Sunday 11 December 2016

Let's ensure Aylan's death was not in vain

Published 04/09/2015 | 02:30

Aylan Kurdi (left) and his older brother Galip - the two young boys were among those who drowned off the Bodrum coast
Aylan Kurdi (left) and his older brother Galip - the two young boys were among those who drowned off the Bodrum coast

He is the drowned little boy whose tiny body was washed up on a beach in Greece as his family attempted to flee their troubled homeland of Syria.

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He is the toddler whose gut-wrenching picture has done more to highlight the plight of the thousands of refugees escaping terror zones than the tons of news reports we have seen in recent weeks.

But three-year-old Aylan Kurdi was more than just a powerful and shocking picture. He was someone's brother. Someone's son. Someone's grandson. Someone's nephew. Someone's little friend.

It is impossible to imagine the terror the beautiful boy went through in the last hours of his short life as he, his older brother Galip and his parents piled onto a boat to try to cross the Mediterranean to a better life.

What were the hopes and fears of Aylan's brave parents as they boarded a boat from Bodrum for the dangerous journey to Kos?

Did his mother dress him that morning, gently pulling the red T-shirt over his head? Did his dad carefully tie his shoes? Did Galip hold his hand as they boarded the boat? Being two little boys, and probably not fully realising the danger they were facing, did they view this as an adventure? Or were they fearful? Did they detect the worry of their parents?

Aylan, his brother and parents were fleeing the Syrian town of Kobane, the site of fierce fighting between Islamic State insurgents and Kurdish forces earlier this year. His brother and mother also lost their lives when their boat capsized. They didn't have life jackets. They didn't stand a chance.

There has been a lot of debate in the last several hours about the rights and wrongs of publishing the horrific picture of Aylan on front pages and websites.

Newspapers usually don't print such pictures, out of respect for the dead.

But in this case they were right. There comes a time when editors have to call it as it is. In this case the media, and the Irish Independent, were right.

If this picture acts as a catalyst for world leaders to take serious action on the human refugee horror that has left 2,500 people dead this summer, then Aylan's desperately sad and public death will not be in vain.

If this picture results in Irish people and the "protest brigade" - those who are great at mobilising the masses to grumble about property taxes, water charges, lack of housing, unemployment and the like - to pressure our Government to open its arms for thousands of refugees, then Aylan's death will not have been in vain.

Irish Independent

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