Seven-year-old girl tweets her hopes and fears from city besieged by Assad

Bana Alabed and mother Fatemeh gain over 10,000 followers since starting to tweet about life in rebel-held Aleppo two weeks ago 

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The Independent Online

“I am very afraid I will die tonight,” seven-year-old Bana says, putting her fingers in her ears as she stands by the window listening to bombs dropping in the darkness. 

“No more, do you hear that?” she asks, as children cry in the background.

Bana, from east Aleppo, does not remember a time in her life in which Syria was peaceful: she is only just older than the almost-six-year-long conflict itself, and her hometown has been the scene of fighting between US-backed rebel forces and the Syrian government since 2012. 

Syrian government continues air strikes on Aleppo

In July of this year, President Bashar al-Assad’s forces managed to cut off supply lines into the last rebel-held neighbourhoods in the city, leaving east Aleppo’s 250,000 residents trapped under siege conditions since then. 

The situation has deteriorated, however, since the breakdown of the Eid al-Adha ceasefire two weeks ago, which led to a renewed bombing campaign to retake the city by the Syrian military, backed by Russian forces.  

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(Bana Alabed)

Bana has been sending messages to the world on Twitter about what it’s like to live under the constant fear of airstrikes since the bombing started. 

“I need peace,” her first tweet said. “I can't go out because of the bombing please stop bombing us.” Another tweet says: “I want to be a teacher but this war is killing my dream stop the bombing. Let me learn English and maths.” 

The account quickly came to the attention of people both inside and outside Syria - amassing thousands of followers in less than two weeks -  because of its harrowing content. Bana is much too young to have experienced the horrors she writes about: a photo of a bombed-out building is accompanied by a caption which says the house belonged to Bana’s friend, and she is now dead. 

East Aleppo’s children have been affected disproportionately by the conflict: more than 100 children died in strikes last week, the World Health Organisation says. Save the Children estimates more than half of recent casualties in the area are children.

The new school year began this weekend, but many schools have been hit in air strikes or are closed. Bana herself hasn’t been to school since last year.

The seven-year-old is helped with writing tweets by her mother Fatemeh, who studied English at college for three years. All of the tweets are Bana’s own ideas unless signed off specifically by Fatemeh, her mother says. 

Fatemeh also posts videos and pictures of Bana and her brothers, five-year-old Mohamed and three-year-old Noor.  

The latest video is from Monday morning, of the three children cuddling in bed. “Hello world, we are still alive,” Bana says.

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(Bana Alabed)

Fatemeh has faced criticism from people who have accused her of using her child to push out political messages, particularly in posts aimed at Russian president Vladimir Putin, who provides major military assistance to Assad’s air force. 

But in a conversation with the BBC, Fatemeh said she finds such reproval upsetting. “All the words come from the heart,” she said. “All are the truth.”

The family are in a desperate situation. Fatemeh says that fruits and vegetables in the market are running out, and when Noor went to the hospital recently, the family were turned away because there was no medicine left to give him. 

Bana started the account because she doesn’t understand why the world won’t help them, Fatemah added. She just “wants the world to hear our voice.”

“We are not terrorists. We are not Isis," Fatemeh says of the civilians trapped in the city. ”We are all innocent here."

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