A relative of Abdallah Kurdi living in France with his wife and four children has called the country an “open air prison”, and spoken of his desire to go to England – despite having been granted a three bedroom council flat and free schooling for his children.
Sami Kurdi is a distant relative of Abdallah Kurdi, whose son, Aylan, was photographed washed up on a Turkish beach as the family tried to make the crossing to Greece.
“I cried when I saw Aylan’s picture, then I realised we are from the same extended family when I recognised his grandfather on television,” he said, musing “Our journey was so much easier than theirs.”
Before fleeing Syria with his family two years ago, Sami Kurdi was a lieutenant-colonel in the Syrian Army. He claims to have left the army in 2012 in disgust at the massacres taking place in Homs, defecting at first to the Free Syrian Army, the Telegraph has reported.
But unlike many of his fellow ethnic Kurds who have fought bravely against ISIS, when the jihadis raised their banners he fled: first to Lebanon and then, using French press contacts he had as a rebel fighter, onward to France, flying with his family from Beirut to Paris.
He left behind his elderly parents, who are in ill health. “I may never see them again,” he lamented.
Mr Kurdi was rewarded by the French state with a three bedroom council flat near Caen, benefits to sustain the family (he is not legally allowed to work), and schooling for his children, for which he claims to be “enormously grateful.” Since their arrival in France, his wife has given birth to a fourth child.
Yet Mr Kurdi describes the country as “an open air prison,” complaining that he has still not been granted asylum. “I applied for asylum almost immediately after we arrived,” he said. “Many other Syrians have been granted asylum but I have not received any response. It is supposed to take six months. I’m getting sick with worry at the thought that I could be expelled from France if they say no. Where would I take my family?”
According to the local press, the Mr Kurdi’s case is “complicated” as there are jihadists in the ranks of the Free Syrian Army.
“I am not a jihadist,” Mr Kurdi said. “I was caught between Daesh [the Arabic acronym for ISIS] and the crimes of Bashar [al-Assad].
“If I could go to Britain, I would, but the rules say I must apply for asylum in France because it is the European country I arrived in.”
Robert Fisk, a Middle East Correspondent who has been based in Beirut for 20 years has previously questioned the existence of the Syrian Free Army, saying “The Free Syrian Army I think drinks a lot of coffee in Istanbul. I have never come across even prisoners from the Free Syrian Army.
“I think that the Free Syrian Army is a complete myth, and I don’t believe it really exists, and nor do the Syrians because they say “if we do come across them we don’t mind because they always run away.”