The Boy On The Beach

Sep 26, 2018

“[P]hotographs furnish evidence,” critic Susan Sontag wrote.

From the essay On Photography:

Something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it…A photograph is not just the result of an encounter between an event and a photographer; picture-taking is an event in itself, and one with ever more peremptory rights-to interfere with, to invade, or to ignore whatever is going on. Our very sense of situation is now articulated by the camera’s interventions.”

Nowhere is that clearer than in the photograph of Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi, which was taken after the two-year-old Kurdi washed ashore in Turkey after the boat transporting him and his family capsized and he drowned.

NPR’s Goats and Soda blog wrote that the photo “mobilized empathy and concern, soon bringing in record donations to charitable organizations around the world to aid the victims.”

Kurdi’s aunt, Tima Kurdi, wrote a memoir on her family’s story, “The Boy on the Beach: My Family’s Escape from Syria and Our Hope for a New Home.” She told NPR about the aftermath of the image:

People opened their hearts when they saw the suffering in that image. It made them think, what if this happens to you, if you lose everything, your home, your country, you have no safe place, no food, no money and what will you do? It has become a permanent reminder for people to help others, that we all need each other and that we are all one.

But I need to correct the record. My nephew’s name is Alan [not Aylan, as media outlets, including NPR, reported.] And when he died, Alan’s age was 2 years and two months, not 3. His brother’s name was also misspelled. It is Ghalib, not Galip.

What happened to her family after the photo? What is the current status of the Syrian refugee community?

Tima Kurdi joins us to talk about these questions and more.

Show produced by Lindsay Foster Thomas, text by Gabrielle Healy.


Tima Kurdi, Author, “The Boy On The Beach: My Family’s Escape From Syria And Our Hope For A New Home”

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