A number of speakers shared life-changing events at yesterday’s afternoon session at TEDxEastVan. But none compared to the speech given by Syrian advocate Tima Kurdi.
Kurdi is the aunt of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old boy whose image of him dead on a Mediterranean beach galvanized the refugee crisis conversation, prompting governments to open their borders. She is the sister of the boy’s father and was a Canadian face to the issue as the news broke last fall. Kurdi has lived in Canada for 24 years and is a hair stylist in Coquitlam.
She opened her talk by saying she wasn’t there to make the audience feel sorry for her and her family. She is like any of us and when her family needed her help she did what any of us would do, she sent money.
But Kurdi did more than send money. When the war broke out in Syria in 2011, Kurdi spoke to her family every day, researching organizations that help refugees. And after a visit to Turkey in 2014, Kurdi began the process of trying to bring her family to Canada.
“I tried. Different organisations, lots of phone calls, but my voice was not heard. Our border was closed, our system was set up to fail. I had to break the news to my family that I can not bring you to Canada unless something will change. Give me some time. But the time has run out.”
The moment Kurdi most wanted to shut herself in, the morning she learned her sister-in-law and nephews had drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, was the exact moment her voice was given a spotlight.
“I remember my phone call with my brother Abdullah, the father who just lost his entire family.”
“Crying to me, he told me, the picture of my boy is the wake-up call to the world. Enough suffering, enough killing, let’s put our voices together.”
And they have. Kurdi has travelled to Brussels, Germany, Turkey, and Iraq, talking to the European Union, presidents and prime ministers. She said she felt her voice was finally being heard. It took a personal tragedy, but action was finally being taken.
And that was Kurdi’s main message yesterday. She asked that everyone use their voice to speak up, to not be part of the silent majority.
“The world we choose has to reflect the action we take. I hope that I have planted a seed of hope in your mind. That you will add your voice and take action today for a better world tomorrow.”