The bodies of 14 people have been recovered by Turkish authorities. File photo: Anadolu Agency
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A boat carrying 35 migrants, many of them Kurds, trying to make it to Europe capsized in the Aegean Sea, killing all but one woman on board.
At least 19 of the victims are believed to be Kurds from Duhok and Zakho. Afghanis are also reportedly among the dead.
Fourteen bodies have been retrieved from the waters off the coast of Turkey.
Only one woman from Zakho survived. She has been identified as Mahabad Ismael.
She survived because she knew how to swim, according to Kurda Yashar, the representative of Iraq’s refugee office in Turkey. Her five children and husband drowned.
According to Ismael's account, the boat ran out of fuel during the journey.
Most of the Kurdish dead are from two families.
According to family members, one of the victims was a Peshmerga who had fought ISIS. His eldest son has severe diabetes and the family had sought medical attention in Iran before resorting to the dangerous trip to Europe.
"It is deeply painful to send all these bodies back all the time," Yashar told Rudaw TV, asking what it will take for families to stop trying the dangerous voyage.
Shaswar Abdulwahid, head of the New Generation, said the deaths should send "a message to those who deny the frustration and growing grievances among the public in Kurdistan, especially in Duhok where people are deprived from [sic] the wealth of their city."
Zeravan Gouli traveled from Diyabakir to Izmir looking for his relatives who may have been on the boat. He said he has not been able to identify the smugglers who had arranged passage for his family members and has asked for help from the authorities.
Turkish authorities were alerted to the disaster when the one survivor approached the gendarmes wearing wet clothes and a life jacket. The coast guard dispatched two boats, a helicopter, and one aircraft to search, Anadolu Agency reported.
Under a deal with the European Union, Turkey has restricted access to Europe from its borders, but hundreds still risk the dangerous voyage across the Aegean.
Many Kurds are among those who have drowned on the route. Smugglers are often blamed for providing small boats without safety equipment.
Updated at 11:14 pm