That Heartbreaking Photo of Alan Kurdi Was Taken a Year Ago. It Still Matters

2 minute read

A year has passed since Alan Kurdi, a 3-year-old Syrian refugee, drowned on a Turkish beach. His family had fled war, looking for peaceful and better lives in the West. Their dreams were crushed when the boat carrying them from Turkey to Greece capsized in the early hours of Sept. 2, 2015.

The gut-wrenching photograph of his lifeless body lying, face down, on a beach, stirred the world. After the image, taken by Nilüfer Demir, was shared on social media and across the front pages of hundreds of newspapers, public outcry contributed to Europe’s leaders promising more compassionate immigration policies. “We will fulfill our moral responsibilities,” said the U.K.’s then-Prime Minister David Cameron.

A year later, many of those promises seem to have been forgotten.

Barbed-wire fences have risen on Europe’s eastern borders and refugee camps grow larger as hundreds of thousands of migrants continue to make the dangerous Mediterranean crossing. In the first eight months of this year, more than 3,000 of those people have perished at sea — considerably more than in the same period in 2015.

And so Demir’s photograph of the little boy with blue shorts and a red shirt will remain iconic, engraved in our collective memory. It will continue to tell the story of a family that fled the war engulfing their country, hoping to join relatives in the safety of Canada. And it will continue to be a symbol of all the children who lost their lives on that journey to freedom.

In this video, produced by Paul Moakley, we take a look back at how the heartbreaking photograph of Alan Kurdi was made.

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