“Politicizing” Alan Kurdi’s death

By Alexander Kennedy 
September, 2015 

Photo by Nilufer Demir

Alan Kurdi, 3, was one of 12 Syrians seeking refuge who drowned when the small boat taking them to Greece from Turkey sank. Photo by Nilufer Demir

The future and the past clash with me, and I’m left with a feeling of shame.

The past. That a child drowned on a beach near a Turkish resort.

The present. That the death of Alan Kurdi, 3, along with his brother Ghalib and mother Rehanna, is the last fucking straw for me.

The future. That Canada’s immigration minister, Chris Alexander  was allegedly asked to bring these children to safety in Canada. That he denied these children. That it would be good for the future if this man — now campaigning in Canada’s federal election Oct. 19 — gets run out of office.

And then the shame floods over. Because yesterday, I had wondered what the hell I could do. I wondered if I could I take that image of the drowned boy … and put it squarely in the Conservative party logo? Post it on social media?

A line would have certainly been crossed if I did that.

If I posted that kind of photo-shop handiwork on Facebook. I imagine that even a great number of my like-minded friends would respond with,


I like friends; how we get together sometimes after all coherence and sensibility has had the shit kicked out of it, to enjoy beer and nonsense in the dark amongst good people. The knowledge that there are indeed good people anchors me, while the rest of the world spins.

But I don’t see it as worthwhile to clutch to some vague notion of “social standing” by avoiding crossing a line, by avoiding offence.

I am offended. It’s abundantly clear that Chris Alexander and Canada’s current administration has blood on their hands.

The web is full of trolls, who giggle about how the “lefties” got their panties all up in a wad over actions or inactions by Canada’s conservative government.

They should wipe the goddamn smirks off their faces. 

Except you learn later that the family of the drowned child did not apply for asylum.

… or so says the headline of the Globe And Mail.

But just read those reports a little more, and you’ll find that Tima Kurdi, the Canadian aunt of Alan Kurdi, applied first for asylum for Alan Kurdi’s older uncle, and that application was returned as incomplete, “as it did not meet regulatory requirements.” She did not have the money or the papers to officially apply to sponsor Alan Kurdi’s family as refugees to Canada. Instead, her Vancouver-area Member of Parliament, Fin Donnelly of the Opposition New Democratic Party, hand-delivered a letter she wrote asking Canada to help them to Chris Alexander.

Still, say the reports, there was no “official,” “actual,” “formal,” application for asylum.  

So just like that, poof.

The one “anchor” you have to reality, the one straight-foreword narrative of Canada’s failure to save Alan Kurdi’s life, goes awry … because the life of the child was not expressively asked for, on paper, in a manner that conformed to the regulatory requirements.

Amongst the trolls, the smirk returns.

We could point out that the Member of Parliament for Kurdi’s Canadian family still claims that he had hand-delivered the sister’s letter to Chris Alexander … And that he had asked Mr. Alexander to please let those children in.

The smirk gets wider “nah nah nah. You didn’t say the magic word.”

And you could say that, if you read the goddamn small print of our refugee policies, there was the matter of the aunt not being able to fill the application for the drowned child’s family  because she could not afford it yet. (And who the fuck thinks it’s o.k. to charge a family to request their nephews be given asylum from a war zone?)

The troll eyes light up, “Irregardless of the fact. The paperwork was not filled out in a suitable manner.”

And you could mention other failures, such as 100 Palestinian children abandoned to languish in dilapidated hospitals.

Alan and x Kurdi. Photo from Facebook page In Memory of Kurdi Family

Alan and Ghalib Kurdi. Photo from Facebook page In Memory of Kurdi Family

There are teeth in the smirks now. “Ah, but you see… You’re changing the subject.”

And you could mention that–in direct contrast to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s statement that Canada is a leader in helping refugees — Canada is number 15 in allowing asylum seekers in this country.

“…But now you’re generalizing the issue, aren’t you? Didn’t you get so worked up about one little boy and your fantasy of a crime?”


I backed away from the dark notion I had. To take the horrific image that we now see across the world …  and photoshop it into the Conservative Party logo. To put a boy’s corpse in the middle of the big blue C.

I recoilled from myself.

However, unlike me, Vancouver activist Sean Devlin had class.

He showed up to a recent campaign rally for Stephen Harper. He wore a shirt that read “Aylan* should be here.”

It’s a simple statement. It’s one that I think any true citizen of a first-world nation would agree upon.

And he got arrested for doing it.

Say the trolls: “Awful for some people to politicize a tragic death. Don’t these pseudo-intellectual soy latte drinkers have any shame?”

…Well, I have shame. As a Canadian, I am filled with shame.

When a woman decides not to pursue a formal bit of paperwork because she was already denied another application for a loved one, and she felt that she simply couldn’t afford it….

When our government is so inaccessible that a desperate woman in Canada would rather opt to use her money to finance human smugglers to try to get her family out of danger..,..

When a personal letter to Chris Alexander saying “Please, is there any way you can help my family come here” receives no response … (Or at least you’ll have to take her word for it.)

Then I feel like I have every goddamn right to go after our leaders and demand answers.

And responding with “Well, she didn’t cross all her i’s and dot all her t’s”….

Chris Alexander is not exonerated because he was given a letter but not given the magic word.

Fuck it.

I’m politicizing this.

And yes, as a Canadian, I have shame.

Copyright Alexander Kennedy 2015 

Alexander Kennedy is a Canadian writer, artist, craftsman, and former reservist with the Canadian Forces. 


*Aylan is the Turkish spelling of Alan, and is the name Turkish authorities used to identify him.

Further reading on F&O:

Below is a

September 3 

statement released by the Canadian arm of the Kurdi family, on their Facebook page In Memory Of Kurdi Family: 


On behalf of our family, we feel it is important to outline the details of my brother’s tragic experience in Turkey this week given some misinformation currently circulating in the media.

My brother, Abdullah Kurdi, lost his wife and two young boys yesterday while trying to cross the 4 km journey from Turkey to the Greek Island of Kos, in a desperate attempt to survive.This tragic journey has now become the focus of the international media, finally bringing to light issues that need the global community’s immediate attention.

There is an innate fear among the Syrians living in Turkey who are without many of the basic necessities of life. The concern among refugees is that a camp is being mobilized on the border of Syria to push millions of displaced refugees back into their country where there is threat of imminent danger. This has led to many Syrians attempting a risky journey across the water to Western Europe. These are acts of desperation.

One thing that’s become clear is that the international community so far has failed and drastic measures are needed right now. The tragedy my family has endured in fleeing Syria, just trying to survive and yesterday’s events have highlighted the desperate need for greater humanitarian efforts by all countries. Sadly, my family’s story is one of many.

The tragedy my family has endured in fleeing Syria with yesterday’s events have highlighted the desperate need for greater humanitarian efforts by all countries. Sadly, my family’s story is one of many.

We began a formal process to bring over all of my siblings and their families early in 2015. However, due to financial constraints and a complex application process requiring numerous international documents, we were forced to do one at a time.

The first of the applications was done on behalf of our older brother Mohammad and his family, as his children are of school age. Abdullah’s application was to be submitted upon approval of the first.

I gathered a group of sponsors including family and friends and we filed a sponsorship application in early 2015. It was rejected in June as it was impossible for my family, as it is for many Syrians, to get the necessary documents that would satisfy the Canadian refugee entry requirements. Some of the documentation required for this process included: a valid Syrian passport and a Turkish work permit (Mavi Kimlik card), which are simply not available to Syrians in that region.

Without the documents above, the Canadian application was formally declined. The same week, in despair, my older brother, Mohammad, left for Germany as they had opened their borders to the refugees.

When Abdullah learned about our brother’s rejected Canadian application, it became clear he also had to find a way to reach Western Europe. There was no hope of collecting the appropriate paperwork for his family to be successful with an entry to Canada.It is too late to save Abdullah’s family. However, it is clear that the international community needs to do more to help the refugees of this war-torn region.

I respectfully implore our government to work immediately to improve the application procedure based on the current humanitarian crisis. We will continue our efforts to sponsor and bring our family into Canada into safety and hope that the UN and the respective governments around the world will work together to address these issues that have existed long before my family’s tragic loss this week.

It is now close to home in the West and it’s clear that people want action by their leaders.People are dying because they can’t get basic human essentials, are afraid for their lives and are fleeing to countries they hope will open their borders.

Please let’s use our collective voices to make change and demand that our world leaders take action now to pass emergency refugee measures. Let’s put an end to this suffering. Our hearts have been broken.

I want to thank all of those who have reached out to our family during this difficult time and for the outpouring of support and kindness.


Tima Kurdi



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