By now, many are familiar with the horrible images of the body of 3-year-old Syrian Aylan Kurdi, lying face down at the water’s edge on the Turkish coast after his family unsuccessfully attempted crossing to the Greek island of Kos. The brother of Aylan, 5-year-old Galip Kurdi, and his mother, Rehan Kurdi, also suffered tragic, senseless deaths.
Worldwide, Aylan Kurdi is being held up as a symbol of why migrants fleeing Syria desperately need and deserve help.
As with most who have viewed the images, Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris was deeply moved by Aylan Kurdi’s death, and he thinks that he may have a solution. His idea: purchase a Mediterranean island, declare sovereignty, and name it Ilan in honor of Aylan Kurdi.
Greece or Italy sell me an island,ill call its independence and host the migrants and provide jobs for them building their new country— Naguib Sawiris (@NaguibSawiris) September 1, 2015
Crazy idea .. Maybe but at least temporary until they can return to their countries ??!!— Naguib Sawiris (@NaguibSawiris) September 1, 2015
I found a name for the Island "ILAN "the young Syrian child thrown on turkish shore by the sea to remind us ! Now i need to find the Island!— Naguib Sawiris (@NaguibSawiris) September 5, 2015
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians like the Kurdi family have fled their home, which has been ravaged by civil war since 2011 under the brutal regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The war left parts of the country in anarchy, allowing the formation of ISIS, which declared caliphate in June of 2014. ISIS was aided further by mass stockpiles of U.S. weaponry and a power vacuum left behind when American forces pulled out of Iraq, one of Syria’s southern neighbors, in 2011.
More than 2,300 have drowned attempting to cross the Mediterranean this year.
Opinions on Naguib Sawiris’ plan to purchase an island, and naming it after Aylan, for Syrians fleeing the atrocities have been mixed, with most users on Twitter seeming to express support for such a project.
@NaguibSawiris Ya Naguib, again, focus on the millions of Copts who need your help and leave other matters to governments.— COPTIC NATIONALISM (@DioscorusBoles) September 5, 2015
@NaguibSawiris yeah you accomplished the hard part which is the name of the island now you have a very minor task which is FIND THE ISLAND!— Is That Hesham? (@Hesham_3esa) September 5, 2015
France 24 reports that Sawiris intends to contact Greece and Italy about purchasing an island for Syrians.
“Of course it’s feasible,” Sawiris responded when asked about purchasing an island that he intends to name after Aylan Kurdi, “You have dozens of islands which are deserted and could accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees.”
The billionaire states that a suitable island could be purchased for between $10 and $100 million. Sawiris sees building the necessary infrastructure as the biggest challenge.
“The main thing would be investment in infrastructure,” he stated, “Temporary shelters to house the people, then you start employing the people to build housing, schools, universities, hospitals. And if things improve, whoever wants to go back (to their homeland) goes back.”
Despite well founded reservations I do like your idea. - Yet I keep wondering: Did any UN - official already contact you? @NaguibSawiris— Karina Loren (@miskelayla) September 5, 2015
Despite what Twitter user Karina Loren describes as “well founded reservations,” at first glance, most appear to see the premise of an Ilan Island named after Aylan Kurdi — purposed with housing those in the situation the Kurdi family found themselves in — benevolent.
What do you think? Is the idea a good one? Is naming such an island after Aylan Kurdi appropriate? What problems could such a plan encounter?
[Photo by David Degner/Getty Images]