If at any point you were desensitized to the tragedy that took place on September 11, 2001, a haunting photograph of a man falling to his death forcibly pulled you back into reality that felt more like an inescapable nightmare.
Now consider a crisis halfway across the world, in Syria. You read about it in passing, understand the bare minimum about it, and then you continue going about the typical activities that everyday life consists of. You drive an hour or so into work and back, come home and have a glass of wine to relax, maybe pop open your laptop to scroll through social media before you go to sleep–and then you see it. The pure shock and sadness that settles in keeps your eyes locked on the screen, unable to scroll past it.
It is a little boy who could have been your son, your nephew, your baby brother lying face down on the shore of Turkish water, waves washing over his lifeless and delicate body. You don’t know his name or why he’s there, but your heart shatters every second more that you look.
He was only three years old. His name is Aylan Kurdi and he has taken the world by storm.
In a desperate attempt to smuggle his family to Canada, in hopes of starting a new life far away from Syria and its ongoing strife, Abdullah Kurdi arranged for the couriers to have a motorboat ready to take his family to Greece as another stop on the journey. Unfortunately, only a captain on a raft that was unable to withstand high winds and rough waves, arrived and the result was tragic. Kurdi, his wife, and two toddler sons were tossed into the water where they fought for three hours to stay alive. One by one, Mr, Kurdi watched his family drown to death and Aylan has become a worldwide symbol of his loss, but something even greater.
Following the incident, Kurdi told reporters, “I don’t want anything else. My entire family has passed away… but i hope they can help those who are still in need. Enough with this war. I don’t know what more to say. I am so tired.”
According to the Ottawa Citizen, the Kurdi’s applied for asylum in Canada which was rejected, as well as Visas from the Turkish government–all steps in a hopeless mission to escape war; the same mission that millions of refugees in Turkey try to carry out and can never accomplish. In the United States and the European Union, there are resettlement spots available for less than three percent of these refugees according to Turkey expert Kemal Kirisci as reported by The Atlantic. Funding for assistance is also struggling tremendously, meanwhile babies like Aylan are washing up on the shore.
Why does it take the image of this forsaken child to open the eyes of those that do not want to see? Perhaps, because there are issues here in the United States that people are more concerned with. Is that it? Or is it that when it comes to the issues of an entire nation, we cannot gauge the level of calamity they are enduring, but when the problem is at eye-level, represented by a human like ourselves, everything becomes clear? That is most likely the answer. No three-year old child who knows nothing but war and misfortune should have to show his dying face to the world via social media, but if that’s what it takes to awakens us then so be it.