The heartbreaking photograph of Aylan’s body will be the most viewed image in the world today.
Trigger warning: This post contains graphic images of a little boy’s body that are upsetting – yet important – to see. Mamamia has decided to share the images – censored – because it is too easy to forget that this is the reality many children face as they’re caught up in the refugee crisis.
At three years old, Aylan Kurdi’s body is not much more developed than an infant’s.
His little legs are pale and spindly, still learning to support his growing size. He wears denim shorts, a bright red t-shirt and shoes done up with the trademark velcro of a child yet to master the art of tying laces.
Aylan’s eyes are closed and his head lolls to the side. His hands are relaxed, his tiny open palms facing skyward. His body language mirrors that of toddlers and babies everywhere; a koala-like exhausted slump of such contented sleep that it doesn’t require a bed or a pillow.
Except Aylan is not sleeping. He is dead.
His body washed ashore on a Turkish beach overnight after his family unsuccessfully tried to cross the 5km Aegean sea, seeking a better life in Europe. His five-year-old brother is also presumed dead.
News reports indicate that Aylan’s family lived in northern Syria, in a town called Kobani, where Islamic state and Kurdish forces have been locked in a brutal altercation since the start of the year.
The heartbreaking photograph of Aylan’s body will be the most viewed image in the world today. He will become the human face of the Syrian war and the broader refugee crisis in Europe.
A harrowing reminder that the ‘swarm’ of ‘illegals’ who are ‘breaking into’ Europe – as they have been cruelly labelled by various world leaders – are people, just like us. People who will do anything for their families and especially, for their children.
European immigration policies continue to toughen, with nations erecting new fences along their borders, denying unauthorised immigrants access to healthcare or benefits and forcibly removing refugees from public transport. Right now hundreds of people remain stranded outside a Budapest railway station, which was sealed by police to stop migrants crossing the border into the EU.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Australia has spent the last decade and a half struggling to deal with asylum seekers who arrive on our shores by boat. The issue has become a political football that is more about point-scoring and electoral advantage than it is about good policy making.
As in Europe, time has seen Australia’s approach to immigration harden and harden again. The language our leaders use to describe those seeking refuge has become painfully dehumanising.
But the picture of Aylan Kurdi tells a story that 1000 three-word-slogans could not.
Because a little boy is dead.
A little boy who knew nothing of Islamic State’s political aims or the armament of Kurdish forces. And whose vocabulary didn’t extend to phrases like ‘unauthorised entry’, ‘border control’ and ‘indefinite detention’.
A little boy to whom the European Union’s economic capacity to support increased migration was meaningless. A little boy who couldn’t wait for diplomatic resolutions to be reached, when he no longer had somewhere to call home.
A little boy whose daily life was defined by constant danger and adult wars.
Tonight I will zip my own little boy into his sleeping bag, comfortable in the knowledge that he will be safe and well when I wake the next morning. This is my privilege. And it flows from the sheer, unjustifiable luck of having been born in a country free from the threat of war.
It’s a privilege that I don’t pause to consider often enough. But it slapped me hard in the face today when I clicked on the photograph of Aylan Kurdi and then quickly closed the browser window because it was just too upsetting.
Many of you will have done the same and it is worth asking ourselves why: Why, in a world where the most brutal atrocities are broadcast in distressing technicolour 24 hours a day online, is this particular photograph is quite so confronting?
Perhaps it is because the West has allowed the life of children like Aylan Kurdi to be worth less than that of our own children. It is a sobering reality. And surely, surely our common humanity requires more of us than that.
If you were also moved by the image, you can consider donating to….
Save the Children: distributing essential items to asylum seeker families.
Red Cross Europe: Giving emergency health care at train stations.
Migrant Offshore Aid Station: Preventing migrant deaths at sea