A seven-year-old girl whose Twitter account offered a glimpse into the violence and loss in besieged east Aleppo, has been evacuated from the city.
Fears over Bana al-Abed’s whereabouts spiked on Sunday when her account, run by her mother, Fatemah, was abruptly shut down. It appeared to be restored but the latest message, posted on Sunday night, suggested the family was still in danger, and it was unclear whether they were caught in warfare or had been captured by forces loyal to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, whose troops and allied militias have been pressing their advantage after three months of siege in Syria’s largest city.
On Monday, a Turkish NGO announced Bana’s evacuation on social media. “This morning @AlabedBana was also rescued from Aleppo with her family. We warmly welcomed them,” the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) wrote on its Twitter account, sharing an IHH aid worker’s selfie picture with the girl.
İdlib’in Raşidin bölgesine gelen Halepli kardeşlerimize yardımlarımız devam ediyor. “HALEP” yazıp 3072ye SMS göndererek destek olabilirsiniz pic.twitter.com/5InBPNqki1
— İHH (@ihhinsaniyardim) 19 декабря 2016 г.
Ekiplerimiz Halep’te yaşananları dünyaya duyuran ve bu kafilede tahliye edilen @AlabedBana‘yı karşıladı. pic.twitter.com/rHsy1Af0nZ
— İHH (@ihhinsaniyardim) 19 декабря 2016 г.
Tarakji Ahmad, president of the Syrian American Medical Society, also posted a picture of Bana with an aid worker.
.@AlabedBana and many children arrived to #Aleppo countryside. @sams_usa @UOSSM and partners arr coordinating the response plan there. pic.twitter.com/k3iAohYbFY
— Ahmad Tarakji, MD (@tarakjiahmad) 19 декабря 2016 г.
The young girl has amassed hundreds of thousands of followers and has become a symbol of the tragedy unfolding in Syria. Her account has chronicled the realities of life in a once-teeming metropolis, by posting pictures of the ongoing destruction, including those of her own rubble-littered street.
Hours before the account was shut down, Bana and Fatemeh tweeted a farewell message saying forces loyal to Assad were bearing down on their neighbourhood. “We are sure the army is capturing us now. We will see each other another day dear world,” read Sunday night’s tweet. The mother and daughter, who were interviewed last month by the Guardian in a video call over Skype while planes flew overhead and machine gunfire raged, had apparently received death threats in the days preceding the account’s closure. “When those bombs strike, our hearts shake before the buildings do,” Fatemah told the Guardian.
JK Rowling is among those following Bana and Fatemah on Twitter and she sent ebooks of her Harry Potter novels to the girl after she said she liked to read “to forget the war”. Following the closure of the account, the British author retweeted several messages asking after her, using the hashtag “Whereisbana?”
At least 15,000 children are among the more than 300,000 people who have been killed in Syria’s five-year war. Thousands of others have been displaced in the ongoing fighting between rebels and forces loyal to the Syrian government.
Residents of east Aleppo have spoken of relentless bombings and shelling, cuts in basic services such as water and electricity, and dwindling supplies of food and medicines.
Evacuations restarted on Monday after delays over the weekend. A source with knowledge of the evacuation deal told the Guardian that roughly 1,000 civilians in 25 buses had been evacuated overnight into the western Aleppo countryside, and another 20 are still stuck at the government crossing in the district of Ramouseh.
Bana’s last tweet with her mother before the evacuation appealed to the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, to put the ceasefire back on track. “Dear @MevlutCavusoglu & @RT—Erdogan please please please make this ceasefire work & get us out now. We are so tired,” it said.
Responding in a tweet Monday, Çavuşoğlu wrote: “Difficulties on the ground won’t deter us sister. Rest assured that we are doing all to get you and thousands of others to safety.”
The Islamic charity IHH is playing a large role in the transport of aid for Aleppo as well as the transfer of evacuated Syrians into camps in Idlib province near the Turkish border. An IHH spokesman told AFP that Bana was “likely to be transferred to the camps in Idlib province”.
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