The Journey of Two Syrian Brothers That Ended on a Turkish Beach

The journey of the Kurdi family
Abdullah Kurdi, father of three-year old Aylan Kurdi, cries as he leaves a morgue in Mugla, Turkey, September 3, 2015. A photograph of the tiny body of three-year old Aylan Kurdi washed up in the Aegean resort of Bodrum swept social media on Wednesday, spawning sympathy and outrage at the perceived inaction of developed nations in helping refugees. Murad Sezer/Reuters

On Wednesday, moving images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying face-down on a Turkish beach after drowning at sea ensured that the coverage of the refugee crisis reached fever-pitch, with nearly every single British newspaper running the tragedy on their front-cover.

But why did Aylan, his five-year-old brother Gulip and mother Rehan, 35, who both died in the accident, attempt this journey?

Aylan was born into the Syrian civil war where his family lived in the Syrian-Kurdish border town of Kobane, which was besieged by ISIS last year, an offensive successfully defended by Kurdish militiamen.

Their father, Abdullah, who survived three hours at sea after the boat the family was on capsized, was reportedly a barber in the Syrian capital, Damascus, but the family hoped to flee the war-torn country. It remains unclear how long the Kurdi family were in Turkey after fleeing Syria.

However, Abdullah revealed that he had twice attempted to pay people smugglers to make the journey to Greece but these attempts were unsuccessful, according to a statement obtained by Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper. It is reported that the family had then proceeded to get their own boat and row to Greece of their own accord. It was on this trip that the vessel capsized.

While the family had attempted to make the arduous 12-mile journey across the Aegean Sea from the Turkish port city of Bodrum to the Greek island of Kos, the family's intended final destination was much further afield. The family dreamt of reaching Canada, it has been revealed.

The brothers' aunt, Teema Kurdi, told the Canadian press that she had attempted to bring the family to Canada before they made the dangerous journey. Teema is a hairdresser who lives in Vancouver after emigrating to Canada from Syria 20 years ago.

"I was trying to sponsor them, and I have my friends and my neighbours who helped me with the bank deposits, but we couldn't get them out, and that is why they went in the boat," she told The National Post.

"I was even paying rent for them in Turkey, but it is horrible the way they treat Syrians there," she added.

She claimed that the UN did not register the family members as refugees in Turkey while Turkey did not grant the required exit visas to reach Canada.

Yet, the Canadian Department for Citizenship and Immigration, in a statement emailed to Newsweek, denied that it had received any citizenship application from the Kurdi family, only receiving an application from the family of his brother, Mohammad Kurdi.

"The plight of the Syrian people, including the events of yesterday, is a tragedy and we offer our condolences to all those affected," the statement read. "An application for Mr Mohammad Kurdi and his family was received by the department but was returned as it was incomplete as it did not meet regulatory requirements for proof of refugee status recognition."

"There was no record of an application received for Mr Abdullah Kurdi and his family. Canada did not offer citizenship to Mr Abdullah Kurdi," the statement continued.

Four people smugglers have been arrested by Turkish authorities in connection with the tragedy which took the lives of nine other refugees, according to Turkey's Andalou news agency. But that will be no consolation for the brothers' father, Abdullah, who will return to Kobane in the coming days and bury the children alongside their mother.

"The things that happened to us here, in the country where we took refuge to escape war in our homeland, we want the whole world to see this," Abdullah told reporters after breaking down in tears outside a morgue in Mugla city, near Bodrum.

"We want the world's attention on us, so that they can prevent the same from happening to others. Let this be the last."

A government spokesperson from the Canadian government was not immediately available for comment.