Dee Matthew, Education Coordinator SRtRC Scotland, reflects on the use of Aylan Kurdi photograph and the refugee crisis
"Show Racism the Red Card share in the grief and despair of the majority of people and our thoughts are with the Kurdi family and those who loved and cared about Aylan."
Dee Matthew, Education Coordinator, SRtRC Scotland
How could anyone possibly fail to understand the human tragedy in the image of Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body washed up on the beach in the holiday resort region of Bodrum which hit newsfeeds and front pages on Wednesday evening into Thursday morning?
Show Racism the Red Card share in the grief and despair of the majority of people and our thoughts are with the Kurdi family and those who loved and cared about Aylan.
Let us never forget there are an unprecedented number of displaced people now than there has ever been in modern history. With thousands more fleeing conflict in unstable regions across the world, escaping chemical weapons and barrel bombs aimed at innocent civilians and designed to inflict maximum damage to the human body or escaping the constant threat of physical and sexual violence.
For those who have the resources, they are attempting treacherous journeys to seek safety in countries throughout Europe who propose to condemn such human rights abuses and have made pledges via European-wide and international conventions to provide refuge for those experiencing violence and inhumane and degrading treatment.
These refugees are not passive victims of conflict; they are human beings with agency, making decisions to keep their families safe and find a place where they can tuck their children into bed at night knowing they will wake up unharmed in the morning. This is a human instinct and something any mother and father would do for their own child regardless of nationality, culture, religion or identity.
These refugees are a consequence of mainstream politics in many states throughout Europe lurching towards the right with hard line policies on immigration and Asylum which governments have garnered public support for by framing the narrative around the need for control, containment and safeguarding threats to national security. All of this is underpinned by the omnipresent islamophobic undercurrent of the war on terror that allows immigrant/threat to coexist in British public consciousness.
We must remember the very use of Aylan’s image on the front pages of the UK’s national press is loaded with meaning far beyond informing Britons about the desperate refugee crisis our world is experiencing.
While Aylan’s picture may represent a much needed sea change in highlighting the sheer volume of life that is at risk, we cannot forget that it has been the same mainstream media which has consistently used dehumanising and pejorative language to describe refugees from conflict over the last eighteen months and beyond.
This has been characterised through the use of the term ‘swarms’ and ‘floods’, and by giving a platform to individuals who have described refugees In the Mediterranean as cockroaches which is reminiscent of the racist, xenophobic and far right rhetoric of the Nazi regime. At Show Racism the Red Card we encourage those we meet to use critical thought to unpack the negative impact that these messages can have on their world view.
We can only hope that the media’s use of Aylan’s picture taken after his death will not be just a damaging act of voyeurism but will encourage people to reflect on what was going through the Kurdi family’s mind as they got on that boat, what they had to do to get on it in the first place and what thoughts passed through their minds when they realised it wasn’t going to make its destination to Greece.
The front pages of Britain’s newspapers exploit the image of Aylan alone on the sand but we encourage everyone to remember the alternative image of Aylan with his arm around his brother Galip, smiling for the camera.