7-year-old Syrian girl behind popular Twitter account escapes Aleppo
'I leave my soul,' says mother of Aleppo girl Bana Alabed after evacuation
A seven-year-old Syrian girl who captured global attention with her Twitter updates from besieged Aleppo has been transported out of the city and will be brought to Turkey with her family, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
Helped by her mother Fatemah, who manages the @AlabedBana account, Bana Alabed has uploaded pictures and videos of life during the nearly six-year-old Syrian war, gaining around 331,000 followers on the micro-blogging site since September.
Last week, mother and daughter shared a video of themselves asking U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama for help in reaching a safe place after advances by the Syrian army and allied Shia Muslim militias into rebel-held eastern parts of the city.
A ceasefire and evacuation deal was agreed last Tuesday, but thousands of people have struggled to leave due to holdups.
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"This morning @AlabedBana was also rescued from #Aleppo with her family. We warmly welcomed them," Turkish aid agency IHH wrote on Twitter on Monday with a picture of the smiling young girl alongside an aid worker.
Cavusoglu, who had replied to Bana last week on Twitter, said on Monday that Bana and her family would be brought to Turkey.
'I leave my soul there'
Speaking to the pro-opposition Qasioun news agency in al-Rashideen on the southwest edge of Aleppo, Fatemah said in English: "I am sad because I leave my country, I leave my soul there ... We can't stay there because there are a lot of bombs, and no clean water, no medicine.
"When we get out, we had a lot of suffering because we stayed almost 24 hours in bus without water and food or anything," she continued. "We stayed like a prisoner, a hostage, but finally we arrived here."
An operation to bring thousands of people out of the last rebel-held enclave of Aleppo was under way again on Monday after being delayed for several days, together with the evacuation of two besieged pro-government villages in nearby Idlib province.
House bombed, father injured
Dozens of children from an orphanage in Aleppo were evacuated along with Bana Alabed. Thousands of people have been evacuated from Aleppo since Thursday under a ceasefire deal that ends fighting in the city.
Speaking to Syrian journalist Hadi Al Abdallah, translated through video subtitles, the girl said, "Our home was bombed. We came out from the rubble safely, thank God … We moved to Sukari district. The house was bombed there, too. My dad got injured that time. We moved to another house and then we came here."
Describing the evacuation with her family, Bana said, "We didn't eat or do anything. I saw bombing everywhere. We saw the fighter jets in the sky, too." Speaking in English, she then asked for help to save Aleppo's children from shelling.
"I am sad, really sad, because they are going to take our land and we have to leave Aleppo. Aleppo is my land. My school is there. My home is there. My park is there. I have hope that one day I will go back to Aleppo. We shall overcome some day."
Her mother, Fatemah, said she started the Twitter account because she and her daughter wanted "to tell all the world how much kids and old people in east Aleppo, how much they are suffering from bombs and everything, because there is no life there."
"And we are happy because our voice reached to all the world," she said.
Account authenticity questioned
Among the account's followers is Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who has shared Bana's tweets and sent her ebooks to pass the time while she was confined at home.
Critics questioned the veracity of Bana's Twitter account, claiming the sophistication of the writing was beyond the girl's years and command of English.
However, the account profile bio states "account managed by mom" — an English teacher who has also studied journalism — and most of the Tweets are signed either "Bana" or "Fatemah."
Let's now join together for peace across Syria like you did for Aleppo.- Fatemah—@AlabedBana
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad even said the account was part of "a game of propaganda."
Others suggested the Tweets were coming from outside Syria and that it was implausible to power a phone and access the internet in Aleppo.
The fact check
But an independent fact check from the open source website Bellingcat found that the account is authentic.
The detailed article concluded, "Unless one lacks any kind of empathy, it is clear that @AlabedBana is an attempt to show the world an aspect of the suffering of real people in a real situation, including their fear of death and frustrated outbursts.
"Putting aside political affiliations and partisan politics, it is impossible to reject the truth that there is a small girl called Bana suffering under the fear of death because of the conflict in Aleppo, an existence shared by many other children on all sides across this conflict."
With files from CBC News