Dear Aylan’s Mum
When you woke up this morning did you have a premonition? Did a shiver go down your spine as you wondered whether your family would make it through the day? Did you step on that boat, herding your two lively boys, who were the same age as my sons, and have any inkling that you wouldn’t make it to the other side? That the water beneath your feet would become your grave?
How long had you been travelling for? Did you leave your home village, Kobani, just that morning, or had it taken a few days to get to the boat that would kill you and your sons? Were they tired? Were you glad to get them on the boat so that you could sit down for a few moments to process the momentous thing you had done?
Was it your idea, or your husband’s? To leave your Syrian home, maybe forever, to seek an uncertain future in a hostile land. Did you argue?
Or was it so horrific in your home town of Kobani that you were glad to leave? Did you sit down on that boat, tired and relieved that you were finally safe, away from war-torn Syria, that you and your family were going to be looked after on the shores of Europe?
When the boat started to sink were your children frightened? Did you try to stay strong for them or did you panic? Did they go under the water first, or did you?
Had you ever learned to swim? Had your children? Which child did you hold onto and which one did you have to let go first? Was your husband there? Was he trying to hold onto all of you? Did you go down with your boys, before Aylan was washed away from you, and onto that foreign shore?
You dressed him well, his clothes held fast. The blue shorts and the red t-shirt were just the right size, even the water couldn’t drag them off. You took care choosing his shoes. I saw they had sturdy soles and velcro fasteners. Had Aylan learned how to put on his shoes himself already, or did you slip them on still? Did you pat his shoes and smile at him when you’d finished putting them on, like I do with my three-year-old? Did he try to run off mid-shoeing like my three-year-old?
Aylan’s Mum, I’m so sorry.
I’m so sorry that we have done nothing for so many years. I’m sorry you had to make the decision to leave your home and get on that boat.
How many nights did you spend in your home, feeling unsafe, wondering when it would stop, whether you would be next, where you could run to that you would be cared for?
How many of your friends, family and neighbours died before you made the decision to leave?
I’m so sorry that I yelled at my three-year-old son this afternoon, that I complained of being tired and I just wanted him to go to bed. I’m so sorry that I wasn’t more grateful. My son is alive. He is safe and he is tucked up in his warm bed. I can hear him snoring.
I want you to know, the police officer who lifted your son, Aylan, from that beach, he seemed to do so gently. I only saw pictures but that’s how it seemed. I want you to know, I think they’ll look after your son Aylan, now that nothing can be done for him.
I can only hope that we’ll look after the sons of your friends and family and neighbours better than we have looked after your son, Aylan’s Mum.
We, who have so much – safety, security, money, peace – living, breathing three-year-old sons. We did nothing.
I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry.
Refugees are people, too. They are our sons, our mothers, our friends, our family and our neighbours. Please, don’t let Aylan’s death be in vain. Make this your call to action to do something. Speak out. Read this wonderful article about Five practical ways you can help refugees and do something today.