Bana al-Abed, the 7-year-old Syrian girl who has made a name for herself worldwide for tweeting about the horrors of the siege of Aleppo made headlines again today after she revealed that she and her family were safely evacuated to the Syrian countryside.
But that hasn’t stopped her detractors – and supporters of Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad and his ally Vladamir Putin – dissecting her very existence, and insisting she is a rebel propaganda plant.
The civil war in Syria is a quagmire of accusation and counter-accusation, propaganda and counter-propaganda. If you’re pro-Assad (and by extension, pro-Putin and pro-Trump) you believe the rebel uprising is made up entirely of jihadists intent on destroying the western world, something the Obama administration supported. If you see it from the other side, the Syrian people rose up against a brutal dictator – even if that uprising was soon infiltrated by at least some radical Islamic factions – and Assad’s brutal retaliation further proves that he is an enemy of freedom and democracy.
But what is incontestable is that tens of thousands of civilians, including around 15,000 children, have died during the fighting, which has raged since 2012. And Bana al-Abed, along with her mother Fatemah, an English teacher who helps her write her tweets, has become the relatable face of this devastating war.
There is no compelling evidence at all that el-Abed is ‘fake’ or a ‘plant’. (And an independent website has just conducted an exhaustive investigation, published in The Washington Post) The best sceptics can come up with is that her English seems too good, or that her tweets ‘could’ come from anywhere in the world. Yet multiple sources have confirmed that her tweets originate in Aleppo and her videos clearly show her in an apartment building with bombs raining down in the background. Does she and her family harbour anti-Assad sympathies? Probably. But who wouldn’t if they’d witness the massacre of their friends and neighbours and the destruction of their homes. Do rebels also assassinate civilians? Has the war devolved into what Tony Abbott once called "baddies vs baddies"? Certainly. But this isn't about who is right and who is wrong. It's about a 7-year-old girl.
It’s terrifying how easily we scramble for ways to condemn, suspect, doubt and demonise in this age of fake news and post-truth. How much we want to believe that somehow even more nefarious forces are at play on the global stage than to simply bear witness and weep for a little girl who has stared death in the face.
Whatever your views, whether you are liberal left, or alt right, surely no one with a soul could do anything but celebrate that a seven-year-old girl sleeps in relative safety tonight.
Want to help the people of Aleppo? Visit Amnesty International