Democracy Dies in Darkness

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Bana al-Abed, the 7-year-old girl who endured the battle for Aleppo, is writing a book

By Caitlin Gibson

April 14, 2017 at 12:55 PM

Bana al-Abed in Turkey after her family’s escape from Aleppo. (Adem Altanaden/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

Just six months ago, 7-year-old Bana al-Abed was trapped with her family in war-ravaged Aleppo, tweeting harrowing messages and videos from her mother's phone. In the fleeting quiet between bombings, Bana shared her hopes for the future with her rapidly growing Twitter following.

"I want to be a teacher and author," she tweeted in October. "I want to write a book."

Now she'll have that chance. In December, Bana and her family were safely evacuated to Turkey, and this week, she announced that her memoir about her life under siege would be published by Simon & Schuster.

Bana's book, "Dear World," will be published this fall, Simon & Schuster said in its announcement. A separate edition for young readers will also be published by Salaam Reads, the statement said.

Bana captured the world's attention last year as she chronicled her family's daily struggle to survive in Aleppo, sharing searing messages and heartbreaking images through a Twitter account that her mother, Fatemah, helped manage. Bana's feed was filled with photographs and videos — bombs falling in darkness, entire neighborhoods demolished, Bana and her siblings smiling together in rare moments of calm. Fatemah transcribed Bana's thoughts in halting English.

"This is our bombed garden. I use to play on it, now nowhere to play," Bana tweeted Oct. 4. Later that day, she added: "Stop the bombing now because I want to read."

Related: [How a 7-year-old Aleppo girl on Twitter became our era’s Anne Frank]

The account quickly drew more than 300,000 followers, a rush of media attention and several celebrity supporters, including Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.

Bana's Twitter feed also attracted its share of critics and skeptics, some of whom questioned whether the child's account was real. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was among them, claiming that Bana was "propaganda." An exhaustive examination by Bellingcat, an investigative website that uses open-source information and social media, concluded that Bana was exactly who she said she was: "By far the most likely scenario is that @AlabedBana is an account run by Fatemah which tells the story of her daughter, a young child in East Aleppo," the investigation's authors said, adding that the attempts to discredit Bana "verged into the ludicrous."

Related: [In Aleppo’s misinformation war, a 7-year-old girl prompts a fact check]

In the months since their escape, Bana and Fatema have continued to use the Twitter account to advocate for the children and families left behind, posting emphatic political appeals as well as glimpses of their new life outside the war zone.

Simon & Schuster Senior Editor Christine Pride compared Bana to Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai. "I was completely captivated by Bana's tweets from Syria," Pride said in the publisher's announcement. "Bana's experiences and message transcend the headlines and pierce through the political noise and debates to remind us of the human cost of war and displacement."

Bana's memoir will chronicle her experiences in Aleppo, as well as her family's efforts to rebuild after fleeing the war.

"I am so happy to have this opportunity to tell my story and the story of what has happened in Aleppo to the world," Bana said in the statement from Simon & Schuster. "I hope my book will make the world do something for the children and people of Syria and bring peace to children all over the world who are living in war."

Caitlin Gibson is a feature writer at The Washington Post.

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