Sunday, 6 September 2015

Twisting the Tale

Twisting the Tale

A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent
--- William Blake

There’s a very cruel You Tube video doing the round about Mr Kurdi taking his family to Europe. The front caption – not part of the interview but added -suggests that he wanted to come over, and brought his family along, because he wanted dental work, and that is why his wife and those poor children died.

It includes a genuine clip – and note the world “clip” – from an interview in which his sister mentions him needing dental work and trying to help him financially. She mentions him “getting to Europe first, and then seeing about his teeth”.

The impression it sets out to give, which I am sure is deliberate, is that he was a free-rider coming over to get some dentistry done at the expense of Europe’s welfare systems. It has been cleverly put together to give that impression.

The earliest versions of the “You tube” presentation seem to appear on Facebook groups like Britain First. They don't appear on any mainstream news story, and the obvious implication is that they are selectively using part a YouTube video with the Aunt to remove the full picture and give the man a bad motive.

The video is a falsehood, bound up with a small kernel of truth. As readers will know, I always think it is important to apply the same standards of historical research to new stories, and track down sources to their origins, especially when stories have been twisted like this one.

A longer report on an interview with Ms. Kurdi - his sister in Canada – reveals this. She said she sent her brother $5,000 three weeks ago, an amount initially intended to help with costly dental work. They later decided the money would be better spent on getting Mr. Kurdi to Europe.

This is where we get – “Europe first, then dental work”. It is a priority of alternatives, not a planned sequence to follow. And the story gives more details:

“He was supposed to go by himself only, because it’s expensive for the whole family,” Ms. Kurdi said. “The smugglers, they want $1,000, $2,000 per person.” But Mr. Kurdi later called his sister back, worried that his wife would not be able to support the family without him. “’How about if we go, all of us? ” he asked her. “If you know you can do it, go ahead and do it,’” Ms. Kurdi replied.

So he wasn't trying to get dental work, he was deciding that escape from a dangerous war zone was more important for his family than teeth, and he feared for his wife and children left behind. Rather than selfishly escaping, and sending back for them later, he was trying to get them all out together.

And what about the dental work anyway? 'According to Canadian journalist Terry Glavin, who spoke to the aunt in Vancouver, he had been kidnapped during the Islamic State siege of Kobane earlier this year and had all of his teeth pulled out. He had lost his teeth under torture. No wonder he wanted to get out with his family!

As the BBC reports:

“As Syrian Kurds, the Kurdis' chances of being granted asylum in Canada were hampered from the moment they set out for Turkey. For many years, Syria denied its Kurdish population citizenship and Kurds were regarded as stateless by the authorities. A decree in 2011 allowed some to apply for citizenship but others were ineligible and many were forced to flee before they could apply.

The Kurdis had been living in Damascus until the early stages of the Syrian conflict in late 2011. When the violence in the city escalated, they relocated back to Makharij village, 25km outside the northern town of Kobane.”

Ask yourself this: if you can been captured, had your teeth pulled by torturers (and don’t imagine they used anaesthetic) and you and your family were under threat from the same brutal regime that was on your doorstep, what would you do? Wouldn’t you seek to get them out, because the risk of staying was so much greater than that of fleeing?

It is a tragedy that the three year old boy drowned, but I think that if my family faced such a desperate future, I’d take any opportunity to escape and bring them with me. Wouldn’t you?


I'd like to put the record straight on a few other issues.

Settled in Turkey?

One of my correspondence said: “Mr Kurdi was some 4 years ago. As pointed out before, though, they were no longer in danger, but merely wanted better and more help than given in Turkey.”

This story seems to be wholly sourced from "The Muslim Issue" as the truth! This suggest he was in "no danger" . I have read that article, and it is almost entirely false, while at the same time, suggesting the mainstream media is totally wrong. It even suggests the dead boy was “planted” on the beach.

The facts: Syrian government policy under Bashar al-Assad denies citizenship rights to Kurds. Since they have no passports, Turkish law says they are not entitled to move freely in the country under its temporary protection measures for refugees. So it is not a case of being able to settle there and be safe.

Convoy Attacked?

My correspondent also says:

“The picture of Aylan is not at all an icon for children that flee wars ; it is more a symbol for all those who - though not in danger - would like to improve their lives and who now - with the hundreds of thousands of refugees actually fleeing a war - see a great opportunity to disappear in those masses and 'slip in'. And it infuriates me, because the latter are the ones that are not happy with the little help they get offered (because they already had that at home), they want more (hence the scenes at Calais, where convoys with help get attacked and plundered).”

The facts: there are no news stories about “convoys” being attacked, but there is one about a convoy from Belgian causing disruption. 35 people turned up with vans and instead of distributing aid in an orderly fashion, seemed to have just said “come and get it”, so disruption and disorder was hardly surprising.

The source of the genuine story - the Belgian convoy -is the Guardian, which notes that no one is getting upset - distribution of donations up to now had been smooth, but it is imperative that everything is distributed in controlled conditions to maintain the dignity of the approximately 3,000 people in the camp. Arrangements are being made with warehousing to do this by those coordinating aid on the ground.

No Life jackets for Children?

There’s been an idea that the father was selfish for wearing a life jacket and not having ones for his children. This report from the New York Times deals with that issue:

"“Instead of focusing on the real issues, people blame the father for not putting a life jacket on his children,” the Turkish official said, noting that Turkish patrols have seen countless similar tragedies pass unnoticed. “Well, I’ll tell you this: Life jackets in sizes that small simply aren’t available here.” Indeed, many refugees buy plastic beach toys for flotation." (New York Times)

I’d also note that much is made of the fact that Mr Kurdi seems to be unable to remember exactly what happened, and his accounts of being in the water are fragmentary and confused. In those situations of life and death, it is hardly surprising. Look at eyewitness accounts of some incidents during the sinking of the Titanic, and there is muddle and confusion, although the broad outline is accurate.

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