British Columbia

Alan Kurdi's family holds memorial in Vancouver today

A memorial for the three-year-old boy whose death turned the world's attention to the Syrian refugee crisis will be held in Vancouver today.

Photo of young Syrian refugee whose lifeless body was found on beach shocked the world

Alan Kurdi's aunt would like her nephew remembered as he was, smiling, in this photograph. (Tima Kurdi/Facebook)

A memorial for the three-year-old boy whose death turned the world's attention to the Syrian refugee crisis will be held in Vancouver today.

The memorial at Simon Fraser University— hosted by Alan Kurdi's aunt Tima — is attracting worldwide attention online.

At least 18 other "Refugees Welcome" rallies are planned across Canada, from Victoria to Fredericton.

On Sunday in Victoria and Vancouver, protesters plan to demand an overhaul of Canadian immigration and refugee policies. Migrant rights groups are calling for answers about how a family's dream of a new life ended with three of its members drowning.

The image of the lifeless boy, limp in the sand on a Turkish beach, seems almost peaceful at first glance. But the reality of Alan Kurdi's tragic death — and that of his mother and brother — spawned a collective wail from people around the world.

'The world is going to change'

"Because of them, probably the world is going to change and those refugee like me, myself, they will have hope." the boy's father told his sister Friday, taking solace in the symbol his child has become.

Alan Kurdi drowned and was found washed ashore after the boat he was in, loaded with refugees fleeing the bloody Syrian war, capsized on the way to Greece. 

Alan, 3, his brother Ghalib, 5 and the boy's mother Rehanna, drowned.

"Those kids, those angels, break everybody's heart ... all this government people like us, they have kids, they have family ... and I'm sure this is something they don't like to happen anymore to anybody," Tima Kurdi, the boy's aunt said on Friday.

Alan Kurdi and his older brother Ghalib, seen in an undated family photo, drowned along with their mother while trying to reach Greece after fleeing Syria. (Tima Kurdi/Canadian Press)

The surviving father, Abdullah Kurdi, was flown to Syria by the Turkish government to bury his family on Friday.

For that, his sister was grateful.

"[Abdullah] said they put them in a beautiful coffin."

Tima, who lives Coquitlam B.C., described her brother's need to be near his boys for the funeral.

"His place is going to be beside the coffin. He said he just want to feed them, give them some water if they are thirsty, give them some food — that's what he want to do until he die."

Shattered by the loss, the family is taking some solace in the news that four men now face charges in connection with the capsized boat that led to the drownings.

Today she braces herself for another emotional wringing, a memorial set for 2 p.m. PT at Simon Fraser University's Harbour Centre in Vancouver, which is attracting worldwide attention.

'Need the world to step in'

"We need the world to step in," said Tima Kurdi.

She says the family was fleeing Kobani, a town in Syria, after Islamic State militants beheaded her sister-in-laws' relatives. Kurdi described the trip as the "only option" left for the family to have a better life in Germany or Sweden.

Another brother had applied to Canada for refugee status, but was declined, said Kurdi, who appealed to Canada to fix the process that hinders many refugees.

"I respectfully implore our government to work immediately to improve the application procedure based on the current humanitarian crisis ... these issues that have existed long before my family's tragic loss this week." she said on Facebook.

Four Syrians were arrested Friday in the case.

Prosecutors claim the men took money to try to smuggle refugees to the Greek island of Kos.

They're accused of "conscious negligence" in connection with 12 drownings of people who were on the same boat.

Note: Alan Kurdi's name has been reported as Aylan. However, the correct spelling is Alan.


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