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Human Relief Foundation

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A Syrian father has recounted his ordeal after his boat capsized, with his family aboard whilst travelling to Greece.

Human Relief Foundation, a registered international aid organisation based in Bradford (UK), met Abu Mahmood on the island of Kos, Greece, whilst out conducting assessments.

Abu Mahmood and his family decided to leave Syria because their safety was at risk. Reaching Bodrum, Turkey, smugglers promised him, his wife, his 22-year old daughter, 14-year-old son, 7-year-old son, a safe trip.

The family of five were told to quickly get on an overcrowded boat and people had no time to put on life jackets. After the boat left Bodrum, waves became deadly and the boat started flooding. Water had broken into the window in the cabin, and the boat began tipping forward, with women and children screaming for help.

Abu Mahmood’s daughter gave a life jacket to him, but she didn’t have time to give another life jacket to her mother. Abu Mahmood was thrown overboard and tried moving towards the boat, which he saw upside down.

The strong waves pushed him away, and for 3 and a half hours he was in the water, before sea patrols rescued him. At the shore, he learnt his family had drowned.

Abu Mahmood, emotional, told HRF: “They pulled my 22-year-old daughter’s body and placed her in front of me.”

“I had my family on my lap. Now what’s left of them are passports. That is what’s left of them. Instead of putting my youngest son in my arms and falling asleep with him, now I just lay with his passport close to my heart.”

Watch the video at

Notes to editors

HRF is based in Bradford and is a registered International Non-Governmental Organisation. 

Launched in 1991, it seeks to promote sustainable economic and social development, supporting local communities to build a better life and find their own solutions to global problems.

It is registered with the UK Charity Commission (1126281 & SC038671).

If you have any media enquiries, please phone Hasan Faridi on 01274 392727 or email

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