Let there be no mistake. Even if you are comfortable in your little corner of the world, many of us are living under much harsher circumstances. Where for us in Europe war is a word that is mostly associated with the two devastating world wars that changed the face of the European continent, for many war is an every day situation that makes their life unbearable. So unbearable that they see no other way than to escape their homeland. The place where they were born and where they have lived their lives. Escaping, trying to get away from the ever threatening war, the insecurity if tomorrow you still have a house – yes – a life, seems like the most logic thing to do. Alas, it is not the easiest. Because the only escape, for thousands of innocents, is in small boats that often have to sail extremely dangerous waters before arriving in safe harbours where you are more often than not are not welcomed with open arms. But anything is better than staying in the hell that others have made for you.
This must have been the desperate rationalization of the Rena and Abdullah Kurdi parents of 3 years old Aylan and his 2 years older brother Galip. And so they did the unthinkable and boarded one of those refugee boats full of other people who, just as desperate, are hoping to find a better future elsewhere. Unthinkable indeed, because for us it is hard to imagine that desperation can drive you to do something like that. The family Kurdi came from Syria. That is not their fault. Nobody can choose where one is being born. It is simply where they were all born, where they grew up and tried to make a life for themselves. It was in Syria where Rena and Abdullah first met, married and started a small family. It was in Syria where the two little boys were born, in a country at war, probably with the idea that they could grow up to have a better future. The Kurdi family tried to go to Canada where they have relatives. From both sides everything had been done to bring them over the regular way. But it would not be. And so they decided to go for the ultimate solution. A small boat together with hundreds of other refugees, that would bring them to the Greek Aegean island of Kos. A journey of only 5 kilometres, but it proofed to be a fatal one.
Last Wednesday a photo of little Aylan washed up on the beach of Bodrum, Turkey went viral. A small human being who died after his small boat overloaded by 17 passengers overturned on its way to a safe haven. He was not the only one to die. At least 12 of his boat didn't make it, among them his mother Rena and his brother Galip. But it was Aylan who was found on the beach, lifeless. His photo unleashed a storm of protest, mostly against European and other Western countries who follow a strict immigration laws. But is that fair? Do we have to blame these countries for not accepting refugees? Should we point a finger to the Canadian immigration minister Chris Alexander who turned the request from the Kurdi family down? Are they all responsible for this useless war that is being fought over the heads of thousands of innocent Syrians? Knwing that is wasn't just 17 in this particular boat. Knowing that the Turkish coast guard rescued more than 42,000 people in the first five months of this year already, 2,160 in the past week. It is easy to blame people for looking the other way. It is much less easy and more dangerous to openly blame the real responsible parties. But maybe that is going to change. Maybe now this senseless war has a face. The face of 3 years old Aylan Kurdi. –BM-
Cover photography by Claus Pelz, featuring Saul Harris
(editor's letters are musings on actual events and are disconnected from the cover art).
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