Seven-year-old Syrian Twitter activist Bana Alabed disappeared from the airwaves over the weekend in war-torn Aleppo, worrying members of her worldwide following. Many breathed a sigh of relief on Monday, however, after the BBC reported that Bana was safe.
Bana’s Twitter account has been the subject of controversy. The Syrian government has claimed that Bana’s first-person accounts of the terror of Aleppo’s frequent bombings are terrorist propaganda. There are other critics who question whether the young girl even exists.
After Bana's account went silent this weekend, her mother Fatemah posted this worrying Tweet on Monday.
The seven-year-old’s Twitter account is rife with pleas for help and photo evidence of the horrors of being a child in a city that is perpetually at war.
Eastern Aleppo, where Bana lives, has been at war since 2012, when rebels captured that portion of the city. Now, their hold on the city is crumbling.
The glimpses of life in Aleppo provided by Bana's account are horrifying. In some short videos, she watches outside her apartment windows as bombs fall. Some photographs show the ruins of her neighborhood, including a pile of rubble where her own home once stood.
In some tweets, Bana laments the absence of hospitals and medical treatment. She and her two younger brother occasionally become ill, but have no access to medical help.
And for the most part, Bana's audience is listening. The British author of the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling, reached out to Bana this fall after the seven-year-old posted that she hoped to read the much beloved series. Ms. Rowling gifted her with Harry Potter ebooks.
Some critics have accused Bana of being a fabrication for attention. They say that no seven-year-old child in Syria could possibly have such a strong command of English and they also question the level of internet access she seems to have in a bombed-out city.
Yet with a mother who is a teacher and who studied English, and a father who is a lawyer in the city, Bana's family says that it is possible. And as to the images and laments she posts on Twitter, her family says that it is all evidence that things in Aleppo really are as bad as they say.
Earlier this year, Bana’s mother Fatemah told the BBC that despite rumors to the contrary, Bana and her account were both real and sincere.
"All the words come from the heart," Fatemah said. "All are the truth.”