On September 2 two years ago, the lifeless body of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian toddler, washed up on the shore of a beach in Turkey. His father had been attempting to take his family away from Syria to the Greek island of Kos, but the over-crowded dinghy capsized during the journey. The bodies of Alan and his brother were photographed the next morning, after they washed ashore.
Alan’s fate moved people across the world, and showed the plight of the Syrian refugees, thousands of whom died in a similar manner while trying to flee their war-ridden country. Since Alan’s death, at least 8,500 refugees and migrants have died or gone missing trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, according to UNHCR, United Nation’s Refugee Agency.
Khaled Hosseini, the award-winning author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, wrote Sea Prayer to commemorate the second anniversary of Alan’s death. The UNHCR goodwill ambassador collaborated with UNHCR and The Guardian to create an illustrated, animated story in virtual reality to reflect on life in Syria.
The short film (above) takes the form of a poignant letter written by a Syrian father to his son, on the eve of their potentially fatal sea-journey into Europe. He regretfully meditates on the pleasant, idyllic scenarios in Syria before the war, and the current war-zone it has turned into. He faces his apprehensions about the journey, “All of us impatient for sunrise, all of us in dread of it” and the plight of the refugees, “I have heard it said we are the uninvited. We are the unwelcome. We should take our misfortune elsewhere.”