Aleppo 'Twitter girl' safe after family flees army advance

With her mother's help, Bana, seven, had been posting tweets in English. Since late September, she and her mother Fatemah have garnered more than 211,000 followers by tweeting regular updates on battered Aleppo.
With her mother's help, Bana, seven, had been posting tweets in English. Since late September, she and her mother Fatemah have garnered more than 211,000 followers by tweeting regular updates on battered Aleppo.PHOTO: TWITTER

Young Syrian's heart-rending tweets on life in besieged area have drawn wide following

ALEPPO • A seven-year-old Syrian girl whose Twitter account from Aleppo gained international attention has fled her home amid heavy fighting, but she and her family are safe for now, her father said yesterday.

With her mother's help, Bana al-Abed had been posting heart- rending tweets in English on life in the besieged eastern districts of Syria's Aleppo.

But as Syrian government forces edged closer to their home in recent days, the Abed family fled and the Twitter updates slowed.

"Our house was damaged in bombardment," her father Ghassan said by phone from east Aleppo, two- thirds of which have been seized by advancing government forces.

"The army got really close to our neighbourhood. We fled to another part of east Aleppo and the family is doing well," he said, adding that "the Internet connection is very weak here".

Since late September, Bana and her mother Fatemah have garnered more than 211,000 followers by tweeting regular updates on battered Aleppo.

Pictures of massive white columns of smoke, captioned "Aleppo right now. We (are) so scared", are interspersed with shots of Bana reading or scrawling in a notebook.

The account captured the attention of novelist J. K. Rowling, who responded to a picture of Bana poring over an electronic copy of the Harry Potter series.

On Nov 29, Bana's account tweeted a photograph of a heavily damaged building, with the caption: "This is our house, My beloved dolls died in the bombing of our house. I am very sad but happy to be alive."

Several days later, Bana wrote that she was sick: "I have no medicine, no home, no clean water. This will make me die even before a bomb kills me."

Many of the tweets have included cries for help, but the messages grew increasingly desperate at the weekend.

On Sunday night, Fatemah posted: "We are sure the army is capturing us now. We will see each other another day dear world. Bye." The account fell silent for 24 hours, prompting concerned followers to launch a #WhereisBana hashtag.

An update followed on Monday night, reading: "Under attack. Nowhere to go, every minute feels like death. Pray for us. Goodbye - Fatemah."

Online supporters of President Bashar al-Assad have bashed the account and sent Bana and her mother death threats. And in an October interview with Danish broadcaster TV2, Mr Assad alleged that footage posted by Bana was "promoted by the terrorists or their supporters".

"It's a game now, a game of propaganda, it's a game of media. You can see anything, and you can be sympathetic with every picture and every video you see. But our mission as a government is to deal with the reality," he said.

His government said yesterday it rejects any ceasefire negotiated by any party in rebel-held eastern Aleppo unless what it describes as terrorist groups there depart.

The statement came after Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Monday for a week-long ceasefire.

Moscow said on the same day that Russian and US officials would meet this week to discuss a possible rebel withdrawal from Aleppo.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2016, with the headline 'Aleppo 'Twitter girl' safe after family flees army advance'. Print Edition | Subscribe