The war in Syria has produced many harrowing tales of bloodshed and loss – but few are more heartbreaking than that of Aiysha’s.

Her entire family – father, mother and brother - were gunned down in a raid on her home by Syrian pro-government militia.

Despite Aiysha being only eight years old, Assad-loyal troops shot her too - but, unlike her loved ones, the schoolgirl survived.  

The 14-year-old opened up to HuffPost UK about a trauma from which she may never recover. 

“I lost my mind, I couldn’t speak a word,” she said, recalling the terrible event.

The family were living in Homs, which between 2011 and 2014 was under siege.  The Syrian army were determined to crush rebels who had defied the Government in the wake of the Arab Spring. 

Aiysha and her family barely left their building, so dangerous were the city streets. 

“We couldn’t even look out of the window,” said Najat, Aiysha’s grandmother. 

Soldiers began targeting civilians in a brutal bid to quell uprisings from the Free Syrian Army in 2012, Najat said.

“They started attacking houses, killing, murdering, stealing money, gold and people’s things,” she said. “They were killing us in our homes.”

That year, troops burst into Aiysha’s home and demanded they hand over the food they were eating.

Aiysha right with her grandmother left speaking to HuffPost reporters
Aiysha, right, with her grandmother, Najat, left, speaking to HuffPost reporters with Unicef

“They gave them the food, but the soldiers kicked it down the stairs with their feet,” said Najat, who lived around 15 minutes away.

Aiysha’s father was forced upstairs with a gun to his back by one of the men. He was then subjected to torture within earshot of his wife and children.

“He said ‘I haven’t done anything, what do you want?’,” said Najat. “They tortured him and after that they shot him. All the while his family could hear him crying in pain. My daughter and granddaughter were crying. They were so afraid.”

The soldier then stormed back into the room and told the rest of the family to get in line for they were to die too. Aiysha’s mother burst into tears, rushed to shelter her two children from harm and began begging for their lives.

Najat said: “She told them ‘please don’t kill us, we haven’t done anything, why do you have to kill us?’.”

But the soldiers opened fire, killing Aiysha’s mother and nine-year-old brother. A bullet ripped through Aiysha’s abdomen, knocking her unconscious. Hours later, however, she awoke and found herself surrounded by her family’s dead bodies.

Dazed and in agony, the schoolgirl staggered into the street and began knocking on doors. One couple ushered her in and allowed her to collapse on their bed.

With heavy fire continuing outside, it was three days before it was safe enough for her to get to a doctor. She had to take instructions from a medic over the phone on dressing her wound and eventually got in touch with her grandmother. 

Aiysha
Aiysha, right, with her grandmother, Najat, left, open up about their horrific experiences in Syria

Najat said Assad’s government bodies refused help.

She said: “I was calling the government, firefighters and hospitals asking them to bring them to me. They said you deserve this and hung up the phone.”

Aiysha fled south with her grandparents soon after and now lives in Jordan’s Amman, safe from the violence still strangling her country.

As the years drew on, she said the grief and shock took their toll.

She said: “When I was young, I didn’t think about these things. But now that I have grown up, I feel the pain more. I started understanding.”

Her Unicef-sponsored psychologists say she suffers from flashbacks, depression, anxiety and has withdrawn completely. They believe it will take years of therapy for her to come to terms with what happened. 

I lost my mind, I couldn’t speak a word

The teen has been unable to make friends since the murders and has opened up only to her psychologist and grandparents.  

She had ambitions to be a teacher prior to the war but now cannot focus on schoolwork.

“Every time I try to study, I remember it all again,” she said.

Najat has a very close relationship with her granddaughter and is determined to protect her from any further harm.

She said: “Everywhere I go I bring her with me. She is so special to me.”

She added: “But I feel that whatever I do, I cannot replace her mother’s love.”

When asked about her hopes for the future, Aiysha’s outlook is bleak.

“I think about the past more,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what I want to be now. I don’t think about that at all anymore.”

Aiysha’s message to the world about Syria is also simple.

She said: “Stop the killing, the destruction and devastation. It’s too much.” 

HuffPost UK has teamed up with Unicef to raise money for Syrian children affected by a war which has stretched over almost seven years. 

To donate to the HuffPost UK Christmas Appeal go to: unicef.uk/huffpost

HuffPost UK Christmas Appeal 2017
To make a donation to Unicef and to help the children of Syria this winter, please visit http://unicef.uk/huffpost