Horrifying story behind photo of drowned boy Alan Kurdi that shocked the world

Alan Kurdi was just three-years-old when images of his tiny body, washed up on a beach off the coast of Turkey shocked the world.

The little boy lost his life, along with his mum, Rehana, and older brother, Galip, in a desperate attempt to flee his war torn homeland of Syria.

The family had already moved several times from their home on Damascus to Kobani in a bid to escape the civil war that was ravaging their country.

They had set up home in Turkey, where Alan's father, Abdullah, was working but when fighting eased in the city odf Kobani, they returned.

But the peace was short-lived and when ISIS attacked their home Abdullah knew he had to do whatever he could to get his family to safety.

Alan's aunt, Tima, was already living in Canada and the family applied for asylum there.

But their claim for refugee sponsorship was rejected and the family were becoming increasingly desperate.

Tima, speaking to History's Photos The Changed The World, reveals how she was key in the family's plan to travel illegally to mainland Europe.

She said: "They were sleeping in a factory and I tried to bring my family to Canada. I tried my best but they make it hard for them to enter.

"I gave my brother $5,000 dollars to pay the smugglers."

The Kurdi family had paid for passage across the narrowest section of water between Turkey and mainland Europe.

The last message Tima had from her brother was on August 31, 2015, telling her they were getting ready to set off.

She said: "The dinghy was very small, it should have hit six people, max, but there were between 11 and 13 people on board.

"Abdullah asked how they were all going to fit and the smugglers said everyone would fit.

"He and Rehani talked and said it was a very calm night and within 20 to 30 minutes they will be on the other side, so they said 'let's do it'."

But just five minutes into the journey, the problems started.

Tima said: "It was calm for a few minutes but when the first wave hit, everyone panicked, then the second wave hit and the boat flipped upside down.

"In the blink of an eye, the sea swallowed them all. Abdullah tried everything to save them."

The following morning, the world woke up to the image of tiny Alan, dressed like any other toddler, lying face down on the golden sands of the Turkish beach.

He could have been sleeping – but his tiny body had paid the price of a war that was out of his control and his family's desperate bid to flee.

The only surviving member of the Kurdi family was father, Abdullah.

In Canada, Tima was told of the tragedy by her sister in Turkey.

And then her husband found the image of her three-year-old nephew online.

Heartbroken Tima said: "The picture was a wak up call to the world. There are thousands of families and children dying and we are all silent."

In the months following Alan's tragic death, the world finally realised the gravity of the situation in Syria.

Canada allowed 25,000 Syrian families to flee there within three months of Alan's death.

And Germany opened its doors to desperate people fleeing their war torn countries.

Even Alan's father, Abdullah, gained some comfort from the impact his son's death and the devastating image of his body had on the plight of refugees.

Tima said: "Abdullah said 'look at what my boy is doing, look at what he's done'.

"It's so heartbreaking but thank God it moved people at last."

But the image of Alan's body was repeated almost exactly on the US and Mexico border when a photo of a father and daughter, drowned, was beamed around the world.

Tima said: "You can't close the door. These people are facing danger and death and you are building a fence."

  • Photos That Changed The World: The Drowned Boy is on History at 10.30pm tonight.

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