NEWS

Drowned Syrian Boys, Mother Buried In Kobani, The Hometown They Fled

09/04/2015 10:34 EDT | Updated 09/04/2016 05:59 EDT
KUCUK KENDIRLI, Turkey — The Syrian man who survived a capsizing during a desperate voyage from Turkey to Greece buried his wife and two sons on Friday in their hometown of Kobani, returning them to the conflict-torn Syrian Kurdish region they had fled.

With the burial, Abdullah Kurdi abandoned any plans of leaving his homeland again.

"He only wanted to go to Europe for the sake of his children," said Suleiman Kurdi, an uncle of the grieving father. "Now that they're dead, he wants to stay here in Kobani next to them."

The haunting image of the 3-year-old Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach focused the world's attention on the wave of migration fuelled by war and deprivation.

The three bodies were flown to a city near Turkey's border with Syria, from where police-protected funeral vehicles made their way to the border town of Suruc and crossed into Kobani. Legislators from Turkey accompanied Abdullah Kurdi to Kobani. Journalists and well-wishers were stopped at a checkpoint some 3 kilometres (2 miles) from the border.

Scores of casually dressed mourners clustered around as the bodies were laid in the dry, bare earth of the Martyrs Cemetery. Clouds of dust rose as dirt was shovelled over the graves.

Some graves in the cemetery were haphazardly marked out with borders of concrete blocks.

Alan's body was discovered on a Turkish beach in sneakers, blue shorts and a red shirt on Wednesday after the small rubber boat he and his family were in capsized. They were among 12 migrants who drowned off the Turkish coast of Bodrum that day.

The route between Bodrum in Turkey and Kos, just a few miles, is one of the shortest from Turkey to the Greek islands, but it remains dangerous. Hundreds of people a day try to cross it despite the well-documented risks.

Abdullah Kurdi said the overloaded boat flipped over moments after the captain, described as a Turkish man, panicked and abandoned the vessel, leaving Abdullah as the de facto commander of a small boat overmatched by high seas.

In a police statement later leaked to the Turkish news agency Dogan, Abdullah Kurdi gave a different account, denying that a smuggler was aboard. However, smugglers often instruct migrants that if caught they should deny their presence.

Tima Kurdi, Abdullah Kurdi's sister in B.C., said she wanted to bring her brother to Canada, but was dismayed with the refugee process in an attempt to bring over another brother.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada said it received no refugee application for the father of the two drowned boys.

It did, however, receive an application for Abdullah Kurdi's brother, Mohammed, but said it was incomplete and did not meet regulatory requirements for proof of refugee status recognition.

Tima Kurdi confirmed her family had only made an official request for Mohammed Kurdi, explaining she and her husband could only afford to sponsor one brother. They planned to apply for Mohammed first and subsequently bring Abdullah and his family to Canada.

--Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey contributed to this report.

--With files from The Canadian Press

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