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New Charlie Hebdo cartoon suggests dead three-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi would have become sexual attacker

In hindsight, the death of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian refugee who washed up on a Turkish shore after his family tried to escape to a new life, may mark the high point in European public sympathy for refugees. The widespread reports that refugees and migrants were involved in mass sexual assaults in Cologne and other European cities on New Year's Eve could well be its nadir.

Charlie Hebdo's new cartoon has been met with outrage.
Charlie Hebdo's new cartoon has been met with outrage. Photo: Charlie Hebdo

Now French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo has attempted to combine the two moments, with an image that suggests if Kurdi had survived his journey to Europe he would have become an "groper in Germany."

The image was drawn by Laurent Sourisseau, also known as "Riss," a long-time contributor to the newspaper and its current publishing director. Sourisseau was present when the publication's offices were attacked by extremists in January. That attack left twelve people dead; Sourisseau himself was shot in the shoulder.

A paramilitary police officer carries the lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi, 3, after a number of migrants died and others ...
A paramilitary police officer carries the lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi, 3, after a number of migrants died and others were reported missing when boats carrying them to the Greek island of Kos capsized near the Turkish resort of Bodrum.  Photo: AP

While some recent comments from Sourisseau suggest he is pushing a less combative agenda for the magazine - moving away from images of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, for example - the new image of Kurdi shows that Charlie Hebdo is not afraid to cause outrage. Unsurprisingly, many have been outraged by the latest image of Kurdi.

This isn't the first time Charlie Hebdo has used the now-iconic image of a drowned Kurdi on a beach for satire, however. In September, the publication ran a few images that appeared to riff on the power of the image and Europe's sudden display of sympathy for Syrian refugees.

The cover of Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical publication, to mark the first anniversary of the attacks on 7 January ...
The cover of Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical publication, to mark the first anniversary of the attacks on 7 January 2015 at its offices in which 12 people were killed. Photo: Charlie Hebdo

Since Kurdi's death, the pendulum of public support for refugees in Europe has swung back the other way. There is widespread anger that a cover up may have occurred in the aftermath of the New Year's Eve assaults. In Cologne, refugees and migrants have suffered what appears to be reprisal attacks. Polls suggest that foreigners in Europe are viewed with more and more suspicion. Charlie Hebdo may well have been satirising the fickleness of Europe's sympathy for refugees and migrants, or highlighting the absurdity of linking the many fearful refugee families to the alleged sexual assaults of grown men.

Even if that's true, however, the satire misses the mark for many, who wonder whether racist images can truly satirise racist images.

Germany experienced a public backlash after Cologne's mass sexual assaults.
Germany experienced a public backlash after Cologne's mass sexual assaults.  Photo: Getty Images

Washington Post