The father of a three-year-old Syrian boy whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach on Wednesday is preparing to bury his family in his home town, cancelling any plans he once had of starting a new life in Canada.
Abdullah Kurdi set off from the Turkish town of Bodrum in a crowded dinghy, which was destined for the Greek Island of Kos. He was with his wife, Rehan, and his two children, Aylan, three, and Galip, five, when the boat capsized.
The haunting image of Aylan's small body washed up prompted a worldwide debate on the refugee crisis taking place in Europe.
On Thursday, Abdullah waited for the arrival of his family's bodies at a morgue in Mugla, in Southern Turkey.
Speaking to HuffPost Arabi, Abdullah said: “I wish I could transfer my breath to them, to breathe life into their bodies again.”
“We spent a whole hour holding onto the boat. My children were still alive. The first one died because of the raging waves. I had to leave him to save my second son, who also drowned. I turned around to find that their mother had drowned as well,” he said said.
“Poverty” is the word that Abdullah used to describe the reason he did not put on a life jacket, or take any of the other necessary security precautions. He added: “Gathering the costs for fleeing wasn’t easy, and I couldn’t secure the price of the life jackets.”
The pictures of the grief-stricken father waiting for the arrival of his family's bodies reinforce the devastating reality of what faces refugees fleeing war and the lengths they go to in order to start a new life with their families.
An image of Abdullah Kurdi, and his sons Aylan and Galip, sent to me by a family friend. Heartbreaking. pic.twitter.com/5s7RuY41ZT— Hussein Kesvani (@HKesvani) September 3, 2015
As Abdullah waited for the arrival of the bodies, he spoke of the moment the boat's captain panicked as the waves got higher, jumping into the sea and leaving him to take control of the small craft with his family and other migrants on board.
"I took over and started steering. The waves were so high and the boat flipped. I took my wife and my kids in my arms and I realised they were all dead," the Associated Press reports.
"All I want is to be with my children at the moment."
Despite hopes of starting a new life in Canada with his family, Abdullah now says he just wants to take his children home to Kobane and stay with them forever.
The BBC's Fergal Keane reports that Abdullah tells him: "I just want to see my children for the last time and stay forever with them."
Abdullah, a Kurdish Syrian who was living in Turkey for three years, was desperately trying to reach Canada, where his sister had been living for more than two decades.
Teema Kurdi, a hairdresser living in Vancouver, said she had received a phone call on Wednesday from a relative who said Abdullah had told them his wife and two boys were dead.
“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,” Teema told the Ottawa Citizen.
“I was even paying rent for them in Turkey, but it is horrible the way they treat Syrians there.”
Abdullah and his family reportedly had their refugee application rejected by Canadian officials in June.
Canada's immigration minister has reportedly suspended his re-election campaign to travel to Ottawa and look into why the Canadian government rejected the request.
Since the tragedy, the Canadian government has offered Abdullah citizenship so he can join his sister in the country, but he has declined.
Abdullah and his family had reportedly been forced to move several times during the Syrian conflict, before leaving the war-stricken state in 2012.
Mustefa Ebdi, a journalist in Kobani, said the correct family name was Shenu, but that Kurdi had been used in Turkey because of their ethnic background.
Ebdi told AFP: “They left Damascus in 2012 and headed to Aleppo, and when clashes happened there, they moved to Kobani. And again, when clashes [with Islamic State] happened there, they moved to Turkey.”
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