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Zainab Alhusni was a simple seamstress in Syria, well-loved by all her neighbors and friends. Now, in a tragic turn of events, she has become a symbol of the cruelty gripping that conflict-wracked nation.

Alhusni was only 18 when she stepped away from her Homs residence last month to buy groceries. Her family never again saw her alive. She was whisked away by Syrian security forces to coax the surrender of her activist brother, and ended up beheaded and dismembered, a neighbor, activists and human rights groups say.

Waleed Fares, a neighbor and family friend, told CNN on Monday that Zainab’s father died when she was just a toddler, leaving her mother and three siblings to fend for themselves in a country with often-unfavorable conditions for a single mother. All four children dropped out of school at a young age so they could work as laborers to provide for their family, Fares said.

Zainab dreamed of owning her own tailor shop, so she could support her impoverished family, he said. But she never had a chance to fulfill that dream.

Her older brother, Mohammed, became a well-known activist in the family’s hometown of Homs in western Syria, often leading the demonstrations against embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and treating the wounded.

“Protesters would carry Mohammed on their shoulders so he could lead the chants,” Fares said. “He was very loved by everyone. The protesters even had a chant they would say for him, using his nickname: ‘Abu Ahmed, may Allah protect you!'”

Security forces pursued Mohammed Alhusni for months, raiding his family’s home several times, causing the family to flee to a nearby neighborhood on July 25, Fares said.

On July 27, Zainab Alhusni disappeared, leaving her family devastated and her siblings panicked and anxious, the neighbor said.

“If it had been her brother it would have been different. Taking Zainab, it became a matter of family honor and family pride. Her mother was beyond depressed. She seemed to be between life and death,” Fares said.

Neighbors and family friends called on each other to collect donations to ease the family’s financial troubles, but this became the least of the Alhusni family’s concerns.

Courtesy Of CNN.COM

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