I am Omran Daqneesh, five years old, sitting in an ambulance, bloodied, dazed, and alone. My older brother’s name is Ali. Soon, someone will tell me he is dead and that my mother is hurt. I don’t know about my father. I hope someone will tell me where to go because I already know that our home is destroyed.
I am the pilot who dropped the bombs during the airstrike in Aleppo that killed Omran’s brother Ali and severely injured his mother. Sometimes the bombs contain poison gas. I never know which ones. Nonetheless, I have been sworn to obey orders without any doubts. I fly my missions with pride. Sometimes I wonder what happens when my bombs hit the ground, but I cannot afford to think about this too often. Do you know that I am a hero in my hometown? I have been awarded medals for bravery.
I am the ruler who orders the fighter planes when and where to drop their bombs on Omran’s hometown of Aleppo. I will do anything to stay in power and power is what I have. No Arab Spring on my watch. Collateral damage is part of war. It cannot be helped. Look away if it bothers you.
I am the factory worker who, in war after war from Vietnam to Syria, dutifully packs the shrapnel, the chemicals, and the chlorine gas in the bombs that killed Omran’s brother Ali, wounded his mother, and maimed thousands. The money I make supports my family. We live well, and we are thankfully far removed from war zones. I take pride in my work. It is not my job to think of the consequences of my labor, but I admit that some nights I do not sleep too well.
I am Aylan Kurdi, three years old, a refugee from the war in Syria. I was found face down on a Turkish beach, in my red shirt, blue shorts, and my Velcro sneakers. My arms lay at my side as if I was asleep on a soft bed in my Syrian home. I was told the boat we were on would take us to an island called Kos; that we would then be safe on Greek soil. But we never made it.
I am Rihana, the mother of Aylan and four-year-old Galip. My husband Abdullah held us in his strong arms as the boat capsized in the middle of the darkest night, but the water swept us away from his grasp. In the morning, a Turkish man with a big heart found Aylan and carried him gently from the shore. I am forever grateful to him for giving my son the dignity he deserved. I can only hope my courageous husband Abdullah can overcome his loss and continue his journey to freedom. Because there is no home left to go back to.
I am Abdullah, the husband of Rhiana and father of Aylan and Galip, all of whom slipped through my hands into the Aegean. I will leave Turkey and travel to Syria to bury my family. I only wish I was dead, too, so we could be reunited. From this day forward my life is meaningless.
I am Sergeant Mehmet Ciplak, the Turkish policeman who found young Aylan and who cradled him like he was my own son. When I first saw him lying there in the sand I prayed with all my heart that this boy, this beautiful boy, would still be alive. I would have poured my last breath into his. But I was too late. I can still feel his small, cold body. I am overcome with a grief I have never felt before. I am forever broken.
I am the politician in the United States and Europe who rails against the refugees pouring across our borders. I am the one who says “enough is enough.” Our nations are wealthy, but why do we always have to take in the displaced? We have our own problems. We cannot take in everyone and, besides, some of the refugees might be terrorists that would harm our children.
I am the American sitting on a couch fingering the remote watching the video loop of Omran rubbing his eyes in shock. Over and over again I view the rubble of hospitals pancaked by the airstrikes that killed more than 20,000 Syrians – including 4,500 children – and led to a worldwide refugee crisis. I listen to the war correspondents as they wonder why we do not see what they see: the entire destruction of a nation and its people. And why the world stands by and does nothing.
I am the one who thinks of his own children and grandchildren, and whose heart fills with sorrow when the cable news shows the photo of Aylan lying on the beach in his red shirt, blue shorts, and Velcro sneakers. After a few minutes, I cannot take any more. I touch the button that changes the channel, but the images remain.
I feel guilty and helpless. I do not know how to fix any of this.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.