane. Friends said they endured shelling in Kobane before leaving last year as IS forces were poised to seize the town.
Mr Kurdi said he had worked as an odd-job man and sold the family’s belongings in the streets in a bid to fund their dream of a new life in either Canada or Europe.
As he prepared to take his family’s bodies back to Syria for burial, Mr Kurdi said he could not face trying to build a life in Europe without them.
Instead the ethnic Kurd will return to his former home in the border town of Kobane, despite it being under constant threat from Islamic State extremists.
Mr Kurdi broke down after seeing his sons’ bodies in the morgue, running from the building and crying out ‘My God, my God’.