Last summer, the body of a 3-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in the journey across the Mediterranean Sea washed ashore on a beach in Turkey. The dreadful image of Alan Kurdi lying face down, clad in a red shirt and blue shorts, prompted outrage across the world. For a moment it seemed that there was finally enough international momentum to mobilize the beginning of the end of the Syrian war.
But one year on and little has changed. The continuous stream of perfunctory news stories occupies the world, leaving the plight of the Syrian people often forgotten in its wake.
For Abdullah Kurdi, September 2 marks a particularly painful memory. En route to Kos, Greece, Alan, his brother Galib and mother Rihan drowned when their boat bringing them across the Aegean Sea sank. Abdullah Kurdi, who survived and now lives in Iraq, spoke to the BBC on the one-year anniversary of his family's death — with a message directed to world leaders.
"Every day I think of them but today I felt as though they had come to me and slept with me. This makes me sad again," Kurdi said of his sons.
Like many other Syrians urging the international community to pay more attention to the raging civil war, Kurdi expressed frustration over how quickly the outrage caused by his son's death subsided.
"At first, the world was anxious to help the refugees. But this did not even last a month," he told the BBC. "In fact, the situation got worse. The war has escalated and more people are leaving."
According to statistics from the UNHCR, more than 284,000 refugees and migrants have made the perilous crossing across the Mediterranean this year alone. (That figure topped 1,000,000 in 2015.) Of those hundreds of thousands of people, an estimated 3,169 have died or gone missing on the way.
To politicians, Kurdi had a special plea:
I hope that all the leaders of the world can try and do good and stop the wars, so that the people can go back to normal life.
Cover image via Nicolas Economou / Shutterstock.com