Muhammed Halaf, the 18-month-old Syrian boy whose dramatic rescue by fishermen after a boat he boarded with his mother sank off the Turkish coast, was reunited with his father who managed to come to Turkey from war-torn Syria.
The boy's father, İhsam Hassan, sent his family abroad when the conflict intensified in their hometown. Muhammed and his mother Loren were among the 15 survivors in a tragic sinking on Oct. 21 off the Turkish coast; 13 people died when the boat went under. Two fishermen spotted a seemingly empty life vest floating at sea but to their shock and joy discovered Muhammed Halaf inside, barely breathing. The boy's rescue and fishermen's efforts to resuscitate him were caught on camera, becoming a symbol of hope for refugees who risk their lives for a better future in Europe.
İhsam Hassan, a butcher from Syria's Amoudeh, arrived in İzmir this week to reunite with his pregnant wife and Muhammed, who was traumatized by the incident. The young boy, who has become more introverted and developed a fear of water since the ordeal, was happy to reunite with his father, a little solace in the harsh life he and his father endure.
The father said he cried while watching his son's rescue and decided to travel to Turkey. "I lost my home, my job, everything in Syria. I had little money. Muhammed was a weak and sickly child. In Syria, there are neither doctors nor medicine. So, I thought it would be better if I save my wife and son by sending them abroad," he said. Their destination was Switzerland where they have relatives. Some of their other relatives perished when the boat sank, however. İhsam Hassan is scared of taking the deadly route via the Aegean Sea but said he is desperate and hopes he can legally travel to Switzerland with his family.
He was grateful for the fishermen whom were hailed as heroes in Turkey. "May God bless them," he said.
Loren Halaf said she was happy to be back together with her husband and Muhammad was so joyous that he couldn't sleep the night before his father arrived and forgot what he went through at sea. "We are desperate but at least we are happy because the family is back together," Loren said.