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    Syrian Bana al-Abed is filmed by her mother as they prepare to post on Twitter in English about life in the besieged eastern districts of Syria's Aleppo, on October 12, 2016.

    Aleppo Twitter Girl Bana Is the 'Ultimate Propaganda Stunt' - Syrian Activist

    © AFP 2017/ Thaer Mohammed
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    A Syrian activist Maytham Al Ashkar contacted the 7-year-old Twitter star, Bana Alabed, on November 27, offering to evacuate her family from eastern Aleppo. After a month, someone who identified herself as Bana's mother responded. "What happened after, convinced me that Bana's account is the ultimate propaganda stunt," Maytham told Sputnik.

    Bana's account, designated by Twitter as "verified", was set up three months ago, and has since gathered over 310,000 followers. The tweets, written by both Bana and her mother, Fatemah, who says she taught her daughter to speak English, depict life under siege in east Aleppo.

    Many have called the authenticity of the account into question, pointing to videos where Bana appears to be reading from a prompt. It is also unclear whether Bana's posts are genuine, since any user, anywhere in the world can post from the account, as long as they have the password.  

    Due to extensive media coverage, Bana became a sort of Syrian war icon and was even called "Aleppo's Anne Frank."

    Pro-government activist Maytham Al Ashkar is originally from Al-Zahraa in northern Syria, currently in Beirut, but often travelling to Damascus and Aleppo. He offered to help evacuate Bana and her family, contacting Bana's Twitter account on November 27. 

    "At the end of the day you are civilians. You are our people. We care for you," Maytham said in his message.

    On December 12, Maytham was contacted by a Twitter user in Arabic, who asked him if the offer to help Bana's family still stands. Once Maytham confirmed his proposal, the user told Maytham he would next be contacted by Bana herself.

    "This person was contacted by Bana, who told him she wanted my offer. Once he got my approval, Bana (the account) contacted me directly," Maytham explains. 

    "When I got contacted by Bana's account, I started to chat in Arabic since we are all Syrians and Arabic is our mother tongue. However, it was obvious that the person behind the account preferred English as a language of communication."

    Twitter conversation between Maytham Al Ashkar and al-Abed's account
    © Photo: Maytham Al Ashkar
    Twitter conversation between Maytham Al Ashkar and al-Abed's account

    According to media reports, Bana's father, Ghassan works for the "legal department of the local council" and her mother, Fatemah, is a teacher. 

    However, it seems lack of Arabic on the part of Bana's mother is just as unlikely as Bana's flawless English.

    "According to the media, Bana's mother studied law. This means that she has studied the Syrian curriculum for 12 years, which is all in Arabic, plus 4 years at university, where all the subjects are taught in Arabic," Maytham told Sputnik. 

    Maytham got hold of the city authorities and the Syrian Army to facilitate Bana's evacuation from Aleppo. 

    "Everything was set for their [Bana's family] evacuation, and the governor of Aleppo was following up with me personally," Maytham told Sputnik.

    Twitter conversation between Maytham Al Ashkar and al-Abed's account
    © Photo: Maytham Al Ashkar
    Twitter conversation between Maytham Al Ashkar and al-Abed's account
    Twitter conversation between Maytham Al Ashkar and al-Abed's account
    © Photo: Maytham Al Ashkar
    Twitter conversation between Maytham Al Ashkar and al-Abed's account

    Twitter conversation between Maytham Al Ashkar and al-Abed's account
    © Photo: Maytham Al Ashkar
    Twitter conversation between Maytham Al Ashkar and al-Abed's account
    Twitter conversation between Maytham Al Ashkar and al-Abed's account
    © Photo: Maytham Al Ashkar
    Twitter conversation between Maytham Al Ashkar and al-Abed's account

    "The Syrian authorities even agreed to settle the legal status of the father who happens to be a member of al-Safwa Islamic Brigade. The Syrian authorities too agreed to evacuate them from eastern Aleppo to any destination of their choice even out of Syria."

    "I even invited all the media to contact me or the governor so the made could cover the evacuation which is an excellent guarantee to ensure that no one will hurt her."

    In the end, having complained that Maytham was "rushing" her, Bana refused the offer.

    "The one who contacted me via that account was not scared," said Maytham.

    Who is Behind Bana's Account?

    "There is no such a thing as Bana's tweets. The girl is just a face, a tool used by the British intelligence, and I am saying British, because of the strong relationship between the Bana's account and the White Helmets, who are funded and sponsored by the UK," Maytham argues. 

    "I believe that the girl was in Aleppo, but not anymore. Her role was to take same photos and videos, and once that was done she left."

    Another question is why would Bana's account approach a pro-government activist?

    "I believe that this account approached me to prove me as a liar. They thought that I was not serious, so they wanted to present me as a "regime propagandist" liar. I tweeted my offer to Bana a month ago and may be they wanted to drag me into threatening them or saying something inappropriate to be used against the Syrian authorities".

    "To their surprise, I was not lying. I genuinely tried to help a child who is being used and abused, and the Syrian authorities were more than cooperative!" Maytham concludes.

    Related:

    Western Media Coverage of Aleppo - Enough Is Enough
    The Turning Tide of the Syrian War
    Evacuation Out of East Aleppo Continues - Turkish Foreign Minister
    Syrian Army's Operation to Liberate Militants-Controlled East Aleppo Ends
    Tags:
    information, rebels, Syrian army, propaganda, conflict, Twitter, Bana al-Abed, Syria, Aleppo
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