Sky News Australia was able to speak to a woman on Friday who claims she was riding the boat from which 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi was thrown when it capsized in the Aegean Sea on 2 September. (As this goes to post, I see that Reuters spoke with another couple that confirms essentially the same story as the refugee woman’s, below.)
The world has been transfixed by the tragic image of little Aylan’s body lying lifeless in the surf. Horror at the dramatic image is credited with the decision of Western nations to take in more refugees from the war-torn Muslim world, racked with instability from Afghanistan to Northern Africa.
The narrative of the Syrian Kurdi family has never hung together very well. It quickly became clear that the father, Abdullah Kurdi, wasn’t literally fleeing a combat zone in Syria on the fateful day. His family has actually been living in a refugee camp in Turkey for some three years. Kurdi claimed he had applied for asylum in Canada, but Canada says it’s never heard of him. A relative of Abdullah Kurdi has said, among other things, that he was headed to Europe in order to have access to state-provided dental care.
But according to Zainab Abbas, a woman who was trying to get to Europe via the “people smuggling” network, Kurdi père was himself the people smuggler, and he was the one contracted to drive the boat from Turkey to a Greek island on 2 September, moving a group of paid smugglees.
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Ms. Abbas reportedly lost her own two children when the boat capsized. She is in Iraq now, awaiting word on whether she will be able to immigrate to Australia. Her story differs in key ways from the earlier narrative about Mr. Kurdi:
After the tragedy, Mr Kurdi told the media he took over steering the boat after the captain panicked and jumped ship.
But Ms Abbas said Mr Kurdi was the driver of the boat, and the man she paid to book her passage told her it would be safe because the driver was taking his wife and two children.
Apparently, Kurdi was driving dangerously enough for Ms. Abbas’s husband to warn him about it:
Ms Abbas said Mr Kurdi was speeding in the overcrowded boat, which did not have enough life jackets.
She said her husband told him to be careful just before the boat capsized, reportedly killing at least 12 people.
Kurdi asked her not to rat him out afterward:
‘He said, ‘Please don’t dob me in.’ That was in the water.’
(Ms. Abbas was speaking through an interpreter; the Australian news story has translated her words into Aussie slang. “Dob me in” means what an American would mean by “rat me out”; i.e., “don’t inform on me.”)
Look, there is a real refugee crisis, and it does require attention from Western as well as other nations.
The crisis is also being exploited by the unscrupulous in some ways, starting with the fact that, according to the UN, 72% of the migrants are men. That’s wildly disproportionate to their average 50.5% of the population in the nations they come from.
But the key to sorting all these things out is understanding accurately what’s happening. Sentimental overreaction to a story that just keeps falling further apart on closer examination is not a sound basis for any refugee resettlement policy.
We shouldn’t blame or accuse Abdullah Kurdi or other people who’ve been driven from their homes – aside from anything else, there’s no point – but avoiding that doesn’t require carelessly letting millions of people flood Europe. That’s neither a logical nor a realistic statement of alternatives.
As has been the case since January 2011, there is something Europe and the United States should do, and that’s foster the development of the Muslim nations themselves into stable, habitable countries where their people can flourish.
There was a time, in 2011, when that wouldn’t have required any military intervention at all. That time has passed, and it’s the fault of Western leaders that we didn’t do anything useful when we could have done it without using military force. Some force is now necessary, although the leadership of Obama’s America on that front will not achieve any positive results. We’re stuck with a slow-motion train wreck for now.
We can, however, at least refrain from basing our policies on a pile of lies.