Anas al-Basha who dressed as a clown to cheer up traumatized children in war devastated Aleppo was killed on Tuesday in a missile strike on the Mashhad neighborhood in the besieged, eastern side of the city, reports Associated Press.
The 24-year-old Basha was a centre director at Space for Hope, one of many local initiatives operating against extreme odds to provide civil society services to Syria’s war-torn areas.
In a now largely bombed-out enclave, Space for Hope supports 12 schools and four psycho-social support centers in eastern Aleppo, providing counseling and financial support for 365 children who have lost one or both parents. Many of the staff of 34 learned to do social work on the job.
In a region where children are surrounded by death, with no space to play and escape from the constant reminders of war, this kind of help was much needed, and the simple happiness inspired by a clown was invaluable, his friends said as his death was reported by the media.
Anas is survived by his wife, who remains trapped in Aleppo. They married two months ago.
Anas’s supervisor, Samar Hijazi, said she will remember him as a friend who loved to work with children.
“He would act out skits for the children to break the walls between them,” she said.
Anas’s parents left the city before the government sealed its siege of the rebel-held eastern districts last summer. He chose to stay on, and had his salary sent to where they were taking refuge in the countryside.
The siege has been intensely difficult for those who have shouldered the burden of looking after Aleppo’s traumatized children.
“All of us in this field (of childcare) are exhausted, and we have to find strength to provide psychological support and continue with our work,” said Hijazi.
Space for Hope has suspended its operations in Aleppo for the time being. A renewed government assault on the city’s eastern neighborhood has brought shelling and bombardment at an unprecedented rate, displacing tens of thousands of civilians and killing dozens of civilians daily.