For years, activists and civilians in war-torn Syria have used social media to share the horrors of the conflict that has left millions dead and fleeing their homes. This week, some of them took to social media to share what they feared would be their final goodbyes to their followers — and the world. The heart-wrenching messages began to pop up in feeds this week, as pro-government forces moved to retake rebel-held Aleppo.
The trapped activists wanted to have the final say in this merciless war. "There is a problem with this planet," said Monther Etaky, a 28-year old journalist and graphic designer. "This planet doesn't want people to live as free or to live as humans." The world's view of the Syrian conflict has been largely driven by YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook — making it one of the world's most documented wars through amateur videos and coverage. This has given the activists the biggest role in chronicling the war in detail, and in lobbying for the world's response. Now nearly six years into the conflict, they have been complaining that the world has been looking the other way.
The hellish suffering to which the people of Syria are being subjected must stop.
U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein
"Why is this silence? People are being eliminated," tweeted Abdulkafi Alhamdo, another resident activist and English teacher. Then, he wrote: "The last (message). Thanks for Everything. We shared many moments. The last tweets were from an emotional father. Farewell #Aleppo." Alhamdo later went live on the video-streaming app Periscope to say government troops were approaching. "This is the last space," he said. "I hope you can remember us." Bana Alabed, a 7-year-old who has been tweeting through the war along with her mother, told her hundreds of thousands of followers that she had reached the "last moment to either live or die."
That message came after her mother, Fatemeh, tweeted a final plea, asking why no one was helping her and her daughter get out of harm's way. "Final message - people are dying since last night. I am very surprised I am tweeting right now & still alive," she wrote.
By late evening in Aleppo on Tuesday, the military push was over, according to Russian officials supportive of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, with the government regaining control of the city. But accounts from inside the bombardment — including the deaths of dozens of civilians — continued to horrify the world. The United Nations Security Council convened for an emergency meeting on the matter Tuesday, as officials urged action to "stop the carnage." "The world is watching Aleppo — and we are documenting the violations being committed against its people, with the firm conviction that one day those who are responsible will be held to account," U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said. "We must ensure that this happens. The hellish suffering to which the people of Syria are being subjected must stop." The crisis for families affected by the war is far from over. Here are three ways you can help.