A 3-year-old boy whose body washed ashore on a Turkish beach was a Syrian Kurd whose relatives’ efforts to emigrate to Canada had been rebuffed.
Horrifying images of the boy’s lifeless body reverberated across the globe on Thursday as details emerged about his life and final journey.
Turkish media and Kurdish activists identified him as Aylan Kurdi from Kobani, a town near the Turkish border that has seen months of heavy fighting between Islamic State and Syrian Kurdish forces.
Kurdish activists said Aylan’s 5-year-old brother, Galip, and his mother, Rehan, died on the same boat. His father, Abdullah, was found semiconscious and rushed to the hospital, according to Turkish media reports.
Abdullah Kurdi described the boat capsizing after the captain panicked in rough water and jumped out, according to the Associated Press.
“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 realized they were all dead,” the AP reported him as saying. “All I want is to be with my children at the moment.”
The Kurdi family were among 12 Syrians, including eight children, who perished trying to cross the Aegean to reach Greece, adding to the roughly 2,500 people who have died trying to reach Europe this year—most of them drowned in the Mediterranean.