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Twitter girl Bana al-Abed talks of fear, hell she went through and plight of children in Aleppo
Friday December 23, 2016 5:59 PM, AFP

Bana Al-Abed
["I would like to thank everyone who helped support the children of Aleppo," said Bana in English. (Image tweeted by Bana al-Abed)]

The seven-year-old Syrian girl whose Twitter account provided a tragic window for the world into the destruction of her hometown Aleppo on Thursday described taking up blogging to give a voice to the city's children.

Bana al-Abed was one of thousands of people evacuated from once rebel-held areas of Aleppo in the last days under a deal brokered by Turkey and Russia.

She was evacuated on Monday and taken to the Turkish capital along with her family, including her mother Fatemah who manages the account.

"We wanted the world to hear the voice of the children of Aleppo. We spoke of the bombardments and tweeted so that people could see the war," Bana told AFP in an interview in Ankara.

Bana and her family lived in east Aleppo, which was controlled by rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad's regime and backed by Turkey.

They were evacuated as the area was being overrun by government forces, who are now on the verge of clinching their biggest victory in the six-year war by taking total control of Aleppo.

"I fear the war because he wants to kill us," she said in apparent reference to Assad. "I am scared. I fear for my brothers and for my parents," she said in Arabic.

On Wednesday she was given the rare honour of being hosted along with her family by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential palace in Ankara.

'Like a hell'
For her 330,000 online followers, Bana became a symbol of the tragedy in Syria, as she and her mother sent poignant tweets on the destruction of their city and the struggles of daily life.

Assad's regime has slammed her and her mother's messages as propaganda, and pro-government critics even alleged the account was fake.

But her mother Fatemah, who runs the account @AlabedBana, said such allegations were purely motivated by jealousy.

"I think everyone says that because they are jealous. And they know that we are real and want to make us feel upset.

"So I think they must see this and he will recognise that we are not a propaganda," Fatemah said, speaking in English.

Fatemah said "our life in Aleppo was like a hell".

"We could not make our children go to school, we could not sleep very well. Every time there were bombs -- you can't imagine there the life that we were in."

"We don't have enough food, we can't find clean water we can't go to hospitals because they were targeted," she added.

Bana, speaking in English, added: "It was difficult. I was afraid. There is always bombing. Even in the night."

Turkey is hosting some 2.7 million refugees from the Syria conflict but has made clear it now prefers to help look after the recently displaced, who are not injured, on the Syrian side of the border.

Most of those evacuated from Aleppo are expected to be housed in refugee camps assisted by Turkey in Idlib province, rather than being brought across the border.

However it makes exceptions for special cases and the wounded. It was not immediately clear if Bana would be staying in Turkey.

'No one helps us'
Bana's account has posted pictures of the destruction in Aleppo including her rubble-littered street, while people have tweeted messages of support and concern, notably fearing for her life when tweets became less frequent.

At least 15,000 children are among the more than 300,000 people who have been killed in the Syrian war.

Fatemah said the idea for the account came when "Bana said 'Mum, why don't we hear about the situation in Aleppo and no one helps us?'"

"So we decided to make this account to make sure all the world listens to the kids' voice and help turn attention to the suffering."

Fans of Bana include the author of the Harry Potter novels J.K. Rowling who sent the family electronic copies of her books.

"I would like to thank everyone who helped support the children of Aleppo," said Bana in English.

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