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Finding & Using Your Voice, Just Like Bana Alabed Did To Escape War
Listening to the voice inside you creates your identity. Bana Alabed, a 14-year-old Syrian citizen used her voice to escape a war-ravaged country. What's stopping you from using it?
Only non breathing infants don’t cry at birth and that’s problematic. From the moment we’re brought forth from our mother’s womb, we cry; some of us may take our time, but we do cry. The squeal, at the very beginning of our lives is symbolic to why we’re born in the first place—we all have a voice. A voice that is distinctive and unique, that which differentiates us from the pack, enabling us to forge a path for ourselves. We might be moulded by our surroundings and taught to live in a society that’s largely unified in their ideologies, but it’s our voice that commands us to be the change we ought to see.
The presumption that the discovery of our voice is dependent on factors like age, maturity and time is a fallacy. Finding your voice has got more to do with your freedom of using it, than with its discovery.
“You can’t find your voice if you’re not using it.” —Austin Kleon, a New York Times bestselling author.
Freedom of expression bestows upon us the right to be who we are; and who we truly are, is the voice inside us. Some of us bludgeon our voice to death in hopes of being accepted by the people around us, be it friends, family or work colleagues and that's when we end up imploding. To pretend to be someone else is exhausting and it’s a farce that unfolds later on in life, in the form of regret.
We’re all undoubtedly born with a purpose, we’re just naively unaware of it when we’re young. Having a grip on our voice, which ultimately shapes our personality and identity, speeds up the process of finding our purpose. Our journey is predominantly about zeroing down on the voice that is ours, amongst the barrage of other voices that society dumped on us.
Once discovered, the art of showcasing it is easer now, than ever before in history. Unlike the colonizers who traveled long distances to conquer regions, we can capture people’s attention with a couple of clicks—(and we can’t believe we’re saying this) through social media. Granted, the internet is filled with people who use social media to spread propaganda, incite malice and hatred, and to brainwash others, but if it weren’t for social media, there would be some voices that would’ve been silenced without ever been given a chance.
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A Story For You
The Arab Spring of 2011 comprised of a string of erratic group protests that led to a regime change in countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. The successful outcome of the protests induced confidence in pro-democracy activists in Syria, hoping to overturn the dictatorship in their country. They weren’t, however, met with the same fate. In March 2011, a couple of schoolchildren were arrested and tortured for defacing a public wall with graffiti inspired by the Arab Spring. One of the boys was killed.
That was the beginning of the Syrian revolution. The brutality of the government sparked an outrage across the nation; citizens stormed the streets to revolt against the arrests of the children, demanding their freedom and the nation’s freedom from the regime. President Bashar al-Assad’s response? Mass prosecution.
Over the course of the Syrian Civil War, hundreds of thousands of people were killed and many millions sought refuge in other countries. While the rest of the world turned a blind eye, using their voice and freedom for other issues, Syrian voices were muscled down and crushed.
This is the story of a child who used her voice and managed to escape from the war-stricken city of Aleppo in Syria. Her name is Bana Alabed.
Bana was only three years old when the war began. She and her family, (her mother Fatemah and two brothers, Mohammed and Noor) had been under siege, like a million others, up until 2016. She even witnessed the death of her best friend Yasmine, in one of the numerous air attacks that the country’s citizens had accepted in their daily routine. She was devastated, weeping and mourning her friend’s demise, unable to do anything to improve the situation around her. She, like many others, had her hands tied.
In 2016, roadblocks in the city cut off food and supplies to Aleppo. Bana, who begrudgingly nibbled on stockpiled rice and macaroni, with the help of her mother, started sending out messages on Twitter. She documented the events of the country’s condition and her feelings on the platform, seeking help from the outside world at every turn.
Harrowing messages and videos were published on the platform showcasing the daily struggles of the family and their glimmer of hope faintly extinguishing.
Sometimes, her tweets were simple messages, like "Please stop the war, we are tired" or,"Speaking for the children of Aleppo, I demand peace for us."
Sometimes, she tweeted songs or short videos — sharing her family's plight.
"I feel happy that the world listen to me," Bana says.
The incessant call for help caught the attention of netizens across the globe, amassing her thousands of followers in a very short period of time. The prospect of her family’s death angered people who questioned dignitaries and authorities of their neglect towards the war-ravaged country. Bana, however, needed someone in the spotlight to respond to her for her story to be heard, shared and spread and that came in the form of J.K. Rowling.
In November of the same year, Bana, who enjoyed any form of recreation to keep herself distracted from the happenings of the country, started watching Harry Potter movies. But the continued power cuts and dropping temperatures in the Aleppo didn’t allow for any entertainment whatsoever. She wanted an alternative and looked to read the books instead, to fully immerse herself in the world of the boy who lived.
Her mother typed a note to the author J. K. Rowling, inquiring about the books, and posted it to Twitter. “We don’t have it here,” Fatemah wrote. “How do we get?”
Rowling quickly noticed Fatemah’s appeal. “I would love to send Bana a book,” she replied. But smuggling paperbacks past government checkpoints was foolish to attempt, and impossible to achieve, and so the author resigned herself to sending Bana “lots and lots of love.”
(Credits: New Yorker)
After several futile attempts of smuggling in paperbacks, the author’s agent—Neil Blair, sent digital copies to Bana’s mother’s phone for her to read. The exchange with the revered author, however, made Bana a worldwide phenomenon. In an interview with a Danish reporter, President Bashar al-Assad dismissed the 7-year-old’s account, labeling it as “a game of propaganda”, but that didn’t shake the belief of her followers, who were hell bent on helping the little girl.
On the 19th of December 2016, it was reported that Bana and her family were airlifted to safety in Turkey.
Speaking to Qasioun News Agency, she said: "We are happy because our voice reached all the world.”
A Story From You
We couldn’t help but think about Anne Frank’s diary when writing about Bana. How different would her story be if Twitter existed then?
February 3, 1944: “I’ve reached the point where I hardly care whether I live or die. The world will keep on turning without me, and I can’t do anything to change events anyway. I’ll just let matters take their course and concentrate on studying and hope that everything will be all right in the end.”
March 29, 1944: “Just imagine how interesting it would be if I were to publish a romance of the "Secret Annex." The title alone would be enough to make people think it was a detective story. But, seriously, it would be quite funny 10 years after the war if we Jews were to tell how we lived and what we ate and talked about here. Although I tell you a lot, still, even so, you only know very little of our lives. “
July 15, 1944: “It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too will end, that peace and tranquillity will return once more. In the meantime, I must hold on to my ideals. Perhaps the day will come when I’ll be able to realise them.”
(Credits: Alpha History)
We’ve been given a great responsibility with the power of technology today.
How are you using it?
Until next time,