They say a picture tells a thousand words, but this one tells a million.
Aylan Kurdi, that’s his name. That’s the name of the three-year-old Syrian boy whose small, lifeless body, dressed simply in a t-shirt and shorts, was sprawled across the front pages of almost every single newspaper, website and relevant media outlet across the western world, after a smuggler vessel carrying his family capsized off the coast of Turkey, shattering the hopes and dreams of Aylan, his five-year-old brother Galip and mother Rihan and several other refugees who unjustifiably lost their lives alongside them.
How did we let this happen? How could we let this happen? Both are questions as equally as imperative, and both are questions that fundamentally need answering. But for now, what’s certain is that Aylan and his family didn’t return to that beach alone – Humanity washed ashore with them. If this doesn’t speak the clear magnitude of the situation, then I’m not sure what will, but no one on any corner of this earth deserves to drown in the coldness of water whilst searching for peace, let alone drown in the coldness of human indifference and lack of ambiguous humanity.
As it stands, we are currently witnessing the biggest refugee crisis of our lifetime. There are currently sixty million refugees across the world. That’s approximately 1 in every 122 people who face consecutive hardships, uncertainties, miseries, trauma, and ultimately, death, in their battles to survive the sheer depravities of war and perilous terror in the place they call home. In Syria alone, nearly 12,000 children have been killed as a result of the civil war, and the number is set for yet another staggering rise with the current 4 million Syrian refugees who are fighting for survival amongst ISIS, Bashar al-Assad and the unfathomable barbarities that encompass them.
Refugees is the key word, not migrants. These people are desperate, these people are seeking protection from intolerable persecution and armed conflict, these are people who are fleeing and leaving everything behind because they have no choice. These are just that – People. And that’s why it’s all of our problem, and it’s all of our responsibility.
Imagine what must have gone through their minds, imagine the efforts they had to go to escape starvation, kidnap and torture, imagine just how desperate they must have felt in order to get on a boat towards an uncertain future rather than staying and facing certain death. Leaving an unsafe home with their children, in the hopes of finding a safe haven, a sanctuary – a life which of which they can finally truly live and love. I’m not a parent, but I hope to be one day, and I can assure you that the only thing that would allow me to place a helpless child I was responsible for, on a heaving boat towards a dangerous journey of unforeseeable life or death, would be to escape from an abhorrent inferno of hell and depravity, like what millions currently fight through in Syria, Palestine, Libya, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and numerous other countries. To quote Warsan Shire:
“No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”
It’s a humanitarian crisis, not a migrant crisis, and in all honesty, I’m horrified that it’s taken the dissemination of a photograph of a dead child to finally elicit mere crumbs of inherent compassion and empathy for refugees as a whole. Were the pictures of thousands upon thousands dying at the hands of Israel in Palestine not enough? Was the idea of seventy-one migrants suffocating to death in the back of truck in Austria not sufficient? What about the many ships carrying hundreds of refugees that have capsized in the Mediterranean taking everyone with them? Was it the picture proof that everyone was looking for before they finally realised that something has to change? Well they’ve got it now. The scale of the emergency at hand is profoundly immense, but not yet insurmountable, but what I struggle to comprehend is why it took a picture of a dead 3-year-old to help us to finally recognise such a disastrous human catastrophe. We have failed, and as a race we can’t afford to fail anymore.
Everyone’s conscience is now rightly shattered by images of Syria’s dead children,British newspaper publications that up until now riled contempt and near hatred towards refugees in their effort to demonise them are now quite ironically, hijacking and sensationalising the image of someone’s death to make a point, in the hope that it will erase the thousands of words and damaging narrative done when they previously dehumanised people just like Aylan Kurdi. Only difference being, it was when people, and children like him – lived. We just can’t keep turning our backs on this, we can, and we simply must do more. As humans, we can’t continue to go around seeing everything but pretending that we are blind.
Refugees are human beings too, they are as human as you and me, and just because it isn’t happening over here, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. We may not share the same skin colour, be born or bred in the same country, follow the same religion or speak the same language, but we all bleed the very same and therefore – We all rise and fall together.
Something needs to be done, and something needs to be done now, and I just hold out hope that one day, in the near future, the only answer that should ever need to be given by refugees in response to “Where are you from?” should simply be:
As that’s all that really matters.