He watched helplessly as one exhausted child drowned

Aylan Kurdi’s father says what happened – the tiny boat flipped in five-foot waves, and his two little boys and their mother drowned over the course of three hours.

The father of Galip and Aylan Kurdi, the young refugee boys from Syria whose drowning off a Turkish beach has touched a global nerve, said Thursday that his family had paid smugglers more than $2,000 for a voyage to a Greek island in a 15-foot boat that was quickly upended by five-foot waves. His wife also drowned.

“The waves were high, the boat started swaying and shaking. We were terrified,” said the father, Abdullah Kurdi, 40, a Syrian Kurd from the town of Kobani near the Turkish border. “I rushed to my kids and wife while the boat was flipping upside down. And in a second we were all drowning in the water.”

Choking back emotion as he spoke, Mr. Kurdi described how he had flailed about while trying to find his children as his wife held onto the capsized boat.

“I started pushing them up to the surface so they could breathe,” he said. “I had to shift from one to another. I think we were in the water for three hours trying to survive.”

He watched helplessly as one exhausted child drowned, he said, then he pushed the other toward the mother, “so he could at least keep his head up.”

Mr. Kurdi then apologized, saying he could no longer speak, ending the conversation.

He has a sister in Vancouver; she’s been trying to get them safely out for months.

The sister, Teema Kurdi, who moved to Canada about 20 years ago, told The Ottawa Citizen that she had applied for a visa that would have allowed the children and their parents to come as sponsored refugees.

“I was trying to sponsor them, and I have my friends and my neighbors who helped me with the bank deposits, but we couldn’t get them out, and that is why they went in the boat,” Ms. Kurdi, a hairdresser who lives in a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, told the newspaper. “I was even paying rent for them in Turkey, but it is horrible the way they treat Syrians there.”

Nothing was working, so the family tried the tiny boat.

Activists are sharing the photos of Aylan.

Photographs and video of Aylan’s lifeless body quickly spread across social networks in Turkey and then the rest of the world, posted by outraged observers, rights activists and reporters who suggested that the distressing images needed to be seen and could act as a catalyst for the international community to finally halt the war in Syria.

Among those who shared the images and expressed their dismay were Liz Sly, a Washington Post correspondent covering the war in Syria; Nadim Houry and Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch; David Miliband, the president of the International Rescue Committee; and activists in the Syrian city of Raqqa and living under the rule of Islamic State militants.

Then there were arguments about the ethics of sharing the photo.

There were also disagreements inside newsrooms about whether to publish or even share the images. A number of reporters argued forcefully that it was necessary to confront the public with the human toll of the war in Syria, and the impact of policies that make it difficult for refugees to find asylum in Europe. But many editors were concerned about shocking their readers and wanted to avoid the appearance of trafficking in sensational images for profit.

It’s not a sensational image though. Emotive, but not sensational. There’s a difference.

By the end of the day, there was unusual agreement among the editors of newspapers across the political spectrum in Britain who decided to feature the images on their front pages, along with calls for action from Prime Minister David Cameron.

Kim Murphy, the assistant managing editor of The Los Angeles Times for foreign and national news, said there had been a consensus among the paper’s senior editors to show the boy as he was discovered, face down on the beach.

“The image is not offensive, it is not gory, it is not tasteless — it is merely heartbreaking, and stark testimony of an unfolding human tragedy that is playing out in Syria, Turkey and Europe, often unwitnessed,” she said. “We have written stories about hundreds of migrants dead in capsized boats, sweltering trucks, lonely rail lines, but it took a tiny boy on a beach to really bring it home to those readers who may not yet have grasped the magnitude of the migrant crisis.”

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