Somebody’s Daughter, Somebody’s Son.
For months, I’ve seen and heard news reports about refugees fleeing war-torn Syria. Daily pictures of families packed into boats, total chaos at train stations and mass distress at borders.
It’s often difficult to process. Difficult to make sense of just what is happening. And why it is happening. It’s so far removed from our daily lives that it just doesn’t seem real.
I already knew that people were dying or rather that people are dying as they seek a better life in Europe. I feel ashamed writing this because I knew and yet I ignored it. I’d probably heard it time and again on the news but turned over when it was time for the CBeebies Bedtime Song. How very lucky we are to be able to turn the channel over, to gather our happy and healthy babies in our arms and wave goodnight to Charlie Bear at the end of a lovely day.
But today there was no switching off.
Today I have struggled to come to terms with the picture of three-year-old Alan Kurdi whose tiny body was washed up on a beach in Turkey. Today I have witnessed outrage on social media from people who don’t think this picture should have been shared. People who weren’t expecting to see a photo of a drowned boy between a post about make-up contouring and a wedding selfie.
They didn’t want to see it.
They would rather not have seen it.
They wish they hadn’t seen it.
But I’m glad I saw it. Because it brought it home. Alan was the same age as my boy, he was a similar size to my boy, he was wearing similar clothes to my boy. He drowned alongside his mother Rehan and big brother Galip, who was five. His grief-stricken father, Abdullah, has since spoken of his desire to lie in a grave with his wife and his beautiful babies.
No amount of shitty CBeebies can make that go away.
I can’t turn the image off. I can’t get it out of my head. It’s sitting behind my eyes when I close them and now instead of writing a mildly amusing but ultimately fucking valueless blog about the perils of weaning I’m writing this with a lump in my throat and a sadness in my heart.
I’m not politically sharp enough to write a letter to David Cameron. But my heart tells me that the greatest risk to our nation, over and above the ‘swarms of migrants' descending on our shores, over and above the UK becoming a ‘magnet’ for such 'migrants,' over and above our prejudice towards people whose lives we will never truly understand, is the risk that we’ll have to live with the human tragedy of failing to allow people sanctuary in their hour of need.
An hour of need so dark and desperate, so full of unspeakable horrors, that parents are prepared to load their vulnerable children into boats that may never make the shore.
I may not know a lot about war-torn Syria or indeed our current ‘refugee quota’ but I know that people are dying trying to reach safety and I’m finding it hard to understand how we are letting this happen.
I’m not starting a petition. I’m not creating a call to action. But after months of doing absolutely nothing, of turning the channel over, of blocking it all out, I am finally seeing it. I am hearing it. I am feeling it.
Amongst the baby scan pictures and mindless celeb gossip on my newsfeed today was an article from the Guardian about genuine ways to help. Things that can help now. So, if you have been as moved as I have by what you have seen maybe take a look.
We can’t help Alan, or Galip, or Rehan. We can’t help Abdullah who has lost everything and must kiss his whole family goodnight for the last time.
But we might be able to help others who are just like them. Who are just like us.
Abdullah described his boys as the most beautiful in the world and they were. They were his babies and I’m so very sorry we couldn’t save them.
It's remarkably sad that it took a photo this harrowing to wake up the masses. I hope Alan's legacy is one of change.
Sleep tight little man.