A soggy, bright red t-shirt, ruched and barely clinging on, exposing the belly of a knee-high toddler, face deep in the grit of a Bodrum beach. Made still by death, all hopes of freedom buried with the boy by the ravenous bloodthirsty waves of the Mediterranean.
© NilüferDemir, DHA Agency (Turkey) 2015
It is said that a picture paints a thousand words, yet this photo rendered me utterly speechless. The fragility, desperation, and ultimate sad reality of the millions of innocent people ironically battling death in savage attempts to escape it, all encapsulated in a single shot of a lifeless Alan Kurdi. For me, it far better communicates the three year old’s travesty, representing the millions of refugees attempting to flee the horrors of the now, five year Syrian War, than through news reports, political speeches and stat heavy infographics. The image invokes a raw, authentic and overwhelming sense of emotion and beckons the questions: Who is this little boy? Why did this happen? Who let it happen?
So striking is this image in fact, that following its publication, Twitter followers adopted the hashtags #Kiyryavuraninsanlik (humanity washed up ashore), #RefugeesWelcome and #PeopleNotMigrants. Closer to home, where in prior months, UK papers has fuelled prejudice rhetoric among the general populous with regards to the refugee crisp in Europe, this image swung the pendulum of public opinion, and a petition to ‘accept more asylum seekers and increase support for refugee migrants’ was pushed to the forefront of debate at 10 Downing Street.
Personally, I've never struggled with finding empathy for refugees; the hollowness of being forced to leave behind the sounds of haggling through the bazaar on the way home from school, or the neighbour’s tempting banana trees encouraging childish kleptomania, hit close to home. I've never struggled with finding empathy for people forced in an instant to leave behind their entire lives, friends, family, home, memories and dreams, because it was my father’s reality at just 17 years old. I know too well what it looks like to let go of the ambitions you hope to realise when you do finally grow up; what completely lost looks like; the expression of being afraid of the absolute uncertainty surrounding a new reality. But for those who can only strike up sympathy rather than empathy from my words, I leave you with this – the story of The Afghan Girl and her piercing anger, fear and confusion.
Through photos, I hope to vitalise the stories of those individuals who have escaped horrors from home, in an effort to help with the integration of displaced people and to stimulate revolutionary fervour among the fortunate masses, to do more for those still attempting to flee.