‘They slaughtered my family & told me to go’: Heart-wrenching stories of Aleppo orphans (EXCLUSIVE)
Over the past few days, some 100,000 civilians, including 40,000 children, have left eastern Aleppo, according to the Russian Reconciliation Center.
The UN says one in four children have been affected by the Syrian war. In Aleppo, that figure appears a gross understatement, Phelan reports.
Children such as Moussa, who is around eight, Jamil, 14, and Asma – around the same age – shared their chilling experience of watching their parents and siblings killed by terrorists before their eyes while they had to flee the fighting on their own.
“My father was killed five days ago,” says the tearful Asma, who’s been left to fend for herself with her five younger brothers and sisters. The Red Crescent picked them up as it did countless other children from what was the rebel-held Aleppo. Dirty, hungry and too traumatized to talk about their ordeal, they were dropped off at an orphanage a few days ago.
Moussa, whose age no one can determine precisely, does not remember life before the war. After his entire family was murdered before his eyes, he walked alone for a day and a half before he was picked up by the Liwa al Quds militia, who then took him to Neirab Camp, a designated safe zone in Aleppo.
“They’re all dead. We were just walking, and the terrorists started to shoot at us,” Moussa said. “We started running until we got to a checkpoint, and they caught us there. They beat my parents and told me to go.”
Moussa said he witnessed his parents being slaughtered before he left, and then had to find his way out of the danger zone with bullets flying around him.
“I was walking in the street, where there were a lot of bodies, and then the snipers started to shoot at me. I ran behind a wall and got to a place where there were no snipers. Then I met a man who took me to Aleppo.”
The story is no different with Jamil, 14, who appears to still not be fully conscious of what happened, as he calmly recounts the ordeal of his family being killed by terrorist shelling.
Jamil says his three sisters and one brother are dead. When he grows up, Jamil says he wants to be just like the militia fighters who took him in and gave him shelter.
As of now, much of help for those who fled comes not from the UN, but from groups like the pro-government Liwa al-Quds militia, Phelan reports.
“We opened the center on our own initiative. We care for families and children whose homes were destroyed by the war, who were kicked out of their homes, or had families killed by the terrorists. We provide medical and social services, we work night and day to receive families from the east [of Aleppo],” the group’s commander, Muhammad al-Sa’eed, told Phelan.
Overnight into Tuesday, street celebrations have erupted in Aleppo on news the Syrian Army was on the brink of completely liberating the militant-held eastern areas. The locals, who have seen four years of war and constant shelling, waved Syrian flags and shot in the air.