The atrocities happening in Aleppo, Syria, have been heartbreaking to read about, let alone live through on a daily basis. But of course, the most troubling stories of all have been those involving children.
Earlier this year, the harrowing image of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh became the symbol for Syria’s suffering, after a photo of him went viral and reminded the world just how many families are being torn apart. His story was so moving that a 6-year-old from New York even penned a letter to President Obama, politely — yet urgently — asking him to bring him to America so he could be safe.
But for the past few months, another Syrian child has sadly become the new face of the Syrian war: a 7-year-old girl named Bana Alabed, who’s been documenting her daily life on Twitter since late September, with the help of her mother.
Her tweets, while brief, have provided an honest and sobering view into the relentless warfare that’s besieged the city for several years now.
“I miss school so much,” read one tweet.
“Please stop the war, we’re tired,” read another.
As for why she’s taken to social media to share her daily struggles? “I want to carry the voice of the children to the war,” Bana explained in an interview with NBC News in October.
And she certainly has. According to CNN, before her Twitter account was momentarily deactivated on Sunday, Bana had gained over 100,000 followers, and touched hearts all over the world with her daily tweets. Author JK Rowling had also been moved by her story, as well as her tweets about reading books “to forget the war.” After Bana’s mother Fatemah tweeted at the Harry Potter author in late November, Rowling sent her an eBook and shared some words of support and encouragement.
“Bana, I hope you do read the book, because I think you’d like it,” wrote Rowling. “Sending you lots and lots of love xxx.”
On Sunday, Bana’s Twitter account, which she reportedly shares with her mother, fell silent for nearly 24 hours after her mother sent one disturbingly final tweet: “We are sure the army is capturing us now. We will see each other another day dear world. Bye.- Fatemah #Aleppo.”
The account appears to have been reactivated as of Monday, and was updated with another even more haunting tweet from Fatemah:
“Under attack, nowhere to go. Every minute feels like death. Pray for us. Goodbye. – Fatemah #Aleppo”
According to CNN, both Bana and her mom have tweeted similar texts while under attack before.
“Under heavy bombardments now,” the 7-year-old wrote on November 28. “In between death and life now, please keep praying for us.”
Later that night came another unsettling update: “We have no home now. I got minor injury. I didn’t sleep since yesterday, I am hungry. I want to live, I don’t want to die. -Bana”
While not much more is known about Bana and her family’s safety, the reactivation of her Twitter account Monday was taken as a good sign from her followers. Still, the alarming tweets shared by her mother only serve to underscore just how critical the situation in Aleppo has become; and how delicately lives hang in the balance.
The upheaval in the region first began back in 2011, when anti-government protests — which were originally peaceful calls for democracy — turned violent. During one such protest on March 18, 2011, the Syrian army opened fire, killing four protestors. The public outcry sparked by the deaths led many Syrians to call for the resignation of the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad.
By the following year, Syria was thrust into a full-on civil war — one that has only intensified in the years since. And while al-Assad has reportedly offered to change several things about how the country is run, the “opposition,” as its now known, has grown too distrustful.
As a result, the country has been thrown into disarray. To date, an estimated 11 million Syrian refugees have fled their war-torn country in seek of safety in neighboring countries, while another 6.6 million remain inside, unable to flee. Many of them, like Bana’s family, still reside in the dangerous city of Aleppo, which is now subject to frequent bombings by the Syrian government. And as the New York Times recently reported, many hospitals on the rebel-held side of Syria are so badly damaged they’re no longer able to provide care for the sick or injured, which is only throwing the region into further turmoil.
Now in its fifth year, the war in Syria doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon — despite having tragically claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million people. But thanks in part to citizen journalists like Bana and her mother, the stories of those caught among the warfare are finally being heard.
If you would like to learn more about the crisis in Syria and how you can help the refugees, visit WorldRelief.org.More On