On 3 November two young girls, Nour (10) and Alaa (8), began to tweet (@shmsalkhtyb), as we are told, from East Ghouta, calling for an end to the siege by Syrian and allied troops. If this story has a familiar ring to it, there are good reasons.
For over a year the Western media have been doggedly pushing the Bana Alabed brand – the story of a little girl who tweeted from Aleppo about “Assad/Russia bombing”, calling for the world to save her by imposing a no-fly zone on Syria and then bombing it to bits. The media has been impervious to the fact that the fakery of the Bana count was well exposed, and if anything strengthened the resolve of Russia and Syria to ignore such shameless propaganda. They have also shown a callous disregard for the effects on the child fronting his campaign (see The Crucifixion of Bana Alabed).
Western propagandists have been so blinded by the media support for the Bana Project that they continue in attempts to replicate its success, firstly with Nour the Karate Kid in Idlib, and now with a focus on on East Ghouta.
The situation is almost identical to that of Aleppo at the end of 2016. Like eastern Aleppo East Ghouta has been a terrorist enclave for years, occupied by al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria) and Jaish al Islam, notorious for various atrocities such as parading caged women through the streets on trucks, and firing mortars at residential areas of Damascus, the historic old city being a favourite target. Jaish al Islam, under its former name of Liwa al Islam, is the most likely culprit of the 2013 sarin gas attack in East Ghouta, see the conclusions of the collaborative research project on the attack, WhoGhouta.
With the total defeat of ISIS in eastern Syria imminent, the terrorist enclave in east Ghouta may soon be facing the full attention of Syria and its allies. As with Aleppo, the defeat of Jaish al Islam will mean liberation from occupation for the people of East Ghouta, and also liberation from mortar attack for the rest of Damascus.
The West sees the siege of East Ghouta as both a threat – another crushing defeat of its assets in Syria – and an opportunity, one more chance to press for open war on Syria.
This latest example of child exploitation can be seen as another desperate attempt to facilitate a Libya-style zone in Syria.
This project, most probably the brain child of the Foreign Office, like Bana, however, feels more like the actions of a government department nearing the end of the financial year, desperately trying to use up their budget, whether or not efficaciously, before the money disappears and also so they can get more money in the next round.
The formula is now stale: two little girls, in a town besieged by the Syrian Arab Army, drawing the attention of the world to their plight. Like Bana Alabed, they are helped by “mom” (Shams al Khateeb?); like Bana they want to tell the world about the war crimes of “Assad” specifically about the “bombbing”. Like Bana they look healthy and well-dressed, an advertisement for what civil war can do for a child.
Which is not to say that things are really so rosy for most of those still in East Ghouta.
The account looks to follow the same pattern as the Bana Project, with videos and nicely posed photos uploaded immediately, even a drawing released on the very first day by a follower.
As with Bana’s videos, the one used for the fixed tweet is unconvincing: Alaa fizzles out quickly, while Noor appears to be reading from an autocue, in the same expressionless sing-song voice that was a Bana signature. Once again, the high level of the wording – “we will try to share our daily lives with you” – is at odds with the speakers’ manifest lack of linguistic competence. Again there is the repeated use of slogans – we want to go to school, we want to play. As with Bana there is an appeal for the world to help.
The handlers may have learned from some of the mistakes of the Bana account. The well-publicised details of the Alabed family enabled her father’s links with terrorism to be revealed, but so far the Alaa-Noor account gives no mention of surnames or parents names, or of other siblings. There is no indication of the identity of Shams al Khateeb, owner of the account (Twitter was criticised for verifying an account in the name of seven-year old Bana).
Whereas the Bana account hit the ground running with a flood of tweets, photographs and videos (someone was clearly doing Bana 9 to 5), there have only been 13 tweets so far over the last five days. At time of writing (Thursday 9 November) followers number 433, so no followers have been purchased in their thousands, and no politicians or media personalities (or anyone else for that matter) are followed by the account.
Bana’s progress has been dogged by criticism that she never had time to go to school, even after she moved to Turkey. It would seem that the Alaa-Noor handlers decided to silence critics, and accusations of child abuse, by having a school shot on the second day. However the effect is spoiled somewhat by the lack of any other children in the yard.
London, it seems, cannot get past the “only children left alive” feel of the Bana account.
Two friends of Alaa-Noor were introduced from day three, with pictures and videos of them at school. Again, the effect is artificial, because there are no other children visible; even in in the classroom there was no attempt to fill other tables.
Even though there is some change in clothing, it looks like the photographer visited Alaa-Noor only the once – the photo for their ‘first 280 character tweet’ is almost identical to that for their first school picture.
There is no evidence as yet of a familial link with terrorism, as there was with Bana Alabed. However Alaa-Noor’s following is consistent with the other FCO enterprises, characterised by overt support for terrorists in Syria. @IranArabSpring, which follows all the Foreign Office Syria projects, including Bana and the White Helmets (as well as preparing for the next regime operation in Iran), was the very first of Alaa-Noor’s followers, and has been assiduously retweeting the account.
Another is Shajul Islam (@ShajulIslam), a doctor who was struck off the medical register in Britain but who apparently practices medicine in terrorist areas. Along with members of the terrorist propaganda construct the White Helmets, funded by the FCO and staffed by the vicious al Zinki gang, Rahul Islam was heavily relied on as a witness to the alleged sarin attack in Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017. The use of such sources left Russia no choice but to slam the UN findings on Khan Sheikhoun.
Another follower also resident in Britain is Oz Katerji (@OzKaterji), well known as a terrorist supporter and proponent of a no-fly zone in Syria, reporting for NBC News, BBC World Service, Al-Jazeera and others.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been open about Foreign Office support for the White Helmets (though not about its role in creating them), but more reticent about underwriting the Bana project. However the Alaa-Noor twitter account was followed within hours by his chief speechwriter, David Blair (@davidblairdt ), former Telegraph correspondent in Africa & Middle East. Blair also follows the accounts attributed to Bana Alabed and her mother Fatemah.
Given the lack of activity in the @shmsalkhtyb account, it likely that this pilot may not actually see a full series. A number of salient factors:
- The transparent agenda of the account and the account’s followers,
- the choice of well-fed, well-dressed children who are clearly loving the attention,
- the West’s complete failure to ever put the viewpoint of children who are besieged by terrorists, and once again
- the use of professional but obviously staged photography,
make it impossible to see the account as any thing but another example of cheap propaganda and child exploitation. If anything this effort further exposes those behind the Bana Alabed and other such projects.
Furthermore Aleppo is being rebuilt and is obviously a far happier place than it was a year ago. The Syrian government is already planning the renewal of the parts of East Ghouta that have been retaken. Any suggestion now that the continued presence of Jaish al Islam and al Nusra in Damascus is for the good of Syrians will convince nobody.
See also Sputnik’s moving testimonies from Aleppo children