'We all want peace': Tima Kurdi speaks in Moncton

The aunt of Alan Kurdi, a Syrian boy who drowned in 2015 and became the face of the Syrian refugee crisis, spoke in Moncton on Saturday night.

Kurdi is the aunt of Alan Kurdi, a Syrian boy who drowned in 2015 and became the face of the refugee crisis

Tima Kurdi spoke to an audience of around 100 people about writing her book, The Boy on the Beach: My Family's Escape from Syria and Our Hope for a New Home. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

EDITOR'S NOTE (GRAPHIC WARNING): This story contains a graphic photograph of a young boy who died, an image some viewers may find disturbing. It is at the bottom of the story, after the last paragraph. We want to give readers the option to not scroll down and to click away from the story if they don't want to see the image.

Syrians Ahlam Kaed, her husband Bashar Hamdan and their six children were refugees in Jordan when the photo of Alan Kurdi, a drowned Syrian boy on a beach, garnered international attention and galvanized nations to do something about the Syrian refugee crisis.

A few years later, they settled in Canada and on Saturday, they brought their one-month-old son along to hear the boy's aunt, Tima Kurdi, speak at Moncton's théâtre l'Escaouette as part of the Frye Festival.

"We were in it, and part of it," said Kaed of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Alan and Ghalib Kurdi. The boys drowned with their mother while trying to cross from Turkey to Europe. (Tima Kurdi)

While holding his newborn, Hamdan said hearing Tima Kurdi speak of getting the call that Alan, his brother Ghalib and their mother Rehan had all drowned in an attempt to cross to Greece made him think of his family.

"You feel emotional, but of course Alan's story is one of 100,000 stories," he said. "Of course, we were one of those [stories] … We want someone to put an end to it. Enough killing, enough destruction, enough."

Tima Kurdi spoke to an audience of around 100 people about writing her book, The Boy on the Beach: My Family's Escape from Syria and Our Hope for a New Home.

A few people in the audience cried when she described the guilt she feels because she sent her brother the money to pay the smuggler.

"It's Syria's story," said Jalal Almhana, who was attending the talk with his niece, Maria Almhana.

"It's a lot of stress. Every word she said, I heard it from every mother, Syrian mother. It's a lot of sad stories. It's hard to listen to her actually, you can't resist expressing your emotion."

Jalal Almhana and his niece Maria Almhana said they're glad to see someone speak out about the refugee crisis and raise awareness. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

Maria Almhana, who moved to Moncton from Syria in September, said while it was difficult to hear the retelling, she was glad someone was spreading awareness. She said if people can take one thing away from seeing Tima Kurdi talk, it's not to generalize refugees.

"This is the real Syrian woman, I would love for people to know who is Syrian, it's not to [generalize] for all and take the bad image of Syrian," she said.

Moncton was the third stop in an eight-city book tour Tima Kurdi is doing.

"It's [a] hard story to talk about, and to say it over and over again," she said. "I want this image to be a permanent reminder in people's heart and I want the story of the boy on the beach to bring awareness so we can, all of us, we can help each other in any way."

At Moncton’s théâtre l'Escaouette, a slideshow of Tima Kurdi's life before the war ran on a loop. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

She said Alan Kurdi's story is one of many.

"There is lots of, millions of others who suffer and to continue after the image. This is to me, is unacceptable because I've seen it with my own eyes," she said.

"Our family is no different from anybody, we all want peace, and the refugees want peace."

Hamdan said he still has family back in Syria whom he worries about daily.

"There are many stories that are buried. Children under rubble ... under the shelling, and no one knows about them," he said.

A Turkish police officer stands next to Alan Kurdi's dead body on the shore in Bodrum, southern Turkey, on Sept. 2, 2015. (AFP/Getty Images)

About the Author

Hadeel Ibrahim

Hadeel Ibrahim is a CBC reporter based out of Fredericton and Moncton. She can be reached at hadeel.ibrahim@cbc.ca