'Clown of Aleppo' who gave hope to Syrian children killed in airstrike

Despite the fighting in Syria, a 24-year-old dressed up in clown makeup to comfort children. But, tragically, the so-called 'clown of Aleppo' was killed in an airstrike this week.
Syrian social worker Anas al-Basha, 24, known as the Clown of Aleppo, while posing for a photograph in Aleppo, Syria. (Ahmad al-Khatib/AP)

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He was known as the "clown of Aleppo."

In the besieged Syrian city, a 24-year-old named Anas al-Basha put on make-up and a clown costume, to entertain and comfort children in the rebel-held area of the city. On Tuesday, Anas al-Basha was killed in an airstrike.
Anas al-Basha, 24, known as the "Clown of Aleppo" was killed on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016 in a presumed government or Russian ballistic missile strike on the Mashhad neighbourhood in the besieged, eastern side of Aleppo city. (Ahmad al-Khatib/AP)

Mahmoud al-Basha is Anas's brother. He spoke with As It Happens guest host Dave Seglins. Here is part of their conversation.
Dave Seglins: Mahmoud, my condolences on the loss of your brother ... Why did he want to start acting as a clown?

Mahmoud al-Basha: Anas loved the children so much, especially the orphans. He decided to do something special and different than the others are doing. All the NGOs, they are focusing on the food baskets and the medical stuff but Anas wants to always do something special for the children. Especially in this war, since five years, nobody is caring about these children. If they are happy or not. If they have hope or not. So Anas joined a team. They called themselves Space for Hope. They organized parties and trips for these children.
(ZEIN AL-RIFAI/AFP/Getty Images)

DS: He is in costume. That must have been a strange thing for the children. How did they react?
MB: When they see him they would smile. They would feel happy and get hopeful for what they are seeing in front of their eyes. It's something completely special and different. Nobody did that before in all over Syria, since the war started.

Al-Basha was a center director at Space for Hope, one of the many important but unheralded local initiatives that has operated against the odds to provide the services of civil society in Syria's war-torn opposition areas. (Ahmad al-Khatib/AP)



DS: You fled Syria a year ago. Why did Anas decide to stay?

MB: I had a discussion with him about that. Anas refused to leave Aleppo because he wanted to always help these children because they don't have anyone who is caring for them. He used to focus on orphans who lost their parents during this war. He refused to leave the city to continue his work.

This interview was edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Mahmoud al-Basha.

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