The following article contains graphic images.
“Tonight we have no house, it’s bombed & I got in rubble. I saw deaths and I almost died” – @AlabedBana.
Bana Alabed tweets. She’s a seven-year-old girl living in Aleppo, Syria. Her Twitter account is managed by her mother, who documents the atrocities committed in Aleppo every day.
The account gained traction after Russian airstrikes destroyed a school in Idlib. The bombing killed 26 civilians, including children. Bana and her family tweeted live pictures and footage at the scene including graphic images of severed limbs and body bags. Classmates of Bana and her own brother were among those killed.
— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) October 28, 2016
Bana’s tweets typically ask for thoughts and prayers, as her home city crumbles around her. Bana, like many other Twitter users, utilizes hashtags like #StandWithAleppo to bring awareness to their cause. Bana and her mother try to spread their message of peace, and increase media attention of the events transpiring around them.
Bana’s childhood, or lack thereof, is the focal point of her Twitter activity. It highlights the impact the war has on her development. Though she has lost almost everything, documented in videos of frequent bombing, her mother tweets smiling photos of Bana losing her teeth and reading her copy of Harry Potter.
Similar Twitter accounts, like @edwardedark and @maytham956, ask for international aid. In appeals for empathy, these users often use either their own children, or children around them, to persuade others outside Syria to sponsor relief.
— Edward Dark (@edwardedark) November 20, 2016
Though mainstream media commonly cover Aleppo, the epicenter of the Syrian crisis, this account, and those like it, provides Western viewers a raw perspective that many news organizations cannot. Her uncensored tweets offer a rare civilian viewpoint that brings a new type of reporting to the international community.
This is our house, My beloved dolls died in the bombing of our house. I am very sad but happy to be alive.- Bana pic.twitter.com/9i0xxJrQtD
— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) November 29, 2016
According to the Australian Broadcasting Company, these accounts become popular mainly because of barriers of access to journalists entering the conflict. The dangers for foreign journalists to report on-site can be seen in Austin Tice’s disappearance back in 2012, when the conflict was still new. On his travels to Syria he strove to publish civilian stories, but instead was kidnapped by an unidentified group. His whereabouts are still unknown.
Native Syrians like Bana and her mother can capture the images and footage others cannot, as they live with the conflict stirring around them.
With the dangers of the region being one reason to detach from Syria, foreign journalists also find it difficult to predict what will happen in the region. There are ethnic and religious conflicts, geographical challenges, and complicated incumbent regimes that dissuade writers and their outlets from on the ground coverage. The Syrian conflict is one mired in confusion, often complicating reporting.
Most stories about the international conflict focus on the feud between Russia and the United States. The New York Times has even called the conflict a proxy war as Russia backs the Syrian government and the United States supports the rebels.
Now, as the Syrian government’s army moves closer to Bana’s location, she tweets that her only option is to flee to the regime side, where she fears she will be killed. In addition Bana’s most recent tweet on December 10th reports that not only was her childhood home destroyed by bombs, but her more recent home was also hit by rocket strikes.
MediaFile has made various attempts to reach out to Bana and her mother through Twitter, but they have been unresponsive due to, what can be assumed, their current displacement.