This is a shocking image.
And so it should be.
We have no right not to be shocked.
My heart has been numb with the horror of it since I first saw it shared on Twitter this morning, under the now viral #KiyiyaVuranInsanlik—“Humanity washed ashore.” For this is truly what the image of this poor little boy who drowned while his family fled Syria is: a symbol of the wreckage of our humanity, washed up on the shore.
One commenter, amongst others, expressed his displeasure at the fact that the picture had been shared around so widely. He said he was shocked. Someone else replied, “You are meant to be.”
Little Aylan Kurdi, as he was named by Turkish media earlier, was only 3 years old. His 5-year-old brother also died trying to reach the Greek island of Kos.
Despite our shock, we need to look long and hard at him. We need to make ourselves look because we have turned away too long. Long enough for this to happen.
We need to remind ourselves that there is no difference between him and our own children—or nephews or little brothers or neighbours’ kids.
My eldest son started school today. He is only a year older than Aylan and almost as old as his big brother was. Our neighbours’ daughter spent the morning with us today. She is only a year younger than Aylan. In another reality, they might have played happily together. My youngest son would have crawled after them, trying to keep up.
And this is why @oliskehan’s tweet hit me hardest.
I am a mother and this could have been my child. If not for the accident of my birthplace and those of generations before me.
I am sure his mother loved the smell of his hair as much as I love that of my children’s. I am sure his laughter was a beautiful sound. I am sure he loved to run, or kick a ball. I am sure he adored his big brother as much as my youngest adores his.
As mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends, neighbours—but most of all as human beings—we should be shocked to the core. Shocked enough to be moved to action. Not so that we don’t have to look at another picture like this, but so that another child does not have to end up in this picture.
It is not acceptable. It is not enough to look away. In doing so, we are pushing him, his brother, his family and his countrymen back to sea.
No excuse, no reason–economic, social or otherwise—cuts it here. We must act. We must do more.
We cannot call ourselves mindful, enlightened or compassionate if we do not. We cannot even call ourselves human. For the foundation of humanity. The very reason we have survived and thrived (sometimes) as a species is that we have cooperated. We have helped one another.
Yes, we have done terrible things to one another too, and we still do. Every day. But we are fundamentally good. And we all need each other.
If it were me and my children crossing the sea, I would hope for a hand—a human being—to be there to reach for should I go under. There was no-one to reach for Aylan. And I will never forgive myself, or us for not being there. This is my problem. This is our problem. We need to reach out our hands.
Between us, I am convinced, there is more that we can do.
For now, as a UK citizen, I have signed this petition to ask the UK government to do more—to accept more asylum seekers and increase support for refugee migrants in the UK. If my taxes go up as a result, I’ll gladly pay.
I am also going to keep writing about this.
Because right now, I can see nothing more important to speak about.
I don’t care about narcissists. I don’t care about what the moon or the stars are doing. I don’t care about bare-faced selfies or positive body image or any of those #firstworldproblems. Not right now.
Not until children like Aylan no longer have to be washed ashore to get my attention.
And then, I’m going to do anything else I can think of. Anything at all.
Because doing nothing is no longer acceptable.
Author: Khara-Jade Warren
Image: Screenshot from Twitter feed