03.09.2015 15:48

Photographer of the world shaking picture of drowned Syrian toddler: “I was petrified at that moment”

Photo-reporter Nilüfer Demir unclosed the moment she has shot the heart-wrecking picture showing a Syrian toddler’s lifeless body washing ashore Turkey’s Aegean coast, the image that has brought the “European migrant crisis” to top of the agenda of the world this undoubtedly for the first time in recent years.
“At that moment, when I saw the three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, I was petrified” said Nilüfer Demir, a photo-reporter covering the migrant crisis in Aegean resort town of Bodrum for years for Turkey’s Dogan News Agency (DHA), adding that she had no other option then doing her duty as a journalist.

Demir has clicked the shutter of her camera on Sep. 2 around 06.00 a.m., in Akyarlar coast of Bodrum district in Muğla province, where bodies of migrants washed ashore the coast 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 . At that moment, I believed I would be able to achieve this by clicking the shutter of my camera and took his picture” said Demir.

Demir then explained how she noticed another toddler, Aylan Kurdi’s brother Galip on the ground, without lifejackets just like the others migrants.

“Galip was lying 100 meters ahead of his brother. I approached him this time. I noticed they didn’t have any lifejackets on them, any arm floats, anything to help them to float in the water. This image was showing how dramatic the incident was” added the reporter.

Demir also told, as Dogan News Agency reporters, she and her colleagues in the region have been bringing the illegal transition problem to agenda in the last 15 years, and the transitions have scaled up in the last 2-3 months, particularly in Turgutreis and Akyarlar neighbourhoods, on regular basis.

“We were covering the illegal transition of migrants to Greek island of Kos from Bodrum’s coast. On Sep. 2, I was on duty and I also have photographed, taken footage of a group of Pakistani migrants in 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 Nilüfer Demir.

Upon the question “This was a three-year-old kid. As a woman, how did you feel when you clicked the shutter?” Demir told, “Pain and sorrow… I have pictured, witnessed many migrant incidents since 2003 in this region, their deaths, their drama... I hope from today, this will change. Hundreds, even thousands of migrants have flocked to Bodrum, because the Island of Kos is only 4 miles in distance to Bodrum. Migrants attempt to cross into Greece and then other European countries by boats, usually inflatable boats."

Another incident was recorded by DHA cameraman Osman Uras, when more women and children faced the risk of drowning at the same coast. Bodrum chief reporter Yaşar Anter has disclosed another tragedy that he has witnessed two days ago, released on June 4.

“Two days ago, eight boats have taken off from here, this beach. Six of them appeared to be ruptured. After one mile, we saw the boats started to sink, and 50 people were rescued by the coast guard teams. They even tried to vanish in wooden boats. However they have capsized even before they reach half of the way” said Anter.

The reporters urged that this issue was beyond the borders of Turkey and has become an international problem, as Bodrum district of Muğla returned into a transition point for refugees attempting to fleed into Europe.
Yaşar ANTER - Nilüfer DEMİR - Osman URAS - BODRUM/DHA