Symbol or Little Boy


My name is Aylan Kurdi. My picture was on the front page of every newspaper in the world this week. Apparently I have become a symbol of the suffering we Syrian refugees have been enduring. I don’t know why. I have a mother and a brother who also died this week. For some reason they are not symbols.

At only three years old I certainly do not have much experience with the world but this is what I know.

Where I lived it is very hot. All of us children would complain about the heat. I discovered that it did not get any cooler no matter how many tears I shed. Father says I have to be a tough little man. I am three. There is a very big house at the end of the block and it has some very noisy boxes on the windows. My father calls these air conditioners and said that they make the house cooler inside. I asked father why we didn’t have these on our house and he explained that the man who owned that house worked for something called the Mukhabarat. Apparently this made him a very special man. When I told father that he was also a special man, he gave me a big hug and smiled. But we still didn’t get these air conditioners.

My brother Galip has much more worldly experience than I do since he is five. On very hot days Galip often would sneak out and go to the fish market. He had discovered that the market kept their fish in a freezer in the back of the store and that this freezer had a hole in its case. Sometimes, the ice would protrude out from this hole and Galip would chip it off and bring it back home. If the ice was large enough we could savior it for hours. Galip always shared his secrete bounty with the family. He is a good brother.

One night while we were sleeping, a very large noise came from outside. My mother grabbed me from bed, and my whole family crawled into the basement. Over and over these very large noises occurred. I was very scared. It was like the monsoon rain storms when thunder came from the sky, but when this thunder happened the whole house shook. I tried to be brave like father said, but eventually I could not hold back the tears. The next day, all of the homes two blocks away had become a pile of stones. Father said this happened because the people on that block did not give allegiance to Assad. I don’t know what that means.

I think it has something to do with the same reason why I cannot play in certain areas anymore. There is a super fun playground that father would take Galip and me that had swings and monkey bars and vendors selling ice treats. About a year ago, when I was little, we would go there every week. But then one day, a man got into an argument with father at the park and we never went back. Galip tried to sneak back there once and father spanked him for the trouble. Apparently this fun place was owned by someone called Alawites, and we are no longer welcome.

Another destination that we can no longer go is this great big building way out in the desert all by itself. This building had a hall in the middle bigger than any I have seen. It also had a sign on the door in many languages that said everyone was welcome inside. It was the only building I ever saw that had a metal cross on the roof. People at that place dressed in funny looking long robes. It was strange that even on very hot days, they still had on these robes. Unlike many of the old men in my country, the men in the robes were nice to us children. I asked why and one of them said to me that everyone in the building were as children in Gods eyes. I liked that idea, but when we got home father said that the men in the robes do not believe what we believe so we can never go back. I guess I am too young to understand such things.

Just a few weeks ago my parents became very excited. They started collecting our belongings from around the house and told Galip and me to stay inside. People I had not seen in a very long time started coming to our house. Some hugged and cried with my parents. Some came to make agreements with them. Our neighbor, Bassel, got into a loud argument with father which I could hear all the way in my room. Bassel kept saying that what we were doing would end in calamity. Father said we needed a chance at a better life. Father and Bassel had been friends since they were children like me. Now they don’t speak to each other.

When father picked me up and sat me in the boat with my mother and Galip, it felt like the biggest adventure of my life. Soon, the wind was splashing the waves over the sides of the boat and into my face and the oppressive heat of the day was gone. That cool splash was way better than ice chips.

Before I knew what had happened, the boat made a loud noise and then I was in the water. People were splashing the water all around me. I looked for father, mother, and Galip but I could not find them. I watched as the people all around me struggled. There did not seem to be a reason for it all.

Now, they say I am a symbol, but I just want to be a little boy again.

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