Tweets tell of child's life in Aleppo

By Josie Ensor

Seven-year-old Bana calls for an end to the fighting that is ‘killing my dream’.
Bana al-Abed tweeted a photo of herself with the comment, 'I am reading to forget the war.'
Bana al-Abed tweeted a photo of herself with the comment, 'I am reading to forget the war.'

"Good afternoon from Aleppo," tweets seven-year-old Bana al-Abed. "I am reading to forget the war."

A picture shows a smiling Bana reading her favourite English book from her home in besieged east Aleppo.

With her mother Fatemah's help, Bana is documenting her experience of the Syrian conflict, tweeting as she watches the city she loves being destroyed around her.

Since the ceasefire failed, Russian and Syrian government airstrikes have been pounding opposition-held areas of Aleppo, where more than 250,000 civilians are trapped without food or clean water.

Amid furious diplomatic exchanges, John Kerry, the US Secretary of State yesterday warned Russia that it was "on the verge" of cutting off contacts over Syria, saying the bombing in Aleppo was completely against "the laws of war".

But Moscow quickly ruled out any end to the campaign, instead claiming Washington was "supporting terrorism".

While the al-Abed family have become accustomed to the strikes in the four years since rebel fighters seized control of their neighbourhood, never have the attacks been so indiscriminate and so merciless.

Bana has not been to school since it was destroyed in one of the bombings. Fatemah, an English teacher, is tutoring her daughter using the few books they have at home.

Bana wants to become a teacher like her mother, but is worried she will not live long enough to see it happen.

"Please stop killing us," she tweets, "I need peace to become a teacher. This war is killing my dream."

She says she is constantly afraid, but tries to be brave for her younger brothers, Noor, five, and Mohamed, three.

"Every second of the day I feel that the plane will take our souls," she told the Daily Telegraph. "I cry all the time. I can't sleep because of the bombing, I can't go out. My garden was destroyed by a strike and the house is now the only safe place."

Workers from the Syrian Civil Defence group known as the White Helmets were busy this week as airstrikes in Aleppo killed about 100 children and injured many more. Picture / AP
Workers from the Syrian Civil Defence group known as the White Helmets were busy this week as airstrikes in Aleppo killed about 100 children and injured many more. Picture / AP

The only time she goes outside is the weekly trip to get bread with her father Ghassan, who works in the legal department of the local council.

Bana and her brothers sleep in their parents' bedroom, which Fatemah explains is so that at least they will not die alone should their house be hit.

Only three years old when the war came to her city in 2012, she has very few memories of her life before.

"I remember when my parents took me to restaurants and we had lunch and went to parks and to the zoo," she says.

But she does not like to think too much about that time any more.

Like many of the residents of east Aleppo, the al-Abed family struggle for food. Fatemah, 26, says they are surviving on the pasta and rice they had stored up from before the government-imposed siege, but they are soon to run out. They have not had fruit or vegetables in more than four months and she does not remember the last time the children had treats. "For all they have experienced, my children are still the lucky ones," she said.

This week alone, nearly 100 children have been killed in airstrikes. Some 220 more have been left injured or maimed.

On Tuesday, a Russian "bunker-buster" bomb dropped on the house opposite the al-Abed's in the al-Shaar neighbourhood. All five floors of the house came crashing down on the families inside.

Among them was Bana's friend.

"I'm thinking of my friend tonight," Bana tweeted. "She went to her grandfather's house and now I don't know if her, her brother and father are still alive. They are under the rubble."

While bitter accusations fly between Washington, Moscow and Damascus, Bana and her mother do not like to talk about the politics of the conflict.

"I want Syria to be OK," the seven-year-old says. "I love Syria and I just want to live here forever."

- Daily Telegraph UK

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