The aunt of a Syrian boy whose lifeless body was photographed on a Turkish beach says she's torn between grief and happiness after one of her brothers was approved to come to Canada.
Tima Kurdi said her brother Mohammed, his wife and five children have been accepted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. But she is still haunted by thoughts of three-year-old Alan Kurdi and his father Abdullah, she said.
"To be honest, my feelings are mixed feelings – happy I'm saving those lives," she said Friday when reached by phone at her Metro Vancouver home.
"But deep down, I'm so, so hurt by just thinking about my brother Abdullah," she said. "Every single night, those two little nephews, it just breaks my heart. ... It just hurt me so much, and I hope one day it will get easier and we will move on."
Abdullah's two sons and wife drowned in early September after he paid smugglers to help them cross the treacherous waters between Turkey and Greece. A photo of Alan's body face down in the surf sparked international sorrow and momentum to help Syrian refugees.
Tima Kurdi's original application to bring Mohammed and his family to Canada was denied because it didn't have the necessary paperwork. The rejection caused Abdullah to lose hope that he would be allowed into Canada and to instead attempt the deadly voyage, his sister has said.
An official with Citizenship and Immigration Canada invited Kurdi in mid-October to re-apply for Mohammed, as the government was no longer asking for difficult-to-obtain United Nations documents.
She said she received an email on Nov. 10 that confirmed the application had been approved. But the family still has to pass security checks and medical exams in Turkey before they can book a flight.
Abdullah, meantime, has lost interest in coming to Canada. He is living in northern Iraq, where the Kurdistan regional government is helping him to open a charity for refugee children, Kurdi said.
"His life is about helping refugees. He says, 'This is what I want to be strong for. This is what is going to keep me going in my life."' She said he was angry at the Canadian government after he lost his family, but his hard feelings have faded over time.
"'I'm not angry with anybody anymore,"' she recalled her brother saying last month. "'This is what happened. Nobody should (be) blamed for that."' She said she doesn't believe Mohammed's family is being treated as a special case, but rather that they are part of the Liberal government's plan to resettle 25,000 refugees by the end of February. She's hopeful they'll be among the 400 people set to arrive in B.C. by Dec. 31.
Though she is Muslim, she celebrates Christmas every year with her husband and son, and hopes her brother's big family arrives in time for the holiday.
"It's beautiful," said Kurdi, who has been in Canada since 1992. "We want to decorate the house outside. But we are waiting, hopefully the kids will help decorate. That's my plan."
Kurdi is a hairdresser who recently bought a salon in Port Coquitlam, where she hopes to work with Mohammed, a barber.
Mohammed's children range in age from five months old to 16 years old. Kurdi said her 14-year-old nephew, Chergo, has been working in a clothing factory in Turkey. He called her this week and said he hoped they'd be in Canada soon, she said.
"'Inside me, I'm a little boy. I don't show it to my parents because I know if I don't work, we're not going to eat,"' he told her. "'Inside me, I'm still a little boy. I should be in school.'"