I know what I write here does you no good. You are gone from this world that
I write to you for selfish reasons. I write because I saw you washed up,
alone, on a distant beach in Turkey. Seeing you has made me reflect about what humanity
has done to you.
Many saw you. Like me many cried for you. We felt our hearts grow heavy and
sink as we thought of you scared, confused and in pain as the sea took
Yet we also felt shame. Shame for ourselves, shame for our species, shame
that we are not decent people as we suppose ourselves to be.
Some of us will be moved to action. Most will be moved to strong words
I wish I could tell you that your death will move the hearts of the world. I
wish I could say that the politicians in Europe and at the UN will at last
agree to actually lead and do the right thing. I wish that I could say that all
the racists and demagogues who demonized you, your family and those desperately
seeking a new home will fall silent and that the borders and arms of the men
who guard them will open.
I wish to tell you this and perhaps one day I will. Yet fear is strong in
this world you walked in for three years. These days, it seems to be all
that drives us.
Fear dominates too many grownups, especially those with the most peace and
wealth to share. We who have so much are terrified of losing even a tiny
portion of what we have. We have so much to spare but we are selfish,
petty and protectionist.
When we see those in need pounding on our doors we spend money we could have
used to feed you on walls to keep you out. Never mind that the walls are
Instead of making sure you and your family could have joined your aunty in
Canada, we denied you.
Why? Because we don’t want to lose anything we have, especially to people
who don’t look like us, speak like us, and share the same faith as us. We
didn’t want to feed you, clothe you, and unlock the doors of our schools to you
because of who your parents were and because of where you were born.
We know better than to lump you with those terrible men in black who drove
your family and four million others to flee for their lives, but we still label
you and all your people as terrorists because it made it easier for us to push
For this, I am truly sorry. You didn’t deserve to be rejected. You didn’t
deserve to live all your three years on the run, in camps. Your hometown, Kobani,
didn’t deserve to be pounded into dust by ISIS shells and American jets. Your
nation didn’t deserve a president who mowed down ordinary people when they
demanded their rights. 11 million of your fellow Syrians didn’t deserve to
become homeless when the soldiers and the rebels fought each other for their country’s
future, never stopping to realize that they were extinguishing an entire
generation in the process.
We shed tears for you now Aylan, but we had none when your country collapsed
into brutality. Our eyes were completely dry as we watched the camps in Turkey
and Lebanon swell year after year. And not nearly enough of us shared photos of
people like you stranded at sea when they tried to escape.
This hits me especially hard Aylan. It hits me because I was a guest in
Syria. I saw your homeland when it was still beautiful. I walked among the
ancient sites of Damascus, Hama and Kerak. I ate shawarma in the Old City and
sipped pomegranate juice. I took a bath and got a massage in a Hamam and I
talked with your people about your world and what you wanted from it. I saw
children like you playing without fear in the streets.
Oh, Aylan how I wish you could have seen this beautiful Syria. All you knew
of your homeland in three years of life was ruins.
It was a glorious sight Aylan, with glorious generous, hospitable people.
The fact that my countrymen and those who share my privileged Western, first
world life could not show you, a baby, the same hospitality and the same
openness is a stain on us.
I pray that we become better people and that we cease to be ruled by fear. I
hope that your memory rises from the depths and finally pushes us to welcome
those who come after you with warm embraces.
If we do not than we, as people, as human beings, are lost and we never
deserved to share this world with you in the first place.