A 7-year-old Syrian girl caught the attention of people across the globe with her tweets about life in war-torn Aleppo. On Sunday, as the Syrian army pushed into eastern Aleppo, her Twitter account mysteriously disappeared. It then came back online Monday.
Bana Alabed and her mother, Fatemah, have gathered roughly 198,000 followers since starting the account in September. They have documented their daily lives throughout the bombardments in rebel-controlled eastern Aleppo.
Midday Monday, BBC News reported that Bana and her mother are safe and in an undisclosed location. However, within a half hour, Fatemah sent their first tweet since their Twitter account disappeared, signaling that they were under attack.
Under attack. Nowhere to go, every minute feels like death. Pray for us. Goodbye – Fatemah #Aleppo
— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) December 5, 2016
Before going dark on Sunday, their last tweet said, “We are sure the army is capturing us now. We will see each other another day dear world. Bye.- Fatemah #Aleppo”
The Web address that hosts her Twitter feed temporarily read, “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!” Shortly after, her followers started using #whereisBana to spread news of her disappearance and pray for her well-being. Several expressed heartbreak over the level of stress and tragedy to which she’s been subjected.
— Desiree Perez (@desrister) December 5, 2016
Uhh, worrisome. Little girl from Aleppo's twitter account deleted today. Last tweet was about being captured by army.. #WhereIsBana
— Shannon Morse (@Snubs) December 5, 2016
Yahoo News reached out to Twitter about the profile’s disappearance.
The world frequently compared Bana’s tweets to Anne Frank’s diary entries about the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in the 1940s. Though they are similar, there are notable differences. One of the most salient is that Anne’s diaries were read posthumously after the Allied forces won World War II and liberated continental Europe from fascism. Bana and her mother’s tweets have been read in real-time as they pleaded for help from the outside world.
Their Twitter account got even more attention after British novelist J.K. Rowling learned that Bana was a fan. Rowling sent the girl a complete digital set of her “Harry Potter” books.
In late November, Bana tweeted that they had lost their home in the heavy bombardments hitting their city.
“This is our house, My beloved dolls died in the bombing of our house. I am very sad but happy to be alive,” she tweeted along with a picture of rubble on Nov. 29.
The next day, Fatemah wrote that she and her daughter had been receiving death threats and that they were convinced that the Syrian army would target them because of their account.
“We are today appealing to the world, to everyone to do something for me, Bana, my family & the remaining people inside East Aleppo,” Fatemah tweeted.
On Dec. 1, Bana wrote, “I am sick now, I have no medicine, no home, no clean water. This will make me die even before a bomb kill me.”
The following day, Bana sent an SOS video message to Rowling, who in turn shared it with her 8.8 million followers.
“Hello, my friend. How are you?” the girl said. “I am on the run. Now I am fear [sic] being killed. Please save us. Thank you.”
Several people online have questioned the account’s authenticity and doubted that a 7-year-old in Syria would be able to speak English. Their account had been verified by Twitter.
Fatemah Alabed, who studied English at a language institute for three years and studied law, told BBC News in October that the accusations are disappointing and that she has been teaching her daughter the language since she was 4.
“All the words come from the heart,” Fatemah said to the BBC. “All are the truth.”
The Free Syria Media Hub, which runs a website called Genocide in Syria, uses graphic images to raise awareness of the human toll of warfare. The group tweeted about Bana’s disappearance but also beseeched its followers to also keep in their thoughts the other 400,000 children held under siege by Syrian President Bashar Assad.
— Free Syria Media Hub (@Free_Media_Hub) December 5, 2016