Father of Drowned Syrian Boy Delivers Christmas Message to Britons

Abdullah Kurdi, a Syrian refugee whose son drowned off Turkey this year, recorded a holiday message for Britain's Channel 4.

After Queen Elizabeth delivered her annual Christmas speech Friday on the BBC, television viewers in Britain had the opportunity to change the channel and listen to “an alternative message” from Abdullah Kurdi, the father of the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach in September, prompting an outpouring of sympathy for refugees.

The brutal images of Mr. Kurdi’s dead son, Alan (known in Turkish as Aylan), spread widely on social networks and pricked the consciences of millions for whom the plight of Syrian refugees risking their lives to reach Europe had previously been abstract. Mr. Kurdi also lost his wife, Rehanna, and another son, Galeb, 5, when a small boat bound for Greece capsized.

Mr. Kurdi’s message was recorded in advance, and a brief excerpt from the recording and a translation of the complete transcript were released in advance of Friday’s broadcast.

The complete holiday message was posted online by Channel 4 News on Friday.

Abdullah Kurdi's Alternative Christmas Message, broadcast on Friday in Britain.Credit...CreditChannel 4 News, via YouTube

“My message is, I’d like the whole world to open its doors to Syrians,” Mr. Kurdi says, according to the transcript. “If a person shuts a door in someone’s face, this is very difficult. When a door is opened, they no longer feel humiliated.”

The message was recorded for Channel 4, a British public-service broadcaster set up to air alternative points of view. Since 1993, the channel has aimed to fulfill that mission on Christmas Day by following the queen’s speech with messages from figures who urge viewers to consider difficult issues facing the world.

Mr. Kurdi, who buried his wife and sons in Kobani, Syria, now lives in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. According to Channel 4, he plans to use the attention generated by his tragedy “to start a charity project running a hospital and school for Syrian Kurds.”

Last weekend he met with Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, who told him that the images of his son “compelled the world to recognize” what he called “the catastrophic situation of Syrian refugees on their way to Europe.”

Last year’s message was delivered by William Pooley, a British nurse who survived the Ebola virus.

In 2013, viewers heard from Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who sounded the alarm about surveillance by the National Security Agency.

Previous messages have come from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former Iranian president; the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson; the Simpsons, the fictional TV family; and a survivor of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The message this year is scheduled to be broadcast at a delicate time for Channel 4, which is owned by the state but receives no public financing. In September, a British official was photographed entering the prime minister’s residence carrying a document saying that the broadcaster could soon be privatized. Conservatives in Britain have complained since the channel was founded that it gives too much airtime to political views opposed to their own.

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