Seeing no other options to help get her brother Abdullah's family out of Syria and to safety, Teema Kurdi sent him money to get them onto a smuggler's boat that would take them to Greece.
"We actually would say we encouraged them to go, because his brother made it, and there was no other hope," he told NPR's Rachel Martin in an emotional interview. "We don't see the war ending in Syria; life in Turkey is hopeless."
Funding the journey is a decision he and his wife both deeply regret, he says. Their nephews drowned with their mother in the Mediterranean earlier this week, and photos of the body of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi were published around the world, bringing renewed attention to the plight of refugees from Syria's civil war.
"They were happy little boys," he says. "The little boy, the littlest boy, was so excited to get on the boat. He was going to a new place."
Listen to the full interview using the player above.
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The image of hundreds of people crossing that bridge is the latest turn in a crisis that's been happening for months. Yet what really got the world's attention this week was the photo of a lifeless 3-year-old boy found washed up on a beach in Turkey. Today, he was buried in Kobani, Syria, along with his 5-year-old brother and their mother. The three members of the Kurdi family died as they tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea, hoping to get to Greece. Their father, Abdullah Kurdi, survived. Rocco Logozzo is his brother-in-law, and we reached him earlier today at his home in British Columbia. I asked him if he had heard from Abdullah Kurdi.
ROCCO LOGOZZO: My wife has been able to reach him. She contacted him on Wednesday when it happened. Obviously, he was very distraught and was in total grief. We know that the Turkish government offered assistance, and they have flown him back to his hometown of Kobani, where his wife and kids were born. And it was his wish - and the only wish that he wanted was to have his family back in Kobani and bury them there and be with them, and that's all he requested. He didn't want any assistance. Really, his whole life has been shattered.
MARTIN: Can you tell us about this family? How long have they been trying to get out of Syria? What did you know about the conditions when they left?
LOGOZZO: Well, really, the turning point here for us was when my wife went to Turkey last year - last September. And practically her whole family was there, so Abdullah was there, so was her other brother, Mohammed. He was there with his family and two other sisters that were there.
MARTIN: So they had fled Syria more than a year ago and had been living in Turkey?
LOGOZZO: Yeah, they fled the war in Syria. At that particular time, Abdullah's wife and kids were still in Kobani. And when my wife came back to Canada last year in September, we decided that we were going to sponsor one of the families to come to Canada. And the family we decided to sponsor was Mohammed's family. And we were hoping if we get them, then we can bring Abdullah and his family as well, but that didn't work out. Our application got refused and, you know, when it was refused, you know, the family lost all hope and then decided to start taking the journey to Europe because there was no other avenue for them, really.
MARTIN: Where you given any information as to why the visa that you had applied for for Mohammed - why was the visa revoked?
LOGOZZO: Yeah, so we applied to Canadian immigration under a refugee program, and it was denied simply because they did not have the UN registration as a refugee. I have to say that he process we went through - the application process is just very onerous and designed to fail. So we approached the minister of immigration via our local (unintelligible) in Vancouver. We sent him a letter explaining our plight. And really, you know, we were asking - can you make an exception because these are truly refugees? They left a war-torn country. It was basically ignored.
MARTIN: After the visa was rejected for Mohammed's family, did you know then that Abdullah and his boys and his wife were going to try to take this boat and leave Turkey and go to Greece?
LOGOZZO: Yes, we did. My wife sent them the money, you know? We were...
MARTIN: The money to pay for the boat ride - to pay the smuggler?
LOGOZZO: The money to pay for the boat ride. We knew - my wife was in constant contact with him, with the rest of the family. So we actually would say we encouraged them to go because his brother made it, and there was no other hope. I mean, we don't see the war ending in Syria. The life in Turkey is hopeless, and we regret it. Certainly my wife has said it publicly. She regrets sending the money for that
MARTIN: Was your wife able to have a conversation with her brother before they got on that boat?
LOGOZZO: She did talk to him. You know, they talked about, you know, making sure that the boat is not a - was a good, solid boat and that - they made sure they had good lifejackets. And we know that Abdullah put lifejackets on the kids and his wife. They were all wearing it. So they did talk. They were in constant communication. And then, you know, the plan was, once you get somewhere, text us or send us correspondence so we know what's happened.
MARTIN: Did you ever meet your two nephews?
LOGOZZO: No, we never met them. My wife missed them when she went to Turkey. She met up with Abdullah and the rest of the family when she was in Turkey. She's talked to the boys on the phone, you know?
MARTIN: Yeah. What can you tell us about them? I'm sure you have photos and...
LOGOZZO: We do.
MARTIN: ...You've talked on the phone
LOGOZZO: I mean, they were happy little boys. My wife will say that, you know, the little boy - the littlest boy was so excited to get on the boat. He was going to a new place, you know? He was laughing. He was a happy boy, you know? I'm sorry. I get a little emotional about it. But the older boy, who's talked to my wife, he said to her, auntie, can you buy me a bike? And, you know, he was just a normal little boy that wants anything any boy wants living in any other country. That's all. And now he's gone.
MARTIN: I'm so sorry.
LOGOZZO: Thank you. Thank you.
MARTIN: Rocco Logozzo - he's the uncle to the two Syrian boys who drowned while trying to get from Turkey to Greece in a boat with their parents. Their mother also perished. Mr. Logozzo, thank you again for taking the time.
LOGOZZO: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.