The girl who just escaped East Aleppo who's captured international attention | Women's Agenda

The girl who just escaped East Aleppo who’s captured international attention

We see the violence and misery in our social media feeds. Videos that appear in between photos of the newborn babies of friends, selfies taken at the beach and cats wishing us Merry Christmas. 

It’s easier to scroll past than to watch another video of a small child screaming in agony or a woman frantically searching a makeshift hospital for her children. It’s much simpler to move on to the next thing the Facebook algorithm puts in front of us, even when we’re being asked to consider why it is that the children of Aleppo Have Stopped Crying. These videos have haunted us for so long that we’re desensitised to what they’re telling us. Another child. Another mother. Another hospital. A different part of the city. It’s like the same scene from a horrible film played over and over again.

Only each time it’s different families experiencing unimaginable horror, and each time they have even less access to help and hospitals as their city is further destroyed. 

Today’s international viewing may provide somewhat of a distraction — including the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey in Ankara, and footage from a suspected terrorist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, both reminders of the precarious state of the world right now — but the devastating reality facing those trapped in Aleppo continues. 

It doesn’t just continue, it somehow gets worse. Evacuations are underway from the last rebel-held parts of the city, but making it onto a bus doesn’t guarantee safety for the the remaining civilians. This excellent multimedia piece published in the New York Times shows the harrowing journey of 8000 people taking a slow terrifying convoy through the destroyed streets of the city. The Times reports that many of the area’s remaining resident are sick or wounded and “desperate to get out”. It sites reports that between 50,000 and 100,000 people remain, many women and young children. I challenge you to watch the videos in this piece and not feel something. They’re harrowing, but there’s some hope and some humanity in them. One boy who is somehow still smiling, tells the camera: “We are leaving Aleppo. But when we grow up, we’re going to come back and liberate Aleppo.”

Half a million people have been killed in the war, and half of Syria’s population displaced. The United Nations described the recent ceasefire breakdown as “a complete meltdown of humanity”. 

I’ve used a positive headline on this piece because anything less and you would have ignored it. After years of working in online media I know the sometimes uncomfortable (and other times depressing) truth about what our audience will and won’t read. 

So here’s more on that headline. 

Bana Alabed is a seven year old Syrian girl with a powerful weapon — a verified Twitter account. Along with her mother, she’s been live tweeting from East Aleppo. 

She’s shared how her father was injured. She’s asked if the world is listening. She’s issued a video plea to Michelle Obama to help them get out.

A few hours ago she tweeted that she’d escaped.  

Bana is just one child in a conflict that has so cruelly affected so many children. For now, she’s one of the lucky ones. Although her safety is still not guaranteed. 

So what do you do to help? How do you return to you Christmas shopping and your festive planning, and your career planning, and your new year’s resolutions? 

I wish I could answer that. What I can say is that we should pay attention, no matter how repetitive the story seems. 

There are also many organisations you can donate to to help — some you may wish to do your own research on to ensure you’re comfortable and familiar with how your money’s being spent. This guide from Quartz magazine provides some tips on where to start.  

The White Helmets (or the Syrian Civil Defense) are a group of unarmed and neutral rescue workers who help to save those trapped after attacks in Syria. The volunteers have reportedly saved 73,530 lives already. This piece from The Conversation outlines who they are and what they do. The late British MP Jo Cox said this about the group in 2016: “When the bombs rain down, the Syrian Civil Defense rush in. In the most dangerous place on earth these unarmed volunteers risk their lives to help anyone in need regardless of religion or politics.”  

The Red Cross is running a Syria Crisis Appeal locally, with funds going to help the evacuation process including through food parcels, drinking water, emergency health care, hygiene kits, blankets and money to help families with every day expenses.

The story continues. It’s a hard one to read, see and hear. But it’s one we can not ignore. 

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