Saturday 5 September 2015

Misleading claim about why Syrian boy drowned

A YouTube video posted yesterday by a UKIP supporter claims that the Syrian boy who was washed up on a Turkish beach drowned because ‘his father wanted new teeth.' The video has so far been viewed over 400,000 times and also posted by far-right groups.

The video shows a clip from a short Sky News interview to which has been added (not by Sky News) an opening title stating, ‘Syrian boy drowned because his Father wanted new teeth’.  

In the brief Sky interview, the boy’s aunt said that that her brother, the little boy’s father, had lost all his teeth. He would need implants, and she was trying to help him, but it would cost a lot of money which she couldn’t send in one go. She explained that the idea was that the family should go to Europe for his kids and a better future, and then they could see about fixing his teeth. 

According to news reports, the father had been kidnapped and tortured during the siege of Kobani by Islamic State or another jihadist group, and it's claimed that all of his teeth had been pulled or knocked out. (I am seeking verification of these reports)

I have watched the 2-minute video clip several times and have to ask: why does the father's need for dental treatment change anything about the story of this family's desperate bid to find a place to resettle? How can anyone conclude from this short interview that the little boy, 3-year-old Alan Kurdi, drowned because his father, Abdullah, needed his teeth fixed?

The Kurdi family, including Alan’s brother, 5-year-old Ghalib and mother, Rehanna, were trying to reach a country where they could start a new life.

There is clearly more to this story and I expect further details may be forthcoming in the coming weeks.  I am relying on information gained from several news sources to present here what I believe is a more rounded account than the one presented in the misleading title of the video.  Of course, in war the first casualty is truth; I don’t know the full details or how accurate are all the news reports.  However, common sense and humanity tells me how unlikely it is that a father would risk his family’s life just so that he could obtain dental treatment. 
Abdullah’s sister living in Canada, Tima Kurdi, sent money to him so that 'people smugglers' could be paid to arrange the perilous boat journey for the family to escape from Turkey to Greece  - a ‘good deed’ she now greatly regrets.   

She explained in a BBC interview why she sent the money, “I was doing it for their better future, for the kids, for him, for the whole family”.  In another interview published by Canada’s Huffington Post she said, "I am the one who should be at blame. I blame myself because my brother does not have money. I sent him the money to pay the smuggler. If I didn't send him the money, those people still (would be) alive."

The family were hoping eventually to start a new life in Canada as they were desperate to leave Turkey, where they had sought refuge for three years, but Turkey wouldn’t let them have exit visas.

The father, Abdullah Kurdi, had first gone on his own to Turkey for a job, leaving behind his wife and 2-year-old son Ghalib and yet-to-be-born Alan at their family home in Kobani.    But later Kobani was overrun by ISIS terrorists; a relative of the family was beheaded and the family home was hit by a mortar shell and completely destroyed.  Abdullah went to fetch his wife, Rehanna, son Ghalib and newly born Alan to flee Kobani and seek refuge back in Turkey.

Earlier this year ISIS was driven out of Kobani, but this summer ISIS resumed its attacks on the city.

In Turkey the family joined 2.5 million other Syrian refugees, representing the world’s biggest refugee population.  The circumstances in Turkey for Syrian refugees is reported to be very difficult.

According to a recent BBC report, Syrian families are forced to live on the streets and many refugees feel there is no future for them there. Large numbers consider they have no option but to take desperate, hazardous measures to escape across the sea, as eventually would the Kurdi family. 

As the Kurdi family did not have passports, they were reported to have to register at a ‘temporary protection shelter’ and were not permitted to leave the country. So the family were in a kind of limbo - unable to obtain exit visas from Turkey because they lacked passports, and unable to win asylum elsewhere because they lacked exit visas.  It appeared that if they were to leave Turkey it would have to be by illicit means.

The family wanted to escape from Turkey to find a life somewhere else, somewhere better; that’s what many refugees understandably seek to do after weeks, months and often years living in stasis as ‘displaced persons’, where conditions are tough, often with no home-life, no legitimate jobs, no future, no prospects and mostly with no legal or hopeful means of 'moving on'...

The Kurdi family made several unsuccessful attempts to be illegally ‘smuggled’ out of the country. The fourth and final attempt led to devastating circumstances this week, as the world now knows. The two little boys and their mother drowned. Only the father, Abdullah, survived.

It’s believed that the smugglers were paid almost £3,000 for the crossing; several times the cost of a flight for the entire family to Canada. But when the only means of escape from a country is illegal, there is usually no choice in the method of transport.

I fail to see how this tragic story of a war-torn desperate Syrian family trying firstly to seek safe refuge in Turkey, and then to seek a new life somewhere else, is at all demeaned, diminished or changed by the fact that the father also required dentistry.

I feel sad that a video has been distributed that tries to undermine the plight, and death, of a family caught up in the most awful, tragic circumstances.

Other articles by Jon Danzig:


Jon Danzig's speech in Germany: 'Newspaper lies can cost lives'

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→ The first casualty of war is the truth – please shareMISLEADING CLAIM ABOUT WHY SYRIAN BOY DROWNEDA YouTube video...
Posted by Jon Danzig on Saturday, 5 September 2015

→ RobinHoodUKIP blames Syrian father for deaths – please shareUKIPPER EXPLAINS WHY HE UPLOADED VIDEO BLAMING...
Posted by Jon Danzig on Monday, 7 September 2015

→ Sun and Mail misreport Muslim poll – please shareDO 1-IN-5 MUSLIMS SYMPATHISE WITH BRITS FIGHTING FOR...
Posted by Jon Danzig on Monday, 23 November 2015


  1. Your article is interesting.. Though as much as the boy's death is tragic, and you are right about that, as much the video on youtube on the sister's regrets and the comment saying it wanted new teeth has given another side to the story that wasn't told in the first place. If the FIRST motive wasn't the teeth (I don't think so to that extent indeed), I don't think the first motive was to flee an urgency of threat either.. why return to the city you flee to bury your children there in that case - it has not been seen in war history unless for religious purpose). So in the end, Im glad the video of the sister came out, because it makes journalist to realize that maybe their version of the story wasn't the right one either.
    Of course, it's less 'news' to pinpoint that he has shifted from refugee to migrant wanting a better situation than in Turkey, but saying the truth might not have been a lesser interesting subject.. you might discover that people are uch better informed now, and can appreciate those differences.. but they don't like to have had hidden details in the first place. You have to expect a moment or another the correction if you don't mention it in the first place.
    The day TV will give the correct details, maybe less showoff, but you might find that people will increase the audience they will find all the aspects for it. TV needs to get rid of it's habit to make people the way it wants.. just let them have their own opinion on complete facts.. :)

    1. Thank you for your comment Neil. I don't think it was a new revelation about the teeth. Of course Sky News was right to broadcast the interview, but the added caption by RobinHoodUKIP (whoever he is) was completely false. There was nothing in the Sky News interview to suggest that the reason the family took the perilous sea-journey from Turkey was because the father wanted his teeth replacing.

      I think maybe, unless you have been a refugee or have been close to one, it's very difficult for people to understand the enormous difficulties facing many refugees. Yes, finding a safe place to escape to is the first consideration, but then what? Many of the world's millions of refugees are stuck often for years in overcrowded living conditions, often in camps, with not enough food or water and nothing in the way of a home life. It may be 'relatively' safe compared to the nightmare situations that refugees have fled from, but it's no way to plan a future life.

      I can quite understand that the Kurdi family wanted to escape from Turkey where they felt it was impossible to build a new life again. Many of the 2.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey feel the same way. The Kurdi family could not leave Turkey as they had no exit visa. The only means of escape was an 'illegal' one.

      The fact that the father had lost his teeth - quite likely from horrible torture at the hands of Islamist terrorists - added to the family's burdens, but for someone to promote that this was the reason they took the dangerous journey by sea to Greece, based on just that 2-minute TV interview and nothing else, has done a great disservice to the world, and to humanity.

  2. I can see you are passionate about it :) ..I understand the journalist and the concern on information :). Yes I have known an Ukrainian Refugee family hosted in a Paris Hotel waiting for papers. I know their needs, frustrations and desires, and I also have seen how he got out of it. Still he was glad to be safe in that hotel room.

    The disservice of the video might depend on the original expected message in the first place...let's say the tragedy of the death of the young boy.

    May I ask a question even if it might sound strange in the first place ?

    Let's put aside all political reasons (left, right), all economic reasons, and all religious feeling aside. Let's just keep the humanitarian side that you have shown (that is to your credit), and that is : the tragedy of the death of the child that brought people to be aware.

    Consider if I had received a gift. The gift to foresee forks in the future.. Imagine a begining of two paths in the future that haven't been taken yet. The Fork being the starting point. Imagine that I have the ability to perceive the parameters that influence the fork. Among these parameters, that you could see like like 3D bells upon a quantic field, building up together according to following parameters :
    - human decisions (or definite choices) from individuals to groups of people. As long as the decision isn't taken, the bell will not produce.
    - spheres of influance of that individual or group of individual that gives a distance to consequences on the path ( in example: Tim Cook's decisions would have a lot of consequences on a path in the future whatever decision he takes, but also millions of consumers could have the same distance of impact on one path)
    - Information transmitted to individuals as well as to a collective counsciouness (or awareness)
    - an outside of the world parameter beyond our 3rd, 4th, 5th and superior dimension that can see all alternative paths, each slice of a dimension, and has the power to change whatever path depending on his decisions and desires ( as in Example a God , changing the future of a King because he cried mercy upon knowing his coming death. (That's just a functionnal example to understand the outsider parameter.)

    Now suddenly you have that gift and perceive two paths on a world scale :
    One will open the "door" to the consequence of giving many refugees (let's say nearly all of them to make everybody feel good) the hope and the decision making to come to a land where they will find a comfortable future. But for the majority (the majority's future comfort), it requires to take a risk, just like running through a minefield, where the probability states that at least one more child will die.
    The other path has an inverted curve depending on the amount of information and changes the majority's decision not to take the risk, but the sacrifice of the comfort leads to the maintenance of the children lives 'path' of the majority.

    So here's my question. If you had a small power to change parameters, which path would think best for refugees ? Or in other words, is just one Child's life worth the comfort of the entire refugees of the world if that was possible ?

    I don't say I have the right answer to that, it's personnal to your 'dimensional' sphere I would say. :)
    But it's a consideration to take in mind that even that 2 minute TV video taken in an exagerated context for a majority of viewers, will have an inverted impact on a path, with a possible beneficial consequence to others by diminishing an uncontrolled enthousiasm that might have put to jeopardy future child lifes..

    Just a thought..
    Lot's of respect, hoping that wasn't to weird to understand.. :D

    1. Hello Neil, thanks for your further comment. I didn't quite understand your question, sorry... However, let me try to answer the question I think you have in mind.

      I don't seek to help refugees only because it is a good and humanitarian gesture to fellow humans in great need. I seek for our country to help them because I also believe it to be in our self-interests too: we are part of a planet, not isolated, and such upheaval in the world has the potential to engulf us and become out of control This may be the last chance for us to try and calm down the world's worst refugee crisis, before the problem gets so large that it overwhelms the entire planet, and therefore us too.

      I agree with our Prime Minister, David Cameron, that we need to help resolve the cause of the worldwide crisis. However, I see no evidence right now that we and other strong countries are doing anything effective to settle the problems. Our ultimate goal should be to help create peace in the regions now experiencing the most obscene war and terror, so that many of the current 60-million displaced persons in the world (half of them children) can feel confident to return to their home countries and help to rebuild them, hopefully with generous help from the West.

      But to achieve peace in those regions, will quite likely involve war, to purge those countries and areas now under the control of the most determined, vicious, armed and wealthy terrorist groups quite possibly the world has ever seen. The longer we leave it, quite possibly the bigger the problem will become - just like back in the 1930s when Churchill warned us of the looming danger of the Nazis. By the time his warnings were heeded, the Nazis were so large and powerful, it took five long years of war to defeat them, and then, we and our allies only just won..

      In the meantime, with no resolution in sight, no political stomach to try and bring peace to the regions and countries (some of which we helped to bomb back to the Stone Age), millions of refugees are running for their lives. We need to help, but also to bear in mind that the longer-term solution is to help these people to return to their ravaged countries so that they can be re-built.

      I hope that explains my position sufficiently. Best wishes to you, and thank you also for your positive comments. If you are on Facebook, please come and join the lively discussions there at my new page

  3. Thank-you Jon for making your position clear. I appreciate your honesty. If we’re not looking just at the humanitarian side, then it comes to an endless debate :)

    On a journalistic view, my question was just : when babies and children will start to pile up on the shores, will it not be to late to ask the question if fueling opening immigration doors was the right way to communicate in the tragedy ?

    I wish you all the best for the future, I will have a look at your new page.. :)


  4. Maybe it wasn't just about his teeth. I'm sure it wasn't. But another thing it wasn't was a desperate Syrian family fleeing ISIS in Syria trying to get safe despite the cold-hearted West forcing them to get on dangerous boats, which is how it was presented to me on Facebook that morning the poor kid's photo was doing the rounds. I was told by the various links, memes and posts that it was my fault for not doing enough and that we should let them all in and somehow this might not have happened. Yet it turns out they left Syria years ago and were quite safe, didn't quality for asylum status according to Canada and were migrants willing to risk their lives by paying illegal smugglers to get on an unsuitable boat. That's not the same story at all and I'm angry about being made to feel guilty with lies.

    You get on a tiny boat then you're risking your kids lives. That's stupid and irresponsible. You don't just get to go any country in the world because it suits you. That's a hard fact of life I'm afraid. No countries just allow everyone to spill into their borders and provide housing etc. I feel sorry for them and I'd move myself if I could but that doesn't mean we should open our borders wholesale and if we agree on that then we have to have barriers to entry. And if people are willing to illegally get around those barriers then some of them will sadly die.

    1. Thank you for your comments, anonymous. If you have read my stories together with those from quality news sources, I fail to see how you can conclude that the family could settle in Turkey or that they wouldn't qualify for asylum status in Canada. Please don't feel guilty. Just seek the truth and then draw your own conclusions.

      We are currently experiencing the world's worst refugee crisis on record. People are not leaving their homes voluntarily for a holiday or to seek jobs elsewhere. They are being forced out of their homes and their countries. Yes, the first concern of all refugees is to find somewhere safe. But after that, then what? 'Then what' means trying to work out where to start life again if it's impossible to go back to ones home country (which, actually, most refugees want to be able to do.) Many refugees are often stuck for years in stasis, living in rotten conditions in overcrowded camps, where there is insufficient food, water, washing facilities or anything in the way of prospects.

      In Turkey there are 2.5 million Syrian refugees, many of whom are expected to live on the streets; many of whom - like the Kurdi family - are not allowed to leave the country to try and rebuild their lives somewhere more suitable, because they are refused 'exit visas'.

  5. Hi Jon . Glad to see you take this up. There have been some vile posts out there that try to downplay the Kurdi's tragedy (and of coourse what is symbolises, which is their real target. ) I think a number of your commentators don't understand the complexities of the situation in Syria. The story I have from two Syrian sources is as follows: Abdullah Kurdi originally had a small business in Damascus (reportedly a barber shop); some years ago he fell foul of the Syrian regime's security forces who took him in to custody and tortured him in a way that led to the loss of his teeth. (That's a more plausible story than the ISIS version).The authorities didn't have anything on him (they may have just swept him up because he is Kurdish - a group that is deeply discrimated against by the Syrian authoities). Because they didn't have anything on him he was able to bribe his way out of detention, but only by selling up his business. He then moved to Aleppo (which has has a large kurdish population) but that is a diivided city caught up in a civil war: so the family moved on to Kobane where Abdullah was originally from . But there the city came under attack from ISIS and the family had to flee to Turkey.
    This story represents the experience of many Syrians - multiple dislocations, losing their homes and livelihoods on the way, suffering at the hands of several repressive forces, andending up in a bleak dead-end situation with no way out except by taking enormous risks.

    1. Thank you for your supportive comments, and your very interesting information. Is there any way of verifying your information? If so, can you please provide a named, reliable source? If not, then unfortunately your information becomes one of the many of the long list of anecdotes that I cannot use because there is no verification.

    2. Hi Jon - I appreciate your reservations: they are the same ones I would have had if presented with this story cold. I wasn't expecting you to "use" the story in any particular way. I just wanted to let you know that it was out there.
      The story originates with a Syrian blogger in the US Kenan Rahmani
      Normally I would want to "triangulate" a story like this - I do have another personal source, but I'm not confident that it is independent of this one.Thus I initially hesitated to repeat it, but then the "teeth" story emerged which seemed to fit in to the pattern suggested by Rahman's account. And if you look closely there is corroboration in the published sources and circumstantial evidence.
      Its consistent with what we know about the Kurdi family's multiple movements. The Guardian reports "They left Damascus in 2012 and headed to Aleppo and, when clashes happened there, they moved to Kobani,” The Telegraph confirms the torture by the security servces: "At the beginning of the anti-Assad revolution, he was tortured by Syrian state security services, while during the Islamic State takeover of Kobane, he was arrested by Isil fanatics and beaten again, this time losing eight of his teeth". Put this together and you pretty much have Rahman's account . The only discrepancy is over who actually knocked out his teeth and the story of the bribe and loss of his business in Damascus. The former could simply be a case of misreporting by Telegraph journalist (the most likely in my view). As for the latter, certainly something highly traumatic must have happened to them in Damascus to leave an existing livelihood and relatively safe location for the uncertainty of war-torn Aleppo. Its seems more likely the the Syrian security services would have kicked him around for a while and then let him go than ISIS would (and the Telegraph is the only report to claim he was actually captured by ISIS). So the core of Rahman's story is well verified, and I think that is a ground for regarding him as a credible source for the the rest.

    3. Hello Jon,

      What is truth ?

      Aylan's father denies driving the boat despite the accusation's of a woman on the boat in the Australian Daily Telegraph

      On another news report , he was going after all for his teeth towards sweeden..

      And canadian Immigration says that he lied.

      So what kind of damage is doing a youtube channel saying that he went for his teeths now considering the dammage done to an entire Europe by defending a tragedy based on a lier ?

      The question is maybe not anymore what is truth, but Where to find truth ?



    4. Truth is a precious commodity – it is also the first casualty of war. It’s difficult to disentangle all that happened in this one incident, and the sources you have cited may not be reliable. We cannot argue with the truth, but it’s not always easy to get the full truth. In time, we may know more, as I made clear in my article above.

      This is one story; there are millions of others. Please try to see this one tragic incident in the context of a planetary disaster unfolding. Millions and millions of men, women and children are now stateless and have lost their homes, belongings, livelihood and futures.

      I know there are many out there seemingly wanting to spend all their energy trying to trip up this one story about the little boy, Alan Kurdi, who was washed up on the beach. Sadly, he was just one of many. However much some people try, our eyes cannot be diverted from the world-wide crisis now rapidly growing...

  6. Let's face it, whilst the truth may well be a casualty of war, it doesn't fayre very well in politics or the media either - and the truth may be very uncomfortable too - we can't save the world, however nice that would be, so we have to start by defining the difference between refugees and economic migrants - it's clear the example held up to the world isn't the former. Pursuing a 'save all' policy will cause civil unrest and wars, which won't help anybody... There are no happy endings to this situation.

    1. There is a fundamental difference between refugees and economic migrants, and according to most reliable sources, including the United Nations, most of those making their way to Europe across the Mediterranean are genuine refugees. We do need to be clear about the difference: economic migrants voluntarily leave their home countries to seek better circumstances in another country, and can voluntarily return at any time. Refugees cannot - they are forced to leave their home countries and cannot return. By all accounts that included the Kurdi family.

      You say that we can't save the world. However, Britain is part of this world. If we can't do 'our bit' to help resolve this world crisis, you don't think it will affect us? Britain may be an island, but we are not immune from what happens on the rest of our planet. If nothing else than for our own selfish interests, we need to play our part in helping to bring back peace and stability to the troubled regions of the world.

    2. Sorry Jon, you need to take off the blinkers, most of the people are not refugees - it's just a helpful excuse for now. Of course there is an effect on the UK, but just opening the doors will make it worse, not better. As I said, there will be no happy endings with this situation. Wringing your hands won't change the fact. I would rather we helped the many here who are already without homes, food and medical care, without bringing tens of thousands more who will displace our own population with greater demands and will most likely not integrate well. Anyway, it's impossible to argue with belief systems, so I bid you farewell and good luck with the future - my belief is it isn't going to be a happy one, with the way things are shaping up - I hope I'm proved wrong...

    3. Thank you for your assertion that most of those trying to reach Europe are not genuine refugees. However, you have not provided any source or evidence to back up your claim, and neither do you apparently have the courage or courtesy to post under your own name.

      I would tend to believe agencies such as the United Nations who are actually there working in the field and have stated many times that most of those people trying to reach the safety of Europe are refugees fleeing war, terror, mass rape, torture and extreme religious oppression. They need our help.

      Those who are simply 'economic migrants' will need to be humanely deported back to their countries. Sadly, that's not something that can happen with the refugees.

  7. Hello Jon,

    Strange that you question my sources.. My sources are geting more and more reliable.. it's over all the press now ! :) :

    If you had read my remarks on forks of future and considering the ability of having a gift to foresee them.. then you should have had taken 2 minutes just to meditate about it. Though I might agree with you, it's not understandable very easily - you need to take a break to read them - and it's complex if you haven't got the gift of the "perception" of it.
    Yet , now as you see, my remarks are taking place.. more and more kids are being jeopardized on what is called the "Balkan" way :

    Smuggling migrants is becoming big business.
    " organized criminal groups turn to smuggling of migrants only for the profit that it generates."

    So, I can understand your point of view, and haven't I, since I wrote to you to put aside all political, economical, social considerations, and just look at the humanitarian side.
    You mention the tragedy of all these migrants desperate to leave their countries for a better situation.
    Do you think I wasn't able to understand ?
    Millions and millions of people are getting stateless.. but was that the result of the fault of europeans ? Are europeans guilty of becoming wise in the use of balancing maybe uncounsciously a birth ratio adapted to the environment ability to feed localy the social group ?

    Our crime is much more to have believed pupet politicians who are continuesly creating war events and have created DAESH for the money that war generates.
    As much as the syrian war was planned ahead and the opportunity offered to one of the french socialist to benefit from it two years before it starts, DAESH will be eradicated as it is planned already .. So your desires of seeing military action are going to be fulfilled..

    Isn't our crime probably more to fuel those war makers ?

    Jon, nothing against you..You might have had good intentional feelings yet, does that exempt you of cross data analysis ? haven't you got a responsibility in thinking what the impact will be, just by working at the BBC ?

    I just hope that you understand why I was sending you pieces of the puzzle before they happened.



    As for what is coming, yes

  8. Hi Jon,

    Wow. Thank you for having a blog that seems fair. I especially appreciate your ability to have watched the irresponsible video and reverse engineer the skewing. I feel the emotion that the editors intended and it makes it difficult to get the whole picture.

  9. this blog is vastly outdated. already there's evidence they had moved the body of the kid for this photographic scene. he died elsewhere. there were bribes to the father so they could use his son for this picturesque propagand moment.

    1. Whether or not the body of the little boy, Alan Kurdi, was moved (the evidence is not clear what happened, although I have attempted to find out) this would not change anything about the tragic story of the Kurdi family's desperate attempts to find a place to start their lives again.

      I have not seen any evidence that the father received bribes, and you have not provided any. It does not make sense that the father was paid for photos that were taken before he was even aware of his family's tragic death. Wildly untrue and unfounded claims have now been spread about this story.

      Your description of this incident as a "picturesque propaganda moment' I feel is in poor taste. Whatever your view of this one story, it cannot be denied that this is just one story. The world is now facing a refugee crisis of enormous proportions, with millions of tragic stories of families having to flee from their homes and their countries.


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