What is it about that little boy that has captured our hearts and crushed our souls like this? He is not the first little victim of war I’ve seen. He’s not even the first drowned child I’ve seen in the last week so why do these tears still fall? Is it because his neat little red shirt and blue shorts are so similar to my own child’s outfit? Or that his little feet are still wearing the shoes his mum picked out for him for the perilous journey ahead? Did she mull over which shoes would be best? Did she hope, as she put them on that day, that they wouldn’t blister his feet too badly? Were they his favourite pair? The soles are clean now, washed by the sea that took him.
Is it the way the sea gave him back to us? Back to those who failed him. Gently placing him on a bed it made for his final slumber, as if to say, “Are you happy now? Is this the only way your children will know peace?” Is it because instead of the way he lay on the sand, we know he should have been lying on any bed in the world? Is it because instead of the waves lapping at his little body, we know he should have been covered by a blanket?
Why the feeling of emptiness now when we know what’s been happening all along? Did it really have to take a photo of a child washed up ashore like seaweed to make us stop and mourn? Did it need for a 3 year old lying on a beach, probably in the very spot many holiday makers have created wonderful memories, for the world to say, “This needs to stop”? Why the contradicting feelings of wanting everyone who hasn’t posted about this boy to say something and those who are posting to stop at the same time?
How terrified was he? Did he cry for mummy in between the waves? Did it happen quickly? Was it dark? So many questions answered only by heartbreak.
His name was Aylan. He was from Kobane in Syria. He was not the first to meet this end and he will not be the last, yet my tears are just for him. Not for the others like him who have washed up ashore or may be lying at the bottom of the sea. Not even for his brother or his mother who, perhaps mercifully (mothers will understand this), died alongside her children. Only for him. For a future that will never be realised. For stories of a war-free existence he was told about, but will never know. For little hands that will never curl around his father’s’ fingers. For little feet that will never walk in those shoes again. For a little soul too good for this horrible world we have created; and, for the final indignity he had to experience of being processed on the beach by a stranger in a uniform. No one to cradle him and say goodbye. Not even a sheet to cover him with. Just a little boy, washed up on shore in his perfect little outfit. Alone. One minute he is there, and the next he is not. Will people know in a year’s time when they stand in that very spot, that he once lay there? Will they care?
Shame. Shame. Shame. There is so much shame to go around. The EU. The US. Australia. New Zealand. The Arab World. You have failed him and all those like him. But today, this is not about them. This is about a boy, a 3 year old from Syria, who washed up on the shore one day, and shattered our hearts.
A Demand For Action