The father of a boy who drowned while fleeing his war-ravaged Syrian homeland has pleaded with the world to open their hearts to refugees.
Heartbreaking images of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s body being cradled as he was carried away from a Turkish beach triggered global outrage and stung politicians and communities worldwide into action over the refugee crisis.
His father Abdullah Kurdi, whose wife Rehanna and five-year-old son Ghalib also drowned along with Alan in September, makes a personal appeal as a parent and speaks of the desperation of the Syrian people in his alternative Channel 4 Christmas message.
He said: “My message is I’d like the whole world to open its doors to Syrians. If a person shuts a door in someone’s face, this is very difficult. When a door is opened they no longer feel humiliated.
“At this time of year I would like to ask you all to think about the pain of fathers, mothers and children who are seeking peace and security.
“We ask just for a little bit of sympathy from you.”
More than four million people have fled Syria since the start of the civil war. More than 250,000 have been killed. This year alone 500,000 Syrian refugees attempted to reach Europe and North America.
Abdullah, who is a Kurdish Syrian and a barber by trade, said: “We Syrians leave our country due to war. We all are afraid for our children, for our honour.
“There are barrel bombs, explosions and also Daesh. We have hundreds of thousands of problems.
“My family and I went to Izmir and we left to Bodrum. So we boarded the boat to go to Greece aiming to go to Germany or Sweden. We were in the sea for four or five minutes when the boat capsized and what happened, happened.”
Abdullah had been in Turkey for three years but returned to Kobani in Syria to bury his sons beside their mother.
In his message, he adds: “I buried them and thank God. I’m happy I buried them at home.
“I want to help children because they know nothing about life except for laughing and playing.
That’s all they know. So it’s a problem for children if we don’t look after them and take care of them.”
Abdullah, who currently lives in Erbil, Iraq, plans to start a charity project running a hospital and school for Syrian Kurds.
He ends his message with the wish that “hopefully next year the war will end in Syria and peace will reign all over the world”.