ISTANBUL — The father of Galip and Aylan Kurdi, the young refugee boys from Syria whose drowning off a Turkish beach has touched a global nerve, said Thursday that his family had paid smugglers more than $2,000 for a voyage to a Greek island in a 15-foot boat that was quickly upended by five-foot waves. His wife also drowned.
“The waves were high, the boat started swaying and shaking. We were terrified,” said the father, Abdullah Kurdi, 40, a Syrian Kurd from the town of Kobani near the Turkish border. “I rushed to my kids and wife while the boat was flipping upside down. And in a second we were all drowning in the water.”
Mr. Kurdi, who said his family had long been seeking to emigrate to Canada, spoke in a telephone interview arranged by local officials from Turkey’s Mugla Province, where he was completing paperwork for the bodies of his wife, Rehan, 27; Galip, 5; and Aylan, 3; to be returned to Kobani for a funeral.
Photos of Aylan’s body lying face down on a Turkish beach were widely circulated on social media on Wednesday, escalating anger and frustration over the failure to help desperate families from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa fleeing war and mayhem.

Choking back emotion as he spoke, Mr. Kurdi described how he had flailed about while trying to find his children as his wife held onto the capsized boat.
“I started pushing them up to the surface so they could breathe,” he said. “I had to shift from one to another. I think we were in the water for three hours trying to survive.”
He watched helplessly as one exhausted child drowned, he said, then he pushed the other toward the mother, “so he could at least keep his head up.”
Mr. Kurdi then apologized, saying he could no longer speak, ending the conversation.

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Turkish news agencies reported Thursday that the police had detained four Syrians suspected of involvement in arranging the passage of the boat that capsized with the Kurdi family. In all, 12 people drowned in the capsizing.
Canadian news organizations reported Thursday that a …Read More