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Pope Francis meets the father of the dead refugee boy Alan Kurdi on a trip to Iraq

Updated March 8, 2021, 10:53 a.m.

  • On the last day of his trip to Iraq, Pope Francis met the father of the dead refugee boy Alan Kurdi.
  • The photo of the toddler, whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey in 2015, went around the world at the height of the refugee crisis.

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On the last evening of his visit to Iraq, Pope Francis met the father of the dead refugee boy Alan Kurdi. The 84-year-old head of the Catholics spoke to Abdullah Kurdi in Erbil on Sunday. A photo released by the Vatican shows the Pope giving his blessing to the Father. “The Pope spoke to Abdullah Kurdi for a long time and could hear the pain of a father who lost his family,” declared the Vatican.

The picture of the dead Syrian refugee boy went around the world in September 2015. The three-year-old drowned in the Mediterranean while fleeing to Greece, and his body was found on a beach near the Turkish resort of Bodrum, face in the sand. Photos of the small corpse on the beach and on the arms of a police officer caused consternation worldwide and became a symbol of the refugee crisis.

In addition to Alan, his mother and brother also died

Alan and his family of Kurdish origin had fled the Islamic State (IS) jihadist militia in the Syrian city of Kobane. On the Turkish coast, the Kurdis boarded a rubber dinghy to reach a Greek Aegean island and thus the EU. But the overloaded boat capsized, in addition to Alan, his mother and brother died. The family actually wanted to emigrate to Canada, now the father lives in Northern Iraq.

In 2019 the German aid organization Sea-Eye renamed its refugee rescue ship “Professor Albrecht Penck” to “Alan Kurdi” in memory of the little boy. Alan’s father and aunt also attended the christening of the ship. With the renaming, Sea-Eye wanted to remind people what the dispute over the refugees in the Mediterranean is really about: the people “who drown in the Mediterranean every day” and the pain of their relatives. (afp / fra)

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