PICTURES of little Alan Kurdi’s washed up body shocked the world. But the story behind his tragic death is more complicated than it first appeared.
His lifeless body cradled in a policeman’s arms, the drowned boy on the beach has become a symbol for the suffering of Syrian refugees.
Three-year-old Alan Kurdi (his first name was initially incorrectly given as Aylan) perished along with his five-year-old brother and mother off the coast of Turkey.
His father survived and gave a heart-rending account of how he watched his family die after the flimsy dinghy that was supposed to carry them to a brighter future was swamped by rough seas.
They are not the first to lose their lives attempting the deceptively short crossing to the Greek island of Kos, but it’s this family’s story that has moved the world. However, it is a story not as straightforward as it immediately seemed.
Many viewing the emotive images of Alan’s body found washed up on the beach assumed the family had fled directly from the hellhole of war-torn Syria.
In fact the saga that would end so tragically had begun a full three years previously, and that final journey – made from Turkey where the family was not in deadly peril – was risked despite the fact that Alan mother’s, Rehan, did not want to go precisely because she feared how it might end.
And yesterday the tale took a shocking new turn when a survivor of the boat-sinking alleged that far from being a fellow victim of the money-grabbing people smugglers, Abdullah was a smuggler himself.
Zainab Abbas, who lost two of her three children when the boat overturned, claims Abdullah is wrong to say that he took control of the boat only after the trafficker in charge had jumped overboard in a panic as the vessel was tossed about in choppy seas.
Abdullah, she says, was at the helm from the very beginning of the voyage. “Yes, it was Abdullah Kurdi driving the boat,” Abbas, who is now back in her native Iraq, told Australian TV channel Network Ten through her English-speaking cousin Lara Tahseen.
She added that he begged her not to betray him to the authorities as they struggled to stay afloat while awaiting rescue. The whole sad and increasingly sinister saga began in 2012 when Abdullah, 40, Rehan, 35, and their sons Galip and Alan first crossed the border from their Syrian homeland to Turkey.
Previously, they’d led a nomadic existence in Syria, after fleeing the capital Damascus where Abdullah worked as a barber and had married Rehan in 2010. They ended up in Rehan’s parents’ home in Kobane but that was bombed, leaving several relatives dead and Rehan’s father, Sehosen, injured.
The family of four joined the exodus to Turkey, which has so far accepted 1.7 million Syrians. The Kurdis lived rough in the town of Suruc, about 30 miles from the Syrian border, before travelling to Istanbul.
Here, Abdullah found some work as a labourer but did not earn enough to support his wife and children. But Abdullah had one advantage: he has a sister, Tima, who emigrated to Vancouver, Canada, 20 years ago, where she works as a hairdresser.
Tima was able to send money to help make ends meet and they began plotting their escape to Europe through the back door. The way Tima tells it, her brother and his family made contact with people smugglers in Izmir and she gave them the £2,900 required to get them to the coast and then make the two-and-a-half miles to Kos by boat.
Fatefully, rather than Abdullah making the trip alone with a view to arranging for his wife and children to join him later, they decided to escape together, taking inspiration from Abdullah’s brother Mohammed who took a similar route and eventually reached Germany.
Read more: express.co.uk