As we predicted the ghastly tragedy of little Aylan is now unquestionably being exploited with psychopathic cynicism to re-launch the call for war in Syria. The lies about chemical weapons didn’t do it. The lies about barrel bombs haven’t been doing it – so maybe the death of this tiny little person can be wrung from its context and turned into the case for war the empire has been panting for since 2012.
The initially covert agenda is now so overt that the Guardian today publishes a piece “justifying” its voyeuristic use of the photo of Aylan Kurdi lying dead on the beach, with a direct comparison to a similarly exploitative pic it published in 1995 of an alleged refugee allegedly having hanged herself after the fall of Srebrenica. It was this photo – says the Guardian proudly – that led directly to the NATO bombing campaign that
brought the Serbs to the negotiating table and the three-year Bosnian war was at an end.
NATO bombing fixes things, you see. It doesn’t indiscriminately murder innocent people, destroy infrastructure, lay waste to economies. It rains down like manna from heaven; a salvation for the righteous. So, we can conclude, when NATO bombs Syria as a result of this one picture, it will be a blessing to all humanity. And no need to mention the alternative narrative.
Leaving aside the question of exactly how much collective moral insanity is now infesting the Guardian editorial team, since this one pic is now avowedly being made the lynchpin of a campaign that – if successful – will see hundreds possibly thousands of other Aylans murdered (though of course their pics will not appear on the front pages of the MSM), we probably should look at it a bit more closely, and try to understand what exactly transpired to turn one small child’s untimely and horrific death into a world wide media event and casus belli.
After all the refugee crisis is not new. People have been fleeing Libya, Iraq and other centers of NATO ‘humanitarian” intervention for years now. The dead bodies of many people – including children – have been washing up on the beaches, with no film crew ready to record their tragedy, and no media blitz of their images around the world. The only new thing is the amount of media attention it’s suddenly gaining. The western press’s own history of cynical and dishonest service to war agendas – up to and including wholesale fakery – makes it essential we interrogate exactly how these images of Aylan Kurdi came to be taken. We need to know the sequence of events that led from the child (or children) being washed up on the beach, to the little body lying there, being photographed by at least one – and probably multiple – professional news teams, in what looks uncomfortably like a gruesome photocall.
In questioning this we can’t ignore the uncomfortable fact we live in a world in which ‘reality’ is created in large part by consensus in the media. An event is said to have happened if the cameras of the world press record it; becomes a non-event, a negative scotoma if they don’t. The ‘refugee crisis’ is circumscribed, not by numbers or human suffering, but by photoshoots and column inches. It began the moment the media decided to acknowledge it, and it will end when they turn away. It is currently “real” in a way denied the much greater suffering of people in Gaza, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan and Ukraine. It’s a sanctioned official truth, stamped with approved entry into the western mythos.
We need to fully engage with what this means for all of us, and how it warps the perception of all of us – even those who are relatively sophisticated media analysts – about what constitutes actual – veridical – reality.
That said, let’s see what we can piece together about the timeline of the Kurdi tragedy and its unfolding in the world’s press.
The back story
The story as told to us is that Aylan’s family had fled from Kobani in Syria, though exactly when they left, and where they had been living in between differs widely in different accounts. The Guardian and other sources say the family had been been living in Turkey for the past three years. The National Post and the Telegraph claimed the family had been moving back and forth between Turkey and Syria.
In more confusion, Aylan’s uncle, Rocco Loggozo (married to Aylan’s aunt Tima), living in Canada, was quoted by the National Post as saying Canada had “rejected [the family’s] refugee application in June.” Quoted in the Guardian, Tima herself initially said the same thing, in some detail. However, later she changed her mind and publicly denied she had ever made such an application, and said instead she had applied for a visa for her other brother, Mohammed. The actual truth here is probably beyond recall at this time.
Abdullah’s motives for consigning his young family to the dinghy in the first place have been called into much question, but aren’t an aspect we think is appropriate for discussion. Whatever the true back story, and however foolish his action may or may not have been, Abdullah paid £2,900 for illegal passage in a small dinghy from the Turkish resort district of Bodrum to the Greek island of Kos. The dinghy was overloaded, capsized and both children and the mother drowned.
This part of the tragic tale is all reasonably clear, though of course largely undocumented. Where it gets quite confused, fuzzy and sometimes contradictory is after the tiny body of Aylan washes up on the beach – just a mile or so along the Turkish coast from where the party set off.
Human tragedy becomes media event
According to the MailOnline and numerous other outlets, the first person to find Aylan was a bar tender called Adil Demirtas.
“…Adil Demirtas, 18, a barman and chef at Woxxie hotel, said he came across the heart-breaking sight of the toddler’s body as well as the body of a little girl wearing pink trousers when he arrived at work yesterday morning at about 6.30am. He and a friend pulled the bodies out of the water onto the sand in horror before calling an ambulance. But it was too late to save their young lives….
He said: ‘I ran towards it and saw them. I was so afraid. He helped me pull them out of the water.
‘They looked still alive, like they were sleeping, smiling a little. Their faces and arms and legs looked so new still. They couldn’t have been in the water an hour.
‘Their eyes were open. I closed them softly.’
Then, in the Independent we have the account of Mehmet Ciplak, the “paramilitary policeman” so memorably captured carrying the child out of the surf.
“…Paramilitary policeman Mehmet Ciplak was pictured carrying Aylan’s body away from the surf in images which sparked international outrage and a huge public response to the refugee crisis.
Sgt Ciplak said he had no idea the pictures were being taken as he walked over to the boy, lying face down on the water’s edge, praying that he wasn’t dead.
Speaking to Turkey’s Dogan News Agency, he said: “When I saw the baby on the beach, I approached and said to myself, ‘Dear God, I hope he’s alive’.”
He said: “When I found out he was dead, I was crushed deep down inside. It was a terrible sight, it was a terrible loss.” …”
Certain aspects of the policeman’s timeline seem to totally contradict the bartender’s story. When the policeman is filmed picking up Aylan, the little boy is lying face down in the surf, which is totally at odds with the bartender’s claim that he and his friend pulled both bodies “out of the water”, and closed their eyes. So, either the bartender is seriously confused, is simply inventing things, or there is something very wrong with the scene in those photos.
And there are other problems beside these conflicting narratives. I think we can all agree that if any of us saw a small child lying face down in the sea our first reaction would not be to whip out a camera. Yet at least one of the photographers present seems to have done just that to poor little Aylan, in order to capture those bizarrely voyeuristic images.( note the link’s here to illustrate the point, but we took the decision not to embed the vid ). Which brings us to the next recorded eye witness, Nilüfer Demir, news photographer…
Who filmed this stuff? And what were they thinking?
Thanks to a reader we now have the testimony of one of the photographers on the scene. Nilüfer Demir, who (according to her brand new Wikipedia page) works for the Dogan News Agency. She subsequently told her story to a number of news outlets. This from the Hurriyet Daily News is typical.
Photo-reporter Nilüfer Demir explained the moment she shot the heart-wrecking picture showing a Syrian toddler’s lifeless body washing ashore Turkey’s Aegean coast, an image bringing the “European migrant crisis” to the top of the world’s agenda urgently for the first time.
“At that moment, when I saw the three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, I was petrified,” said Demir, a photo-reporter covering the migrant crisis in Aegean resort town of Bodrum for Turkey’s Doğan News Agency (DHA), adding that she had no other option then to do her duty as a journalist.
Demir has clicked the shutter of her camera on Sept. 2 around 6:00 a.m., on Bodrum’s Akyarlar coast of Turkey’s Muğla province, where bodies of migrants washed ashore after two inflatable boats sank.
“Three-year-old Aylan Kurdi was lying lifeless face down in the surf, in his red t-shirt and dark blue shorts folded to his waist. The only thing I could do was to make his outcry heard.” It was that moment, Demir added, that she took the shot.
“On Sept. 2, I was on duty and also photographed … of a group of Pakistani migrants in an attempt to cross into Greece. While witnessing the tragedy, suddenly we noticed the lying, lifeless bodies. We recognized the bodies belonged to toddlers. We were shocked; we felt sorrow for them. The best thing to do was to make this tragedy heard,” said Demir.
Ms Demir tells us she was already on the beach, following up some other vaguely described assignment to do with “Pakistani migrants”, when she accidentally “noticed” the remains of Aylan, his brother and (according to one source) a third child – and immediately started filming, because it was “the only thing” she could do.
Is this any kind of normal human reaction? “Oh look, children lying in the sea, I expect they’re probably dead, let’s film them.” Did this lady not even feel the need to check for a pulse before taking her world famous photographs?
Not only that but Demir’s film of Ciplak, the “paramilitary policeman” who claimed in the above article to be “crushed” when it turned out little Aylan was dead, shows him to have been in no more of a hurry than she was to actually try and save the child. This screen shot shows him and a colleague standing over the small body apparently in conversation. What looks like Ciplak’s feet can be seen in another piece of video, showing him to be standing looking at the little boy in that position for a least a few moments. In the screen shot Ciplak appears to be using his radio. The colleague is holding binoculars. Neither of them are showing any sign of urgency, or diving in to do life-saving CPR. There is some non-sequential video of Ciplak picking up the child and carrying him behind a rock, but there’s no indication of how long has elapsed before this happens or any indication he ever attempted resuscitation, nor does he say he did so.
If we look at the emerging timeline here, it presents a few problems.
- “Around 6am”: Nilüfer Demir and colleagues are waiting on a beach to capture film of some other migrant “tragedy” they have allegedly been tipped off about. As they wander about they notice three small children lying in the surf and immediately begin shooting film of at least one of them, without even bothering to check for signs of life first.
- 6:30am: Adil Demirtas, a bartender at a local hotel, sees two infants on the beach as he arrives for work, and he and a friend immediately run down, lift the two children out of the water and call an ambulance. He makes no mention of any film crew present.
- Time unspecified: “paramilitary policeman” Mehmet Ciplak and a colleague are filmed, allegedly by Ms Demir, standing over the body of Aylan Kurdi, who is lying in the surf face down. Ciplak is later, in a non-sequential bit of video, shown picking up the child and carrying him behind a rock. No other children are shown, and none can be seen in the wider shots of the beach. A second, and possibly third photographer can be seen capturing this moment on film.
How does this fit together? If Demir was already there, how did the bartender fail to notice her shooting film? And why did she get no footage of his emotionally charged bid to save the children? And what of the policeman Ciplak? Is the footage of him standing over Aylan from before the bartender arrived? No, it can’t be because we see Ciplak remove the child from the water himself. So, either the bartender’s story is a lie, or Aylan was taken out of the water twice. Once by the bartender, and once again by Ciplak, while the cameras were rolling.
But that would mean someone had taken the little boy and placed him back in the water. It would also mean the scene we are watching is straying uncomfortably close to being frankly staged, and to being frankly abusive to a small child’s corpse.
For this reason, as well as because many human lives – and potentially world peace – seem to have been put in the balance through the agency of this footage – we need to have these anomalies explained if possible.
- Is the bartender’s story true? If so, how did Aylan get back in the water again?
- Over how long a period was the footage of Aylan shot?
- How many additional photographers were present beside Ms Demir? Did they also just happen to be there covering another story?