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Interview with Bana al-Abed

Bana al-Abed is a Syrian girl who with the help of her mother documented the siege of Aleppo via Twitter. Now eleven years old and living in Turkey, Bana reflects on her experiences of war and how they effected her and her family.

How old are you now and how old were you when you were in Aleppo? Were you seven?
I am eleven years old now. Yes, I was seven years old.

How long was it that you were living in Aleppo before your family had to leave? Could you describe what happened when your family had to leave and why they had to leave?
I was living there for seven years. We were under siege and we had little food for four months. We had to leave because our house was bombed. And there was no place to go. And that was our only chance. And it was very, very difficult to leave my home, my friends, my toys. Everything that I had in Syria, I still really miss everything that I had. It was very necessary to go out of Syria because we could not handle it anymore. My school was destroyed. Some of my friends died. And our house was destroyed, we could not go anywhere. And everything that I had was gone. So we had to evacuate.

When we got on the bus, we were very scared that something would happen to us, or the bomb will hit the bus and we would die. It was hard for us to forget everything. But thankfully, we were alive. And we were happy. And when we got out of out of the bus, there were people giving us food and clothes. I felt so happy. Everyone was happy. Everything was just amazing.

When you left your home, were you able to bring any of your toys or any of your belongings, or did you have to leave everything behind?
No, when the bomb hit our house. I could not take anything. I just felt somebody holding me and they took me to the basement. And then we had to run. And the floor was all filled with the rocks and glass. And it was very, very scary. I was crying. I did not know what was happening. It happened suddenly, and we went to the other house.

How did you find out that your school was destroyed?
We were starting the day normally, and then my mom heard the airplanes above the school. She told the principal that it is not safe for us to stay in the school because there were airplanes, and something might happen. So they sent us home, after they sent us home, we heard a bomb. And then I was very scared. And my dad told me that the school was bombed. I was very, very scared.

And none of your friends or your teachers where in the school at the time?
Luckily, no.

After you left Aleppo, and as you described getting on to the bus, where did you go then? And did you feel safe in where you went to?
No. We went to the countryside. And I did not feel safe. Because I was still afraid that something would happen to us. It was new to us and It was I thought it was still surreal.

Do you feel a safe where you are living now?
Actually, we are still afraid. My little brother is still afraid he cannot sleep by himself, even though we have separate bedrooms. He wants me to sleep with him because he is always afraid to sleep at night by himself. And even though he wants to go to another room, he wants us to come with him.

What is your brother scared of? 
Because of the bombing, we cannot sleep at night. And it was very scary. We had to stay together every time we were scared. My middle brother is also scared, he is struggling. And he is always angry, and he is stressed all the time. Even I am scared. When the school was bombed, I could not go to school that made me very sad. When my mom started teaching in another school, I went with her. And that school also was bombed. After that we had to stay at home to be safer. I did not know what happened to my friends. Nothing. When we came here to Turkey. I was seven years old. I went to school. It was a miracle. I did not believe I was in school. I made new friends. But I am afraid that I will lose them again. Just like how I lost my friends in Syria. I am afraid that I will lose my school as well.

Do you struggle with sleeping?
I sometimes cannot sleep. I think of my family every time when I go to bed to sleep. I sometimes cry because I do not want to lose them. I do not want to make them to be tired or hurt. I want everything to be perfect.

I understand your father was injured during the war, what effect did his injury have on you, your brothers and your mother?
As you know, our house was destroyed. We had to go to another house. And then one day the soldiers approached the house that we were staying in. And it was dangerous. So we had to move to another house. We were struggling to choose which house to go to because there was nothing and nowhere to go. And then when we found somewhere to go. My dad had to go and bring my grandparents. And when he came back, my father was shot and it clothes were covered in blood. I started crying and I wanted to help them to help him and my mom when she was healing him. And I could not do anything because I didn’t know what to do. I just prayed and prayed that he would get better. I was very happy when he got better. And my brothers were all happy and they were sleeping next to him. They were hugging him kissing him. And we were very happy that he was alive.

Are there any other ways that the bombing that you saw and the destruction of your house, your community, and your school, has affected you and your family?
It has made me stronger. It made me want to continue to talk about the children. Now, it has been 10 years, and the children are still suffering, not only from bombing. They are also suffering because they are living in camps. It is cold, there are no blankets. They are not educated. I am happy that my family is with me. But what about the other children that lost their families? They do not know where to go. They do not know what to do. They know that they should take care of their siblings. And this is unfair. Because they deserve more. And because they are living in tents, there is flooding all the time. And it is very hot in summer and very cold in winter, and there is nothing that can protect them. No blankets. Their clothes are all ripped. They do not have much food. They are praying and praying every day.