First there was the Gay Girl of Damascus, back in 2011, and now we have @AlabedBana tweeting from Aleppo.
The Bana story all began in September of 2016 when 7 year old Bana began to tweet from eastern Aleppo to share with the world her anxiety about living in a war-torn city. It is perhaps a sad reflection of the world we live in that her arrival on the social media scene provoked a certain amount of scepticism, hilarity even. It seems only fair to endeavour to consider the Bana case objectively.
Bana, as we are told, lives with her parents and two brothers in Aleppo. Her mother Fatemah is a teacher who ‘manages Bana’s twitter account’ and occasionally tweets herself, and her father Ghassan works in the ‘legal department of the local council’, whatever that means – the area is totally controlled by al Nusra who have set up their own council:
Bana’s sole purpose in tweeting is to tell us about the bombing of Aleppo by Putin and Assad, and to ask us to do something about it (Bana herself has lost one or two friends to the bombing, though we never learn their names).
Wee Bana hit the ground running on 24 September with about 20 tweets, and has continued at a good rate ever since, managing over 120 on 4 October (including retweets). Her first tweet was heartwrenching:
I myself used twitter for weeks before I used hashtags and I was slow to learn the jargon. Bana, however, was up to speed from the beginning, and over the first two days we got #Aleppo, #HolocaustAleppo #MassacreInAleppo #StopAleppoMassacre. She is well up on acronyms like POTUS and OMG. Followers were impressed with Bana’s command of English:
To have mastered English contractions like ‘I’ll’ and idiomatic expressions such as ‘horrible dream’ at the age of seven puts Bana in the genius category. The problem is, when cute Bana was videoed, it became apparent that she wasn’t a child prodigy at all, in fact she couldn’t put two words of English together if not rote-learned. It was clear that whoever wrote the tweets was nothing to do with the small actor reciting, eg. on her 1st day of tweeting (yes, that was all set to go from the outset too): pic.twitter.com/yeTjREZW
She was slightly more practised by 6 October:
29 October was another disaster: pic.twitter.com/45GNr4U40x
Bana has a friend, Mr Alhamdo, who describes himself as a teacher, reporter, and activist. It is probable that he helps with the technical aspects of running the twitter account, such as uploading videos; he tweets fairly good, idiomatic English of a similar style to that ascribed to Bana and her mother, so it is likely that he also composes their tweets.
After three weeks Bana was following 51 people. None of them would be an obvious pick for a seven year old girl: without exception they were politicians, corporate media or social media activists. Most of them could be considered sympathetic to the war on Syria; many of them have strong links with terrorist groups. Iyad el-Baghdadi, Louisa Loveluck, Julian Roepcke, Sophie McNeill, all determined supporters of the Syrian ‘revolution’, are very familiar to pro-Syrian activists who spend any time on twitter. Bana is also following the pro-terrorist National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces and the White Helmets, the fake humanitarian organisation that presently has a petition calling for a no-fly (i.e. NATO bombing) zone in Syria. A particularly sinister choice is @IranArabSpring, which is focused on regime change in Iran, presumably by the same bloody route.
One of the first to be followed by Bana, and typical, was the Australian journalist Sophie McNeill who was instrumental in promoting the Madaya hoax/beatup in January 2016. The story went that inhabitants of Madaya, a town besieged by the government, were starving and that it was all the fault of the Syrian government who were preventing aid from reaching the town. In fact many if not all the photos were fake, aid for three months had gone into Madaya in October, and the chief problem was terrorists selling food at exorbitant prices. Many of the others followed by Bana are likewise involved in pushing misinformation on the Syrian war.
Bana built-up a huge following within days, reaching 65,000 by 3 October. A very large proportion of the followers appeared to be fake accounts, which again suggests that very savvy people are managing the project.
The corporate media, however, have without exception taken Bana to their hearts, with poignant articles free of all doubt appearing in the Telegraph, the Guardian, and on all the main television channels. The New Statesman went on the attack against the many people who have made fun of the account.
The latest endorsement has come from author JK Rowling who sent Bana a set of Harry Potter ebooks (in English):
There can be no doubt that the Bana project is a scam, like the Gay Girl in Damascus and the White Helmets. The tweets are not the thoughts of a little Syrian girl afraid of Russian bombs, but have been composed in promote the NATO narrative of the Syrian war with regard to the participation of Syrian and Russian forces, in order to facilitate regime change in Syria.
The sympathies of the Bana project are totally with the extremists who are terrorising residents of eastern Aleppo, shelling western Aleppo, and are in imminent danger of being forced out by the Syrian Arab Army and allies like Hezbollah and the Palestinian Al Quds brigade.
From the first days Bana accused Assad and Putin of perpetrating a holocaust, a massacre, of carrying out a bombing campaign using cluster bombs, phosphorus, thermite bombs, and of course barrel bombs. Since then the account has continued the theme of bombing and Assad/Putin culpability, along with constant calls for the world to do something, ‘to stop the bombing’.
No mention is ever made of the terrorists who mow down demonstrators in the streets of eastern Aleppo and prevent humanitarian aid reaching the area. Bana’s family may be in a position to repeat the dubious claim that Russia bombed a school in Idlib, but show no interest in the atrocities caused by hellfire cannon directed by terrorists at western Aleppo. When young swimmer Mireille Hindoyan was killed by a terrorist shell in the Armenian quarter in western Aleppo, the Bana project, along with the Independent, smoothly implied that this was due to Russian bombing.
The purpose of the Bana project is to create in the outside world a conviction that Russia and Syria are committing serious war crimes by recklessly bombing civilians. In fact both Russia and Syria have denied that they are bombing in Aleppo, and given that Syria has launched a massive land operation to take Aleppo it seems most unlikely that the alliance is bombing at the same time.
However persuading the world that atrocities are being committed could lead to one of two outcomes. As with Madaya, there is pressure on Syria and Russia to abandon the siege and any hope of liberating Aleppo, east and west, from terrorist depredations. Syria and its allies would be circumscribed, at worst the terrorists would be allowed to make gains, and at the least there would be a stalemate, facilitating eventual partition.
The other desired outcome, first preference for many since early in the war, is to garner support for a no-fly zone. Russia and China have so far vetoed any UN resolution to that effect, having seen how the resolution was applied to Libya.
The US, however, have recently passed a resolution that calls for evaluating and developing plans for the United States to impose a “no fly zone” inside Syria unilaterally, despite the inevitability of a clash with Russia. Whether it is prepared to take this step, or whether it can act before Aleppo is completely liberated, remains to be seen.
Is the end nigh for Bana?
Things are now moving fast in Aleppo, with the Syrian Arab Army, Hezbollah and the Palestinian al Quds Brigade taking new areas of Aleppo on a daily basis. Bana has been sending out desperate warnings of impending doom with one last tweet from Fatemah:
and then another from ‘Bana’ at 3am:
It is notable that while 7.8 thousand people had retweeted the above when I viewed it, of the dozen or so people who commented the majority were people who ridiculed the tweet, a few more were clearly activists or trolls, and only one or two were in the ‘kind-hearted stranger’ category. How many genuine followers Bana actually has is therefore in serious doubt.
There has been speculation that Bana is about to be written out, however at 10.00am Syrian time, 28 November, she was alive and still tweeting…