The aunt of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old boy whose body was photographed face down on a beach and highlighted the plight of Syrian refugees, says she would like to start a foundation in his name that assists refugee children.
Alan, his five-year-old brother, Ghalib, and their mother, Rehanna, died in September, 2015. The family had paid human smugglers to take them from Turkey to Greece but their boat capsized. The children's father, Abdullah Kurdi, survived.
Tima Kurdi, who is Mr. Kurdi's sister and lives in the B.C. city of Coquitlam, said she and her brother have discussed setting up the foundation to keep Alan's name alive. Ms. Kurdi said the goal is to open the foundation in Canada. Her brother is living in Kurdistan.
"I decided I will try my best. I am nobody; I am just a hairstylist. I don't know how to start this, but … I know lots of people have a big heart and they're willing to help," she said in an interview.
Ms. Kurdi wrote a Facebook post announcing plans for the foundation Monday. In the interview, she said she has also begun sending e-mails to groups such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She said she plans to reach out to politicians in Canada and Europe, as well.
Ms. Kurdi said she visited a refugee camp in Kurdistan last month and was struck by what she saw – particularly when she asked what people had been eating.
"They said, 'We have enough.' And when I saw that enough for them was rice, and flour and bread, this is what's enough, they're not complaining," she said.
"Can we live like this? Can our children live like this?"
Ms. Kurdi said the foundation would first focus on helping refugee children in Kurdistan and she and her brother would like it to provide food, clothes and school supplies.
"Something must be done. Alan Kurdi's name – this is something that will honour him. Because he is watching over us. He woke up the world. He wants to stop the suffering," she said.
The UNHCR earlier this year said the Kurdistan region has played host to a quarter of a million Syrian refugees since 2012, as well as more than one million internally displaced Iraqis.
The photo of Alan Kurdi on a Turkish beach, lifeless on the sand, dressed in a red T-shirt and blue shorts, prompted an international outcry.
The refugee crisis became a central issue in last year's federal election. The Liberals, who had vowed to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada, ultimately did so, though the newly formed government missed its original deadline of the end of 2015 by a couple of months.
Ms. Kurdi's other brother, Mohammad, arrived in Canada with his family in December.
Ms. Kurdi has said the initial application for Mohammad, his wife and their children was rejected, prompting Abdullah to try crossing into Greece.
She has said Abdullah is no longer interested in coming to Canada.
Two men were convicted of human trafficking in Turkey in March in connection with the voyage. Each man was sentenced to four years in prison.