The Syrian man who survived a capsizing during a desperate voyage from Turkey to Greece has taken the bodies of his wife and two sons back to the Syrian Kurdish region they fled, to bury them in their hometown of Kobani.
The haunting image of the man’s three-year-old son, Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach focused the world’s attention on the wave of migration fuelled by war and deprivation.
A convoy of vehicles crossed into Kobani from the Turkish border town of Suruc today.
Politicians from Turkey accompanied Abdullah Kurdi to Kobani. Journalists and well-wishers were stopped at a check-point just over a mile from the border.
Aylan drowned along with his five-year-old brother Galip and his mother, Rehan while trying to reach the island of Kos.
Aylan’s body was discovered on a Turkish beach in trainers, blue shorts and a red shirt after the small rubber boat he and his family were in capsized.
They were among 12 migrants who drowned off the coast of Bodrum that day.
The route between Bodrum in Turkey and Kos, just a few miles away, 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.
Mr Abdullah said the overloaded boat flipped over moments after the captain, described as a Turkish man, panicked and abandoned the vessel, leaving Mr Abdullah as the de facto commander of a small boat in high seas.
In a police statement later leaked to the Turkish news agency Dogan, he gave a different account, denying that a smuggler was aboard. Smugglers often instruct migrants that if caught they should deny their presence.
With the burial, Mr Abdullah 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.”
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.