It’s been more than three years since the body of 3-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish shore, his lifeless body face down in the sand.
The disturbing image of his death showed to the world the dangers that Syrian refugees faced as they fled their country amid a devastating civil war.
On Sunday, Alan Kurdi’s name was bestowed on a German rescue ship operated by Sea-Eye, a nonprofit that tries to save refugees in similarly dangerous situations.
Gorden Isler, a fundraiser for Sea-Eye, said that he named the boat in honor of the boy after seeing a picture of him on the beach in September 2015.
“When I saw the picture of Alan in September 2015 I had just left the room of my three-month-old daughter Nina,” he said. “The picture of the dead boy brought me from the happiest moment of my life and threw me directly and without diversions into the deepest abyss. It touched and moved me but also destroyed something fundamental within me.”
Abdullah Kurdi, the boy’s father, also spoke at the ship-naming ceremony.
“This day is very hard for me, as I re-experience many memories,” he said. “But I want to support Sea-Eye. I’m grateful that the club chose my boy’s name. It’s people with good heart in this organization. So my boy’s name stands for something good and his little soul can find … peace.”
The Kurdi family, who are Kurds from Syria, were trying to reach relatives in Vancouver, Canada. Alan, his 4-year-old brother and his mother Rehen all died on the boat trip across the Aegean Sea to Greece. Abdullah Kurdi was the only one to survive.
Two Syrian men were sentenced in Turkey to more than four years in prison in connection with the boat accident that claimed their lives.
Sea-Eye said Abdullah Kurdi is living in Erbil and traveled to Palma for the ship-naming ceremony. His sister, Tima Kurdi, stood with him and translated his words, the group said.