Heart-rending photos of toddler’s lifeless body washed ashore on Turkish beach spark horror and debate on refugees.
The Syrian-Kurdish boy whose death has become a symbol for the desperate plight of refugees trying to escape the war and find safety in Europe, has been laid to rest, along with his brother and mother.
Three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who had drowned along with his mother Rehan and his five-year-old brother Galip while trying to reach the island of Kos in Greece, were buried in their hometown of Kobane on Friday.
The funeral was attended by hundreds of supporters and Kurdish officials from the city, the Iraqi-based Kurdish network Rudaw reported.
The three bodies were flown to a city near Turkey’s border with Syria, from where police-protected funeral vehicles made their way to the border town of Suruc and crossed into Kobane.
Legislators from Turkey accompanied the brothers’ father Abdullah Kurdi to Kobane. Journalists and well-wishers were stopped at a checkpoint some 3km from the border.
Turkish authorities have arrested four suspected traffickers over the deaths of 12 Syrian refugees in two boat sinkings, including that of the Kurdi family, a report said on Thursday.
The four, all Syrian nationals aged between 30 and 41, are accused of “causing the death of more than one person” and “trafficking migrants”, the Dogan news agency reported.
Earlier, the father of the Kurdi brothers said he wants the international attention on his sons’ deaths to focus on preventing similar incidents from happening again.
“We want the world’s attention on us, so that they can prevent the same from happening to others. Let this be the last,” Kurdi said on Thursday.
In a statement to police obtained by the Hurriyet newspaper, Abdullah said he had twice paid smugglers to take him and his family to Greece but their efforts had failed.
They had then decided to find a boat and row themselves but it began to take in water and when people stood up in panic, it capsized.
“I was holding my wife’s hand. My children slipped away from my hands. We tried to hold on to the boat,” he said in the statement. “Everyone was screaming in pitch darkness. I couldn’t make my voice heard to my wife and kids.”
The image of Aylan, drowned off one of Turkey’s most popular holiday resorts, went viral on social media and piled pressure on European leaders to do more to help refugees.
Heart-rending pictures of the toddler’s lifeless body put a human face on the dangers faced by tens of thousands of desperate people who risk their lives to seek safety in Europe.
“If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?” Britain’s Independent said in remarks echoed in newspapers across the continent.
Over the past week, there has been a dramatic spike in the numbers of refugees – mainly from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Africa – seeking to leave Turkey by sea for Greece in the hope of building new lives in the European Union.