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Iraqi couple alleges father captained doomed vessel

Reports say Abdullah Kurdi begged couple not to tell Turkish police that he was in charge of the boat.


 
Abdullah Kurdi, father of three-year old Aylan Kurdi, waits at a morgue in Mugla, Turkey, September 3, 2015. The family of Aylan, a Syrian toddler whose body washed up on a Turkish beach, had been trying to emigrate to Canada after fleeing the war-torn town of Kobani, one of their relatives told a Canadian newspaper on Thursday. A photograph of the tiny body of three-year old Aylan Kurdi washed up in the Aegean resort of Bodrum swept social media on Wednesday, spawning sympathy and outrage at the perceived inaction of developed nations in helping refugees. His 5-year-old brother Galip and mother Rehan, 35, also died after their boat capsized while trying to reach the Greek island of Kos. His father, Abdullah, was found semi-conscious and taken to hospital near Bodrum, according to Turkey's Sabah newspaper. REUTERS/Kenan Gurbuz - RTX1QWSC

Abdullah Kurdi (Kenan Gurbuz, Reuters)

The latest from Maclean’s correspondent Jonathan Gatehouse, Sept. 11, 4 p.m. ET:

Abdullah Kurdi’s family in British Columbia say the Iraqi couple’s claims are ridiculous. “It’s simply untrue that he’s a smuggler,” Rocco Logozzo, Abdullah’s brother-in-law told Maclean’s. “It’s made up.”

When the allegations first surfaced late yesterday, Tima Kurdi, Rocco’s wife, called her brother in Kobani, Syria where he returned to bury his wife and children. He said he had no idea why they would say such a thing. Kurdi has told reporters that he took control of the boat when their smuggling “captain” became scared and jumped out, but that he was unable to keep the rubber raft from capsizing in heavy waves.

Abdullah, who grew up in Damascus, has little experience with water, Logozzo points out. “This might well have been his first time in a boat,” said Logozzo. “His wife couldn’t swim.”

Tima Kurdi who is in transit to Europe, was unavailable for comment. She is scheduled to make an appearance with an refugee advocacy group tomorrow in Brussels and discuss her family’s story with the media.

Logozzo said there have been a number of false stories in recent days—including one that suggested Abdullah’s motivation for making the dangerous sea crossing to Europe was to seek dental treatment—something he attributes to an anti-migrant “backlash.” “We not sure how to deal with all this,” he said.

Still, the family has sympathy for the Iraqi couple, who lost their own children. “We feel sorry for them,” said Logozzo. “They must be grieving just like us.”

The original story

An Iraqi couple is reportedly alleging that the father of a three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach was the captain of the vessel that capsized killing at least 12 people, including his family.

Reports say Zainab Abbas and Ahmad Hadi, who lost two children in the tragedy, told journalists in Baghdad that after the accident, Abdullah Kurdi begged them not to tell Turkish police that he was in charge of the boat.

Kurdi has said he paid smugglers 4,000 euros for the deadly voyage — the money his sister sent to him from Canada.

But The Wall Street Journal reported that Abbas and Hadi said that prior to the voyage a smuggler they met in Turkey introduced them to Kurdi, saying he was the captain of the vessel and his own wife and children would be aboard.

The couple said that just minutes after departing the Turkish coast, one of Kurdi’s sons started to cry, distracting the father just before the boat bashed into a wave and capsized.

Kurdi, who is back in Syria, denied the Iraqi couple’s allegations, telling The Wall Street Journal that the captain was a Turkish smuggler who jumped into the water and abandoned the boat shortly after the engine stalled.

A photograph of brothers Alan and Ghalib Kurdi is displayed during a memorial service for them and their mother in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday. The brothers' aunt lives in the Vancouver area. (Darryl Dyck, The Canadian Press)

A photograph of brothers Alan and Ghalib Kurdi is displayed during a memorial service for them and their mother in Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday. The brothers’ aunt lives in the Vancouver area. (Darryl Dyck, The Canadian Press)


 
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