You probably have a young girl like Bana in your life. She’s seven years old, well spoken, and mature for her age. She loves a little bling and often wears her hair in fancy braids. She adores her two younger brothers and often reads and colors with them.
She wants to be a teacher when she grows up.
But Bana’s life is very different from any 7-year-old you know. She lives in eastern Aleppo.
Bana has known war since she was two, almost her entire life. She has been besieged with her family for three months, bombs falling every night.
Her family is quickly running out of food, medicine, and fuel.
Bana and her mother Fatemah share a Twitter account. This is how we, like the rest of the world, met them. Bana’s first tweet, sent on September 24, simply read:
"I need peace."
I need peace.— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) September 24, 2016
Bana tweets about her hopes for peace, but also the hard realities of her life. Her brothers cry because they are afraid of the bombs. She misses her friends who were killed. And she sometimes fears she won’t survive the night.
My friend's father and brother are still under the rubble of the bombed building here in #Aleppo - Bana— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) September 27, 2016
Bana’s tweets are harrowing. There is no other way to describe it.
No 7-year-old should have to listen as bombs fall all around her, fingers pressed in her ears, her body flinching with each explosion. No child should ever have to say the words, "I am very afraid I will die tonight."
Every night could be Bana's last. Every tweet could be her last message to the world. Ever since we first connected with her, we've been nervously checking her Twitter feed, hoping to see another tweet—confirmation that she made it through another night.
But there is more than just fear in Bana's tweets. There is also a strength that comes through. Bana is determined to make the world bear witness to what is happening. She is determined to live her life—to finish school, to become a teacher, to be part of the future of Aleppo.
Stop the bombing now so I can go to school now - Bana #Aleppo— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) September 30, 2016
Bana broadcasts her voice—the only tool she has—to plead for change.
In the few days they’ve been tweeting, Bana and her mother Fatemah have received worldwide attention. They've also become targets of scorn from those with opposing political viewpoints. But Bana and her mom continue to post daily updates, filled with the kind of events that are unimaginable to most of us.
This is not Bana's war, but she and children like her are paying the price. There are an estimated 75,000 children trapped in the besieged part of Aleppo. Every day, their still and bloodied bodies are dug out of the rubble of a city being bombed into dust.
Adults in suits in far-flung cities gather to hold meetings and discuss the war. They debate about the wording of ceasefires which exist only on paper. Then at night, they go home to their cozy beds and sleep in safety.
All while Bana and children like her plug their ears tight as the bombs start to fall, wondering if tonight is their turn to die.
Last week alone, 100 children died in Aleppo.
Because Bana lives in a besieged area of Syria—completely sealed off from any outside relief—we can't meet her. We can't bring her aid. And it breaks our hearts.
What we can do is listen—and allow Bana to teach us. We can let her know that she is not alone, that she is not forgotten, and that her future still matters.