Seven-year-old Bana al-Abed’s Twitter account continues to serve as a daily reminder of the human toll of the war in Aleppo; but pro-Syrian government supporters trying to dispel the young girl’s alarming tweets, claiming the account is fake or that her mother, Fatemah, is using her for propaganda reasons.
Bana’s account, which went silent Sunday before it was reactivated Monday, has been sharing increasingly emotional pleas for help over the last two weeks, as air strikes in Syria’s largest city continue to intensify.
“We are sure the army is capturing us now. We will see each other another day dear world. Bye.-Fatemah #Aleppo,” read a tweet sent Sunday, shortly before the account went offline.
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Last week, Bana and her mother announced that their home had been bombed, and the family was on the run. The family later expressed fear they would be targeted by the army, claiming they had received death threats in light of their tweets.
While many have shared Bana’s viral account, which has been verified as real by several sources, in hopes of shedding light on the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, there are increasing numbers of tweets calling into question the legitimacy of the account.
Theories Bana’s account serves as a propaganda machine
Several users have accused Fatemah, who claims to operate the account on behalf of her daughter, of using her daughter for “propaganda,” while others have claimed her father is a jihadist.
Other accounts, some of which appear to be pro-Russian or pro-Syrian, claim the account is a U.S. propaganda operation and not run by Syrian people at all.
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There are also several users who claim the man behind the Twitter handle @Mr_Alhamdo is impersonating Bana and her mother; though many claim the man behind the account is a Jihadist propagandist, his Twitter account claims he is an “activist and reporter” inside Aleppo. The account does claim to be in contact with Bana’s father.
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad previously told a Danish news agency that Bana’s account was not a credible source, calling her a terrorist. In a tweet, Bana responded saying, “Sir Assad I’m not a terrorist, I just want to live and no bombing please.”
Bana’s account has been verified by several sources
In October, Global News spoke with Fatemah via direct message on Twitter; however, the conversation only took place via text. Fatemah maintained the purpose of the account was to draw attention to the suffering in Aleppo.
Several outlets have made efforts to confirm that the people behind the account are indeed seven-year-old Bana and her mother.
BBC conducted a video interview with Bana and Fatemah in October and shared screenshots of the patchy call, in which Fatemah, Bana and her little brother appear.
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Storyful, an independent video service which specializes in discovering and confirming viral online content, has also communicated with Fatemah and Bana via Twitter and WhatsApp.
“The mother, who says her name is Fatemah, has sent Storyful photos of her daughter, not pictured on the Twitter account. The photographs tally with the images shared on Twitter. Fatemah shared a photograph of her passport with Storyful, which corroborates her identity. The passport lists her birth place as Aleppo,” reads Storyful’s verification.
Many have wondered how Bana and her mother continue to have internet service in the midst of a war zone. According to BBC, Bana’s family previously relied on solar power to provide some electricity; however, internet and telephone connections were constantly spotty.
It’s unclear how the family is communicating now that they claim their home has been bombed; however, internet service is still available in some parts of Aleppo.
Bana’s Twitter account is “verified” by Twitter, marked with a blue check mark. According to Mashable, Fatemah applied to have the account verified by Twitter in light of several fake accounts sharing pro-Assad propaganda under her daughter’s name.
Previously, only journalists, politicians, celebrities and official brand accounts received the blue verified check mark; however, Twitter opened up the program to allow anyone to apply this summer. Twitter verifies accounts it deems worthy of “public interest.”