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The New Arab

Aleppo's Twitter star: 'I will return home one day'

Bana became a symbol of the tragedy in Syria [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 December, 2016

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The young icon of the Syrian civil war, Bana al-Abed, has told The New Arab that one day she will return to Aleppo, after being evacuated to the Turkish capital.
The young Syrian girl whose Twitter account gave a rare look inside the devastation of east Aleppo has said she will one day return to her hometown.

Bana al-Abed was one of thousands of people evacuated from once rebel-held areas of Aleppo in the last days under a deal brokered by Turkey and Russia.

"I'll keep on tweeting to teach the world about what we went through and how we had our homes bombed, felt hungry and cold before we were forced to leave," the seven-year-old told The New Arab on Tuesday in Ankara.

"I will go back to my city Aleppo when the bombing stops and I will study English so I can continue to spread the message of our suffering."

For her 330,000 online followers, Bana became a symbol of the tragedy in Syria. Her mother sent out poignant tweets on her behalf about the destruction of their city and the struggles of daily life.

"I am a child and I want to say something: Save the children of Aleppo!" Bana said.

     
      Bana and her family have been promised the Turkish nationality [Getty]

Assad loyalists and online trolls have slammed her and her mother's messages as propaganda, and pro-regime critics even alleged the account was fake.

But her mother Fatemah, who runs the account, said such allegations were false and that she only wanted to shed light on the humanitarian disaster in the city.

"Bana's voice and tweets painted a picture of the life of the civilians, who were living under a siege for months. The tweets were mostly met with global sympathy because they were honest, simple and came from a child," Fatemah said.

Fatemah explained that the account became popular after she took a picture of Bana at her old school in front of graffitied slogans about the siege, rampant hunger and children's rights.

"Us as a family - me and Bana's father who is a lawyer - were just conveying the suffering of civilians. We were not associated with any rebel group."

She said that she was shocked when she found out that the regime was actively pursuing her young daughter.

"After regime troops entered east Aleppo, they put up posters with Bana's picture and name at security checkpoints. We were terrified to leave the house because her picture was everywhere. We eventually made it out of the city safe on the green buses."

The family was evacuated as the area was being overrun by regime forces, who are now on the verge of clinching their biggest victory in the six-year war by taking total control of Aleppo.

On Wednesday, Bana and Fatemah were given the rare honour of being hosted along with their family by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential palace in Ankara.

Fatemah said that she and her family have been promised the Turkish nationality and that she is currently looking for a place to live and a job in Turkey.

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