A man who dressed as a clown to cheer up the children of war-torn Aleppo has reportedly been killed in an airstrike, as the all-out assault by Syrian and Russian forces on rebel-held districts of the city continues.
24-year-old Anas al-Basha was a social worker and the director of a charity called Space for Hope. He became known as the “Clown of Aleppo” for dressing in clown makeup to comfort the children under his care. He was killed in a missile strike on the eastern Mashhad district of Aleppo on Tuesday.
According to the UK Independent, Space for Hope currently supports 12 schools and four other support centers, serving at least 365 children who have lost one or both of their parents in the battle for Aleppo. The charity suspended operations in the wake of al-Basha’s death, with its remaining workers described as demoralized and “exhausted.”
“Mr Basha’s parents left the city before the Assad government sealed off its siege of the city last summer but he chose to remain and sent his salary to the their [sic] new residence in the countryside,” the Independent writes. “He is survived by his wife, whom he only married two months ago.”
“He lived to make children laugh and happy in the darkest most dangerous place. 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,” his brother Mahmoud wrote on Facebook, blaming “the Russians and Assad regime” for his death.
The United Nations on Thursday accused Russia and the Syrian government of preventing humanitarian aid from reaching some 200,000 civilians trapped in Aleppo. The Russians and Syrians favor opening “safe corridors” for civilians and surrendering rebels to escape the city.
“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,” said U.N. Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien.
“There are no limits or red lines left to cross. The rules of war – sacrosanct notions borne out of generations of costly and painful lessons and set more than 150 years ago in the First Geneva Convention – have been systematically disregarded in Syria,” O’Brien added.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights worried that the already awful situation in Aleppo would only get worse, as displacement forces civilians to huddle in ever-denser clusters, making them increasingly vulnerable to bombs and missiles. The Observatory also charged that some refugees have been arrested by Syrian forces and disappeared or been pressed into service by the Syrian military.
Syrian government forces are said to have overrun the northern part of Aleppo and captured six more districts from the rebels last weekend.