What's life like in Aleppo? This 7-year-old girl wants to show you.

Using Twitter, Bana al-Abed and her mother show us what life is like in Aleppo.

Most 7-year-olds don't have to grow up in a war zone; Bana al-Abed does.

Back in September, Bana and her mother, Fatemah, opened a Twitter account and, like many Twitter users, began sharing details from their daily lives. Unlike most Twitter users, however, Bana and Fatemah live in Aleppo, Syria.

Like other kids her age, Bana likes to spend time reading, writing, and drawing. Unlike others, escaping into reading is a distraction from the war, and her drawings are meant to get the attention of world leaders like Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and U.S. President Barack Obama.


For more than five years, civil war has ravaged Syria. Perhaps no city understands this quite as well as Aleppo.

As is often the case, the war in Syria is complicated beyond a simple "good guys vs. bad guys" narrative. Syrian forces, led by Assad's regime, along with Russia, have taken on rebel groups within the country — including ISIS. While Russia's involvement is for the stated purpose of fighting ISIS, the country's airstrikes have taken out hospitals, schools, and resulted in the deaths of many civilians.

250,000 Syrian citizens have been killed, and more than 11 million Syrians have been displaced because of the war. Many of those who've fled their homes have sought refugee status; others, like Bana and Fatemah, have stayed behind. This is their home, and it's being destroyed.

Syrian Civil Defence members search for victims in a destroyed building after reported air strikes in Aleppo in October 2016. Photo by Karam Al-Masri/AFP/Getty Images.

Bana's tweets are a powerful reminder that as bombs fall, innocent lives are lost every day. She is a glimmer of humanity in a place that is often portrayed as faceless and lifeless.

Life seems pretty grim for the 7-year-old, who tweeted, "I am very afraid I will die tonight," on Oct. 2.

Death is inescapable and all around her. Bana has posted photos of dead children and dismembered limbs. (Warning: Those images are very graphic.) It's sad that anyone, let alone a child, should have to witness these kinds of horrors on a daily basis.

Even the little joys in her life, such as the garden where she used to play, have been taken from her by the cruelty of war.

Still, in all the sadness and worry, Bana holds out hope for a better world — one without bombs, killing, and destruction.

"A time will come when it's raining normal and not raining bombs in Syria," Fatemah tweeted on Nov. 2. "Good night dear friends."

In recent days, the bombings have gotten worse, and Bana's messages have become more direct.

On Nov. 24, Bana posted a video with a simple message: "Someone save me."

On Nov. 27, Fatemah shared a farewell message, certain that she and Bana would die in that night's bombings.

Luckily, they survived the attack. Their home was destroyed, and they witnessed their friends' deaths. But they're still here.

The very next day, Fatemah tweeted that they were under attack again.

It's easy to feel detached when something is happening half a world away. Bana's tweets are a reminder of just what is at stake if we ignore what's happening in Aleppo. Luckily, there are some great groups doing important work to help people like Bana and Fatemah on the ground in Aleppo.

There are steps you can take to help Bana, Fatemah, and others in Aleppo.

Groups like the Syrian American Medical Society and Doctors Without Borders have been crucial in providing first-line medical help to civilians affected by the war. With the city's hospitals destroyed, their work is more important than ever. Questscope has been instrumental in getting Syrians basic supplies for living, and Save the Children has launched its own humanitarian response in the city.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

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The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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