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Bana Alabed “Dear World”, Book Review by a Conscientious Objector

Judith Tanner
21st Century Wire

With its dedication to every child suffering in war and quote from Anne Frank “ where there’s hope there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again”, this book from the girl whose tweets asked Donald Trump to start World War Three, is presented to the reader as the faithful account of a courageous and innocent child about her family’s suffering through the siege of Aleppo, Syria.

Read how Bana Alabed’s PR company deleted all Bana’s pro-war tweets: Bana’s Pro-War Tweets Hit by a Vanishing Spell Leading up to Book Launch

Presenting anyone with a child’s alleged testimony engenders immediate sympathy and a sense of moral outrage and indignation at what war does to children. Despite this, Bana’s book fails to meet the brief for anyone with any passing understanding of the war in Syria. As the “moderate” FSA (Free Syrian Army) and other terror groups continue to pound ordinary civilians inside Syria with US coalition-supplied weapons and missiles, it is extremely difficult to feel anything but contempt for this egregious example of propaganda or for the Bana project in its entirety.

Bana Alabed may only now be eight years old- we see her blowing out candles on her birthday cake at the end of the book – but she is also the daughter of criminals who, despite denials and claims of being innocent bystanders, were intimately connected with Al Nusra Front and affiliates  in East Aleppo and lived in an apartment next door to Al Nusra headquarters.

Bana Alabed’s parents conspired with terrorist groups to whom they were affiliated, to deprive other Syrians of essential supplies and humanitarian aid. Aleppo city,  the industrial heart of Syria, had its factories torn down and equipment stolen by these same brigands, before they were transported and re-established in Turkey. Huge scale industrial theft. Shop keepers were forced to shut down businesses that were as old as the Alabed’s family business. Schools and hospitals were repurposed as Nusra Front weapon dumps and munition stores.

These are facts that have come to light since East Aleppo was liberated in December 2016 and the testimonies of ordinary Aleppans emerged. There had been widespread human suffering for almost five years, a feature of all towns and villages besieged by terrorist factions across Syria. Christian churches were vandalised and no other religion was allowed self expression beyond the most extreme form of Islam. Alawites, who are Muslim, were executed or persecuted in Sharia courts, as were Baathists and anyone pro the government or suspected of being pro the government, described as “shabiha”.

Food and medicines were hoarded by Al Nusra, water supplies vandalised by roaming armed gangs of thugs. These are the true testimonies of Syrian civilians since they were freed. Bana Alabed’s version of events is distorted and untrue. Forgive a child maybe? But a child whose own parents benefited from the destruction of so many lives? No that is not forgivable at all.

Ghassan Alabed, Bana’s father, became a Sharia judge for, first ISIS and then Nusra Front during the period 2013 – 2015 (according to his own written notes) and his sentences were imposed on Aleppans. For some this meant imprisonment, execution, public flogging or torture. For others this meant death. The following video is an interview conducted with Fatemah Alabed’s uncle, by Vanessa Beeley and Khaled Iskef, an indpendent Syrian journalist from Aleppo, in July 2017:

Clearly the editors who penned this “Dear World” tome hoped to present Bana as a mini hero, Shirley Temple style. It certainly appears to be JK Rowling’s intention. What they probably didn’t expect to do, but which they have succeeded at doing brilliantly, is to present themselves not only as ‘useful idiots for terrorists’ but people who deliberately or unintentionally misread and misunderstand what has happened in Syria. They happily follow the propaganda line presented by terrorist embeds supplying narratives to Western media which are debunked and proven false as each corner of Syria is liberated from the terrorist grasp.

Bana says in her ‘author’s note’ that she wrote the book with the help of her editor Christine Pride. If so, Christine Pride must be fluent in Arabic or have a whole team of translators, because despite what Bana tells her readers about being ‘really good at English’, video evidence as recent as last year disputes that claim. Bana can barely speak English let alone comprehend it well enough to write or even dictate her story in any language other than her native tongue. At seven or eight, she may dream about one day teaching English, but for now she is what might be described as functionally illiterate.

Furthermore, since she has missed out on a formal education up until now, having been deprived of school, she is quite possibly also functionally illiterate in Arabic. Certainly when some Syrian women responded to her tweets for help, Bana failed to respond to the simple greetings “Hello, how are you?” Or to answer the questions “How can we help?” But we are asked to believe that she was busily, with her mother’s help, tweeting in colloquial English to the president of the US, conversing with JK Rowlings, Harry Potter author, and comparing the specifications of various fighter jets in order to tell her audience which she preferred. A seven year old did all of that? How credulous are we expected to be?

Dear World is cheap and tawdry war propaganda, written in large type face to make it look like the writings of a child and constructed with diary like entries, edged in pink, from a mother who in my opinion, needs to be investigated by the Department of Human Services at the very least for gross neglect and endangerment of her children , but who is presented here as an adoring parent gushing over her eldest child, the genius and future leader, Bana whose name means “tree”.

Like the tweets, this book was obviously written by adults and a child’s memories and imaginations of reality are exploited by those wanting regime change in Syria. This book is a case study in child indoctrination where government officials and the national army are villains and the Free Syrian army are the heroes of Aleppo, beloved of all civilians there. However the testimony of civilians, gathered by independent journalists like Vanessa Beeley, during the final liberation of East Aleppo districts from extremist occupation in December 2016, tell a different story. For example, 13 year old Mohammed, whose younger brothers were murdered by the  FSA “moderates”:

Or tell that to Omran’s father– the dusty boy in the back of the ambulance whom the White Helmets allegedly saved. Omran’s father, Mohammed Daqneesh, who now lives in East Aleppo, says his son was lightly injured in a terrorist mortar attack that destroyed the front of the building where they lived. He talks of how angry he still feels that Al Nusra terrorists & their support groups exploited his son for the publicity when it was they who committed the attack.


Omran Daqneesh in July 2017, in East Aleppo with his family. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

The publishers assure us that this is Bana’s first book. If they are prepared to knowingly exploit her in any future tomes, then they too should submit themselves for investigation. Its appalling and its cynical. It is also an insult to Syrians who are still suffering through an horrendous, externally imposed, proxy war.

Bana’s mother Fatemah, talks of the exceptionally gifted and brilliant daughter who enjoyed three happy war free years in Syria and then, “thanks to the Assad government“, “suffered terribly” during the siege of Aleppo. Sentimental diary entries, complete with happy snaps of family life, extol the child’s intellect and independence of thought and facility with the English language.

I’m a teacher of some thirty plus years. I teach children as young as Bana who are native speakers of English or for whom English is a second language. I watched Bana and her mother on various TV interviews by CNN. Bana was far from fluent in English during the years that she grew up in Aleppo. She also displayed below average comprehension. She was made to read from cue cards, stumbling over each unfamiliar syllable like a performing parrot. When asked questions that went off script she simply could not understand or respond accordingly.

As to her ability as a mini political analyst, although Fatemah – her mother, is at pains to assure us that they are not political people at all- just poor innocents caught up in a conflict- she also tells us that Bana from her youngest years, listened to in-depth adult conversations and formed opinions about how to bring about peace, which when expressed are actually a call for a political coupe and the takeover of Syria by extremist armed militants without any actual policies, beyond a monotheist and archaic Caliphate. Some peace plan.

Bana is de facto, an “appealing” terrorist mascot and cynically exploited pawn of the military industrial complex. I find the exploitation, aka abuse, of this child appalling and unfortunate, but reflecting on the fate of children such as Abdullah Issa, the Palestinian boy who was beheaded by terrorists who suspected him of being a spy or children who were orphaned during the siege or maimed by mortar fire and hell cannon missiles from the terrorist groups in East Aleppo, my sympathy for this particular child is short lived.

Yes I get that she was undoubtedly traumatised by the constant bombing and war raging around her. But the family members and friends she talks about, were largely responsible for the suffering and the deaths of many equally innocent children and their families. The Alabeds are traitors who joined with foreign backed mercenaries and continue to do all they can to destabilise Syria and destroy a secular society and a centuries old civilisation and culture.

The following video was filmed by Vanessa Beeley in August 2017, about 200 metres from the Alabed house, it shows the positioning of the Nusra Front hell cannon and missile launchers on the neighbouring rooftops. Missiles and mortars that targeted civilians in West Aleppo on a daily basis, killing over 11,000 civilians during the almost five year occupation of East Aleppo. The majority of those victims were children:

Moreover, the Alabeds had a choice. When Bana’s baby brother was born, they were in Turkey with two sets of grandparents and some uncles. They lived there for five months whilst her mother recovered her health. They only returned to Aleppo because they were ‘homesick’ and because Bana’s father, Ghassan, had found a new job- as a Sharia judge for ISIS and Al Nusra- although the nature of his employment is of course NOT revealed in the book.

Bana could have gone to school in Turkey and could have been spared the trauma of war torn Aleppo, had her mother not decided to go against family protests and take them back. A video of Bana being fed tit bits from a fully laden fridge by her father in Aleppo, doesn’t look like she is suffering much at all I might add.

The Free Syrian Army receives constant plugging in this account as heroes, beloved of ordinary people. although even the US state Department has acknowledged that they were infiltrated by Al Qaeda and were amalgamated with over fifty varieties of extremist factions in East Aleppo during its almost five year occupation by these Nusra Front dominated groups.

Dear World is another attempt by criminals and criminal organisations in the West, to whitewash this family, to turn monsters into heroes with Bana now leading the latest charge for respectability. This is not a book I could in all conscience ever recommend to any child I teach or any child to whom I’m related. I can only see it as a case study in propaganda.

Early in the book Bana tells us that her father was taken away by the “secret police” in around 2012 . She mentions the word “Mukhabarat” several times and tells us that the “secret police” took her ‘baba’ away accusing him of being a spy. Interesting. Later on, in 2016, after Aleppo is liberated by the Syrian Arab Army, we read that as they sit on the green buses ready to leave, her mother Fatemah sends a message to the “Turkish government” which results in the buses which have been held up for hours, suddenly moving and driving away to the Syrian ‘countryside’ ( Idlib) before the entire family is whisked away on a plane for Turkey.

The book is at pains to tell us that the Alabeds are an ordinary family, completely representative of every day Syrians, if definitely middle class. How do every day ‘civilians’ manage to have direct telephone lines to foreign governments? The answer is they don’t. How too do they suddenly hop on a flight the same day as they are bussed out of Aleppo with the rest of their terrorist cohorts? We are never to know. It puts me in mind of 9/ 11 when the only plane allowed to fly out of American air space was the one which transported Osama Bin Laden’s family, close friends of George Bush out of the country and far away.

We are told that Ghassan cannot join his parents or his wife’s parents and his wife and children when they flee over the border into Turkey so that Fatemah can give birth to Bana’s youngest brother Noor, when she is ill. We are told its because Ghassan does not have a passport. But then by some miraculous slight of hand, Ghassan manages to leave Syria and travel across the border without detection to visit his wife in hospital and to say hello to his new baby boy. To do so, he had to travel through ‘rebel held’ territory. The “moderate rebels” or terrorists were killing civilians constantly at this time. If Ghassan were just an ordinary Syrian, how did he achieve safe passage in this way? No passport but still Ghassan gets into Turkey and later on is flown from Syria to Turkey? Who are the Alabeds, that they are given such preferential treatment?

Meanwhile, kids in west and east Aleppo and throughout Syria have had to put up with severe electricity restrictions- an hour a day, water restrictions, especially after terrorists deliberately sabotaged clean water supplies to West Aleppo. When there was no internet access in East Aleppo at all, Bana had her iPad that her Dad managed to procure for her, despite the restrictions and sanctions. He also managed to install solar panels and air conditioning .

Bana talks about downloading cartoons and videos for her brothers’ amusement- Sponge Bob is a favourite. She talks about using Whats app and Facebook and Twitter of course. She tells us that after a chance meeting with the journalist Ahmad Hassan who also lives in Aleppo, she and her mother could go down to his offices to charge their mobile phones and her iPad . What she doesn’t tell us is that her home is high on the hill, right next to Al Nusra’s main headquarters – they are her closest neighbours in fact. Nor does she mention that any photographs or video footage can only be filmed with the express permission of Nusra Front aka Al Qaeda in Syria.

Bana talks about daily bombings by ‘ the regime’. She can describe the three types of bombs that are dropped because they have different sounds. She continually tells us who is to blame for the deaths and the suffering. Why of course it is the President of ‘ the regime’ and it is the Syrian Arab army. Bombs drop and planes fly over continually night and day, sometimes so low that you can see the pilot’s face. Look him straight in the eye, just like the scene from the movie “Empire of the Sun” which I presume Bana also downloaded to watch at home.

One night she wakes up and the sky is bright yellow just like sunlight. She explains to the reader that this is phosphorous – big word for a little kid- of course any child of seven can pronounce phosphorous- ask one to tell you what it is- and of course Bana tells us, it is the “‘regime’ who has dropped the phosphorous bomb”. Bana also informs us that the government use chlorine bombs against their own citizens and describes the smell of chlorine in the air. She says that there are no ambulances but they do have rescue workers who at great personal risk perform first aid and rescue people from under the rubble. But the rescuers have to be careful because the regime hates them so much they send war planes to try to bomb them as soon as rescues are complete.

Of course, this description of the White Helmets does not tally with the testimonies of civilians released from a five year terrorist occupation, those civilians described the Bana heroes as “Nusra Front civil defence” among other less flattering terms. This boy was interviewed by Vanessa Beeley in the combined White Helmet/Nusra Front centre in Bab Al Nairab, one of the terrorist-occupied districts of East Aleppo:

When Aleppo was finally liberated from the FSA and Al Nusra terrorists, it was discovered that these groups were manufacturing and using chlorine in home made explosive devices against Syrian civilians elsewhere. Chlorine manufactured and bottled in Israel, British prophylactics, Saudi passports, Saudi weaponry, US weaponry- I saw plenty of photographs of and video evidence.

There is a passage where we are told that Syrian soldiers speak roughly and rudely to Bana’s parents and to Bana and we are regaled with the image of the ‘grinning yellow teeth’ of the soldier who slavers and snarls all over her. Im sure I’ve read that image of ‘grinning yellow teeth’ in James Joyce,- help me Christine Pride, editor. Compare this to the testimony of the civilians liberated by these “snarling” soldiers:

Dear Christine, was it also your idea to weave that narrative of the story about the sheep and the big bad wolf as a metaphor for the Assad government into the book as a lief motif as Bana’s favourite bed time story told to her by her Dad? The unseen hand of the adult who wrote this on behalf of the child is transparent at this point. Most of the book reads that way and I’m sorry but the pink edging around Fatemah’s diary entries still doesn’t make her a sympathetic or genuine mother figure to me.

Fatemah Alabed’s fears that her three children might be killed in their beds like another mother ‘she knows’, may be genuine, but how many children died and continue to die at the hands of the terrorist groups to whom Fatemah and her husband gave their allegiance and how many other mothers cry over the loss of their children killed defending their homeland, fighting with the Syrian Arab Army? An Army that is the Syrian people.

The majority of schools have re-opened since East Aleppo was liberated by the Syrian Arab Army in December 2016 and the civilians besieged by madmen, extremists and murderers were finally set free. Three hundred out of five hundred schools in East Aleppo were occupied by Nusra Front and were being used as military centres or Sharia courts. Finally, thousands of children can now safely return to school.

I remember speaking with some Syrian teachers and a university lecturer from Damascus when Aleppo was liberated. We spoke as professionals about how they were going to cater to children visibly traumatised by the war and deprived of any education by the extremist Wahhabis who had infested the town. Yet Bana tells us – or Bana’s PR agency tells us, that the government hated schools so much they deliberately bombed them. They killed children at their desks we are told. Compare this again, to the testimony of one Headmaster in Hanano who talked to Vanessa Beeley about the cleaning up of his school two days after liberation from Nusra Front:

The publishers Simon and Shuster whom I have taken to calling Simon and Shyster, have found a real money spinner in this little girl. She is her parents ticket to freedom from prosecution and a conduit to bring respectability to some of the most despicable monsters on earth- the terrorists who have infested Syria from all corners of the globe for seven years.

JK Rowlings, fresh from lending her name to child exploitation, with the express purpose of demonising a sovereign nation head of state, is currently promoting her own latest piece of theatre here in Australia – “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”. The question I am left with, is Bana Alabed also a cursed child, a child whose future has already been mapped out in the most cynical and frankly frightening way.

Bana, the child who has been told that she is standing in solidarity with children in war zones, as her dedication says, has actually been made a  part of the very machine that perpetuates the suffering of children, dying in the most horrific of circumstances every single day because of the wars that Bana is unwittingly promoting.

The following video is a message for JK Rowling and Bana Alabed’s PR agencies, filmed in Bana’s house in July 2017:

***

Judy Tanner is a full time primary school teacher of over 30 years experience. A( published) author, her areas of special interest include a Major in Children’s Literature from Melbourne University and a background in journalism and Visual Arts.

READ MORE SYRIA NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Syria Files

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