‘He wants to stay…next to them’: Alan Kurdi’s father buries his wife and two sons in hometown they fled

KUCUK KENDIRLI, Turkey — The Syrian man who survived a capsizing during a desperate voyage from Turkey to Greece buried his wife and two sons on Friday in their hometown of Kobane, returning them to the conflict-torn Syrian Kurdish region they had fled.

With the burial of 3-year-old , 5-year-old Ghalib, and their mother, Rehanna, Abdullah Kurdi abandoned any plans of leaving his homeland again.

“He only wanted to go to Europe for the sake of his children,” said Suleiman Kurdi, an uncle of the grieving father. “Now that they’re dead, he wants to stay here in Kobane next to them.”

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The haunting image of Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach focused the ’s attention on the wave of migration fueled by war and deprivation.

Handout / The Canadian PressHandout / The Canadian PressAlan Kurdi

The three bodies were flown to a city near Turkey’s border with Syria, from where police-protected funeral vehicles made their way to the border town of Suruc and crossed into Kobane. Legislators from Turkey accompanied Abdullah Kurdi to Kobane. Journalists and well-wishers were stopped at a checkpoint some 3 kilometres from the border.

Scores of casually dressed mourners clustered around as the bodies were laid in the dry, bare earth of the Martyrs Cemetery. Clouds of dust rose as dirt was shovelled over the graves.

Some graves in the cemetery were haphazardly marked out with borders of concrete blocks.

Alan’s body was discovered on a Turkish beach in sneakers, blue shorts and a red shirt on Wednesday after the small rubber boat he and his family were in capsized. They were among 12 migrants who drowned off the Turkish coast of Bodrum that day.

The route between Bodrum in Turkey and Kos, just a few kilometres, is one of the shortest from Turkey to the Greek islands, but it remains dangerous. Hundreds of people a day try to cross it despite the well-documented risks.

AFP / Stringer / Getty ImagesAFP / Stringer / Getty ImagesAbdullah Kurdi cries during his family's funeral in Kobane.

Abdullah Kurdi said the overloaded boat flipped over moments after the captain, described as a Turkish man, panicked and abandoned the vessel, leaving Abdullah as the de facto commander of a small boat overmatched by high seas.

In a police statement later leaked to the Turkish news agency Dogan, Abdullah Kurdi gave a different account, denying that a smuggler was aboard. However, smugglers often instruct migrants that if caught they should deny their presence.

Abdullah’s sister Tima Kurdi, who immigrated to in 1992, sent money to her brother while he and his family were in Turkey. She hoped to bring him to , but was first trying to get another brother, Mohammed, and his family into the country. “I decided on my older brother first,” she said. “I told (Abdullah) … I cannot sponsor him, so he decided to go (to Europe) by himself.”

Citizenship and Immigration officials say they received a refugee application from Mohammed Kurdi, but not one from Abdullah Kurdi.

With files from Postmedia

THE CANADIAN PRESS/HOTHE CANADIAN PRESS/HOAlan, left, and his brother Ghalib Kurdi are seen in an undated family handout photo courtesy of their aunt, Tima Kurdi. Alan, Ghalib, and their mother Rehanna died as they tried to reach Europe from Syria.
AFP Photo / Stringer / Getty ImagesAFP Photo / Stringer / Getty ImagesThe coffins of Alan Kurdi, his brother, and mother at their funeral in Kobane.
AP Photos / Emrah GurelAP Photos / Emrah GurelTurkish soldiers take position on a road near Suruc on the border with Syria as a convoy of vehicles with Abdullah Kurdi, the Syrian man who survived a capsizing during a desperate voyage from Turkey to Greece, takes the bodies of his wife and two sons back to the Syrian Kurdish region they fled, to bury them in their hometown of Kobane.

About Mehmet Guzel, The Associated Press