The 7-year-old girl and her mother Fatemah have been live-tweeting from Aleppo, Syria since September. Their tweets are heartbreaking firsthand looks at the human cost of war. They've gone viral on more than one occasion, particularly when recounting victories: J.K. Rowling recently succeeded in sending copies of the Harry Potter septology to Bana.
Over the past few days, though, the tweets have been desperate calls for help. And they've gotten significantly less play in the headlines, even though it's more important than ever that as many people as possible see them.
While the story of Aleppo and the Alabed family is tragic, it shouldn't be something we ignore. It's too easy to look away from heartbreak, but the Alabeds need us now more than ever. Sharing the family's story is a good way to raise awareness about the cost of the war in Syria, and will hopefully inspire people to help in any way they can.
Aleppo has been in the news quite a bit over the last year. When presidential candidate Gary Johnson couldn't identify the besieged city, we wrote an explanatory breakdown of it. When pictures of Omran Daqneesh, the young boy covered in dust and blood from an attack, went viral online, people began realizing just how bad the state of things were in Aleppo. During a presidential debate, president-elect Donald Trump said "Aleppo has basically fallen," and insisted the United States focus on ISIS instead.
But the Alabeds' Twitter account is a reminder that Aleppo hasn't fallen, that people are still there fighting, and that we shouldn't look away. Even in that tweet — which was posted Sunday — Fatemah urges us to keep in mind the 200,000 civilians still stuck inside Aleppo. Al Jazeera is reporting that after nearly a week of pause in airstrikes, renewed bombings have once again wreaked havoc on residential areas in east Aleppo, consistent with Fatemah's tweets.
On Monday morning, the pair gave an update.
If eastern Aleppo was to fall to the Syrian government, it'd be a huge blow to work that's been done by the United States. Much of the eastern part of the city is controlled by rebels while the western, formerly wealthy part of the city is controlled by Assad's government.
Generally speaking, Russia is the Syrian government's biggest and most influential ally. Experts believe the country is so invested in the conflict because of its naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartous, which is its only Mediterranean base. Russia has launched airstrikes against the Syrian rebels and currently faces serious international scrutiny for its role in the Syrian death toll.
The United States, on the other hand, is backing and even arming Syrian rebels. The American government has accused President Assad of war crimes and atrocities against his own people, and insists that he must resign the presidency. Obama has pushed for a negotiated settlement and a "transitional administration," but the war rages on.
To complicate matters, ISIS is also ravaging Syria and the surrounding region. This has led the U.S. and its allies to conduct air strikes against ISIS and other extremist groups throughout Syria. Obama has pushed to training and arm 5,000 Syrian rebels to fight ISIS on the ground, but his administration hit several roadblocks, including significant public criticism.
If you're interested in doing something to help, check out the International Rescue Committee. And share the Alabeds' story, so that their requests for aid are heard.
UPDATE: As government forces close in on the last remaining rebel-held areas in Aleppo, Bana has sent out another plea for the international community to save her family.
There is no further information available about the wellbeing of the Alabed family at this time, although yesterday, prior to a major bombing, Al-Masdar News reported that the governor of Aleppo had pledged to try to evacuate Bana. In the time since, many still remaining in the city took to social platforms to post final messages, and the U.N. convened an emergency meeting of the Security Council on the Syrian crisis following reports of further civilian fatalities.
The French ambassador to the United Nations described the crisis as "the worst humanitarian tragedy of the 21st century."