Father of Drowned Syrian Toddler Makes Heartfelt Holiday Plea

Abdullah Kurdi hopes the Christmas spirit will inspire people to open their hearts to those who are fleeing violence.
Abdullah Kurdi at his family's funeral in September 2015. (Photo: Isa Terli/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Dec 25, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

The images shocked the world and raised awareness of the plight of the millions of people fleeing Syria. Now the father of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old toddler whose lifeless body was photographed in September after it washed ashore on a Turkish beach, has a holiday request for us all.

“I’d like the whole world to open its doors to Syrians,” says Abdullah Kurdi in the video message below, which was filmed by the U.K.’s Channel 4 and released on Friday. “At this time of year I would like to ask you all to think about the pain of fathers, mothers, and children who are seeking peace and security. We ask just for a little bit of sympathy from you.”

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Kurdi knows plenty about pain and loss. Along with Alan, his five-year-old son and his wife also perished during the disastrous boat trip across the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Greece. Kurdi explains in the video that he and his family had hoped to eventually go to Germany or Sweden. “We were in the sea for four or five minutes when the boat capsized, and what happened, happened,” he says. Then there’s a pregnant pause, and viewers can see the pain on the heartbroken father’s face as he turns away from the camera and holds back his tears.

Kurdi’s experience is likely all too familiar to many others who have attempted to escape violence and persecution around the globe. A report released last week from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees found that nearly a million people crossed the Mediterranean as refugees and migrants in 2015. Data from the first half of this year suggests that 60 million individuals—one in every 122 people worldwide—have been forcibly displaced from their homes.

On Friday, David Miliband, the former British foreign secretary who now heads the International Rescue Committee, told The Guardian that the United States should be accepting at least 100,000 refugees a year. “That’s something the country could take pride in, and it would set a good example for the rest of the world,” he said.

However, recent efforts from some governors in the U.S. to deny Syrian refugees a chance at a new life have hindered humanitarian work. “I never thought I’d see the day when an organization I led was being taken to court by the governor of Texas for implementing federal law,” Miliband said. “I think we know what’s going on; there’s a lot of fear that is based upon the old adage that the lie gets halfway round the world before the truth gets its boots on.”

As for Kurdi, now that he’s lost his own children, he plans to advocate for other kids—and he remains optimistic about the future. “Hopefully next year the war will end in Syria, and peace will reign all over the world,” he says in the video.