As the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad tightens the noose on rebel-held enclaves in the city of Aleppo, its relentless shelling of civilian areas claimed yet another casualty. According to news reports, Anas al-Basha, a 24-year-old social worker who dressed as a clown to entertain children, died in a suspected regime or Russian missile strike Tuesday in the Mashhad neighborhood of eastern Aleppo.
Basha's death was confirmed in a tweet by a man who identified himself as Basha's brother:
The ongoing offensive, as The Washington Post's Louisa Loveluck reports, has caused hundreds of deaths and spurred a desperate exodus of tens of thousands of people seeking safety. Ordinary citizens caught in this war zone are enduring “a slow-motion descent into hell, said a U.N. official with the World Food Program.
“For the sake of humanity, we call on, we plead with the parties and those with influence to do everything in their power to protect civilians and enable access to the besieged part of eastern Aleppo before it becomes one giant graveyard,” U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien warned Wednesday.
In the midst of daily horror and tragedy, figures like Basha sought to shine a little light in the dark. He was a member of a local civil society group called Space for Hope, which provides counseling and support to hundreds of children in 12 schools who have lost one or both of their parents in the conflict.
According to the Associated Press, Basha chose to stay in the city and continue his work even as other members of his family, including his parents, left Aleppo. Samar Hijazi, Basha's supervisor, recalled her slain colleague to the AP. “He would act out skits for the children to break the walls between them,” she said, adding that “all of us in this field [of child care] are exhausted, and we have to find strength to provide psychological support and continue with our work.”
Mahmoud al-Basha, who identified himself as Anas's brother, lamented his passing in a Facebook post.
Anas “lived to make children laugh and happy in the darkest most dangerous place,” he wrote. "… Anas who refused to leave Aleppo and decided to stay there to continue his work as a volunteer, to help the civilians and give gifts for the children in the streets to bring hope for them.”
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