You might have heard the name Bana Alabed or simply just “Bana” on Facebook, Twitter or on the evening news over the last few weeks. Bana is a seven-year-old girl living in East Aleppo. She is too young to use Twitter herself so her mother, Fatemah tweets on her behalf. You also might have heard that yesterday Bana sent what he thought was her last message said she felt she was living her last moment.
My name is Bana, I’m 7 years old. I am talking to the world now live from East #Aleppo. This is my last moment to either live or die. – Bana
— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) December 13, 2016
This isn’t the first time that Bana or Fatemah have said they felt they were living their last moment. Several times since September they have both said goodbye on Twitter and saying they felt it would be impossible for them to survive the current round violence.
So what was different about yesterday?
The Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, have all but won the war. As they move into rebel controlled areas the United Nations have said there are credible reports of state solders conducting door-to-door executions of anyone left in the area. Bana and Fatemah are fearful that they are targets as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has claimed they are working with terrorists. Bana and her mother counter that they’re not terrorists, they’re simply trying to survive in a war zone and are tweeting what they’re seeing.
That Fatemah is able to communicate to the outside world is a miracle in itself. The city of Aleppo has been cut off from the outside world for months, the city is in ruins as rebel and regime forces clash. Fatemah has been able to use a solar powered phone charger to stay connected, as her family’s home was without power for months, until it was destroyed last week.
— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) November 27, 2016
Fatemah thought that the world should hear her children’s voices, stuck in Aleppo, witnessing death and destruction all around them. She thought that the world would pay attention if they were hearing the horrors of Aleppo from a 7-year-old. She was right. Bana has brought attention to the plight of the approximately 100,000 innocent people trapped in Aleppo.
What has made the war in Syria and the resulting refugee crisis so heartbreaking has been the world’s unwillingness to act. As average people across the world have seen the heartbreaking images and videos of dead, dying and shell-shocked children, with aid unable to reach those in the city, many have felt powerless to do anything to stop the violence.
In response to today’s violence millions of people all over the world took action, demonstrating, calling UN and country officials, and demanding that safe passage be granted by the Syrian regime and Russia to the people trapped in the eastern part of Aleppo. Syria responded to the pressure and agreed to a ceasefire with the rebels, committing to allow safe passage out of the city for innocent civilians caught in the middle. Yesterday there was hope that with guarantees of safe civilian passage, Bana, her mother, younger brother and injured father would also be able to safely flee the city.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. We know that Bana and her family are still trapped in the city amid heavy bombing and door-to-door fighting.
— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) December 14, 2016
Since the ceasefire announcement there has been confusion. Initial reports were that anyone who wanted to leave would be able to go, however, government forces then claimed that only rebel “fighters” would be allowed to leave and all citizens would be required to stay. There are very few fighters left in Aleppo, and the civilians have been assumed by the government to support or have been involved in rebel activities as they live in the rebel controlled territory.
Initial reports were that five busses were allowed to leave the city carrying a mixture of civilians and rebel fighters. It now seems that those reports weren’t accurate, and the busses returned empty. Bana, her family and hundreds of others are now hopelessly trapped.
I should not have to say this but a war zone is no place for children. These families must be able to leave, regardless of who they supported in the war. Sporadic fighting will continue for weeks as government forces re-establish control, there is no food, no running water, no sanitation, no shelter, no medicine, no doctors. This is not a place for adults, let alone children.
We unfortunately know from decades of research that children of war suffer more than adults do. Infants and children need stability and to form appropriate attachments, they need parents that are emotionally available and able to meet their basic needs, they need socialization with other children and environmental security, all to develop normally. All of that is gone in a war zone, and the effects not only last the child’s lifetime, we now know that they are passed down to that child’s children.
The children of Aleppo have already seen too much. They must be allowed to leave, and you can help make that happen.
People around the world are being urged to keep up the pressure on their elected representatives in government until safe passage is assured for children and families. Make phone calls, send emails—do whatever you can to make sure they know that you care about the children of Aleppo, like Bana. If you’re in America, email or call President Obama (202-456-1111), the State Department (202-647-9572), US Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power (212-415-4062), and/or the Russian Ambassador to the US (202-298-5700). If their voicemail is full, call again later. To find the names of your Senators and Congresspeople, go to CallMyReps.org. You can also donate to one of the NGOs working to help the innocent civilians trapped by the fighting.
The lives of Bana and her family depend on your call.
Dear world, there’s intense bombing right now. Why are you silent? Why? Why? Why? Fear is killing me & my kids. – Fatemah #Aleppo
— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) December 14, 2016
Thank you, Bana, we hope we hear from you soon.