British Columbia

Charlie Hebdo cartoon on Alan Kurdi is 'disgusting,' says aunt

French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has sparked controversy once again with a cartoon, this time suggesting that drowned Syrian refugee boy Alan Kurdi, had he grown up, would have been like the sexual attackers in Cologne, Germany, on New Year's Eve.

Cartoon suggests drowned refugee boy would have grown up to be a 'groper'

What would Alan Kurdi have become if he had grown up? Charlie Hebdo cartoon suggests he would have been like one of the men who abused women in Cologne on New Year's Eve. (Twitter)

The aunt of drowned Syrian refugee boy Alan Kurdi says a controversial new cartoon from French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is "disgusting."

"I hope people respect our family's pain. It's a big loss to us. We're not the same anymore after this tragedy. We're trying to forget a little bit and move on with our life. But to hurt us again, it's not fair," said Tima Kurdi from her home in Port Coquitlam, B.C. 

The cartoon suggests that Alan Kurdi, had he grown up, would have been like the sexual attackers in Cologne, Germany, on New Year's Eve. 

Kurdi, 3, drowned off Turkey as his Syrian refugee family was attempting to reach Greece. A startling image of his body washed up on the shore pricked the world's conscience about the plight of Syrian refugees. 

The Charlie Hebdo cartoon translated from French to English reads: "Migrants, What would little Aylan have become if he had grown up? A bum groper in Germany." The accompanying cartoon depicts animal-like migrants chasing after women.

Tima Kurdi said she hadn't yet spoken with Abdullah Kurdi, Alan Kurdi's father, in Kurdistan, but she's concerned about how he'll react when he sees it.

"I'm sure it will hurt him a lot. I was in tears when I was reading about it, so I'm worried about Abdullah," she said.

Kurdi said her advice is to simply ignore the cartoon. 

"It's disgusting, but everyone has their opinion," she said. "They like to express their feelings, and they've done it before. I hope they won't do it again." 

The sexual attacks in Cologne have largely been blamed on foreigners. Authorities say the attackers, mostly men, gathered at Cologne's central train station on New Year's Eve. Some of them broke off into small groups that groped and robbed women.

Outrage on social media

The cartoon has sparked outrage among many Canadians who voiced their opinions on social media. Canada has committed to settling 25,000 refugees by March 1. 

History of controversy

This isn't the first time Charlie Hebdo has sparked debate about freedom of speech with its controversial cartoons.

Last year, the magazine depicted Kurdi under the caption: "So close to his goal…" The image also shows a billboard featuring a character who resembles Ronald McDonald that reads: "Two children's menus for the price of one."

Another cartoon includes a caption that says: "Proof that Europe is Christian. Christians walk on water … Muslim kids sink."

With files from Tamara Baluja


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?