“No, Aylan. Please don’t die! I’m coming for you!” Abdullah Kurdi shouted hysterically while fighting the towering waves to save his son. It was only 5 minutes the boat had left Turkey for Greece when their boat capsized, leaving Abdullah, his wife and two children to the mercy of open, merciless sea. After failed, frantic attempts to save his wife and children, he took a gut-wrenching decision and, leaving the frail and motionless bodies of his wife and children to the sea, swam for the shore. He did not wager exactly whether it was the sea or the tears that stung his eyes. For a few moments, he felt that he was swimming in his own tears, roaring, as the tides took him to the shore or Koc, Greece. “Why did you save me and took the rest, God?” His mind was complaining as his feet touched the shore and then, everything went black.
“Who is that boy? Can anybody identify him?” The guards were shouting as the body of a small boy wearing red shirt and blue shorts washed up the shore in the morning. One look at the child’s lifeless face and the light faded from Kurdi’s his eyes. It was he, his Aylan Kurdi. Lying lifeless, peacefully on the shore. His face trickling with mud. Was there any end to his agony?
This is not a story out of some tragic fiction novel. It is the moving story of Aylan Kurdi that made people shed millions of tears and broke billions of hearts worldwide. And he’s not alone. Thousands of Syrian refugees are fleeing Syria due to enraging civil war that has been prevailing for ages destroying everything in its reach. ISIS has seized control of major cities like Mosul, Raqqa and Kobani in Syria and has forced the locals to evacuate their homes and properties or flee the country otherwise.
The migrant crisis is the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. The expelled refugees face boats capsizing, extreme cold weather, abuse and beatings of the authorities and all sorts of bleak consequences one could imagine. Children are the ones who suffer the most, who either drown or die of extreme cold. More than 2000 to 3000 refugees are landing on the shores of Greece every day and among them. 47% are children or infants. The children who should have been tucked in their cozy beds and warm bedtime stories are forced to drench themselves in over-congested and overloaded boats to reach Greece and, when they finally arrive, their toil does not end there. From Greece, they tread on foot, covering thousands of miles to reach safe areas. Those are the children who, instead of going to schools, are witnessing one of the most horrifying portrayals of humanitarian crisis in the 21st century. The psychological effect of harrowing scenes of waking up to air strikes at night, having their own house completely shattered and destroyed, ambulances blaring in the distance, their loved ones being snatched away in front of their eyes and getting beheaded is way too much for a child to digest. Still, they are fighting for freedom, for their lives and for a better life.
“No-one puts their child in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”
– Benedict Cumberbatch
This Universal Children’s Day is dedicated to all the children who are seeing what they should not see, experiencing what they should never experience and walking the road which was not meant for them to tread. We, as human beings, have disgraced ourselves by turning our backs to these people at the moment when they need the most.
Still, there are people who care and recognize the gravity of the situation. Most notable among such organizations is UNHCR. It is the biggest player in the rehabilitation of refugees and is one of the very few organizations which are working on the ground, directly providing food, shelter, first aid, clothing and other necessities. They have a massive fundraising campaign which has raised over a billion dollars and have an extensive network of volunteers directly involved in rehabilitation.
Samaritan’s Purse is another NGO working in collaboration with UNHCR. It is the first human contact refugees make when they reach Greece. Their work mostly is to embrace the refugees reaching Europe. They drag the boats to shore, pick up shivering children and clad them in warm stuff. They are also involved in providing the necessities to those on the road who wish to continue their journey upward to Germany or Austria.
Other generous organizations like The Children’s Foundation, Muslim Relief USA etc. are also stretching their limits to rehabilitate the refugees as much as they can but the truth is, it is simply not enough. Merely relying on organizations and enjoying a cup of tea in the morning is not enough. It is an hour of distress and a test for the whole mankind. If we fail, the next generations will remember us as the people who showed their backs to the ones who really needed it. It is the duty of whole mankind to take this situation into context and do as much as you can to alleviate the misery of these poor people who have nothing left except tales of their squalor to tell.
Dear readers, the above mentioned situation is alarming. Let us join hands for a better tomorrow on this Children’s Day. You too can raise awareness about this issue locally and can also donate any amount of money you want at the UNHCR official website. The donations have already reached 2 billion USD but the UN states that they are still short of money. These veterans of suffering and distress deserve massive respect for what they are going through. Help them survive to save humanity.
Written by: Hassam Khan Alizai