Evidence has emerged that the family of Bana Alabed has close ties, not only with ‘moderate rebels’ (i.e. barbaric extremists like al Zinki), but also with ISIS. In the light of this, and of the indications of a close affiliation between ISIS and the gangs previously operating in eastern Aleppo, the Western media have several options: they can simply ignore the evidence (favourite); or they can attempt to rehabilitate ISIS. Or they could admit to Bana’s undesirable connections, and even to the hoax itself.
When “Bana Alabed” started tweeting in September 2016, we were told that she had two brothers, Nour and Mohammed, and a mother Fatimah, who managed her twitter account for her. Her father was not mentioned, nor did he appear in photos or videos. Gradually more information emerged about Ghassan Alabed and in particular his links to the terrorist al Safwa Islamic brigades.
At the same time her father’s colleagues were keen to take selfies with the rising star, so we had pictures of Bana cuddling up to people with the most dubious connections.
When Bashar al Assad rightly said that Bana’s tweets were not a credible source and were promoted by supporters of terrorism, the Bana Project responded with a series of tweets denying that she was a terrorist.
The tweets were designed to ridicule the idea that little Bana had anything to do with the brutal gangs blighting the lives of the people of Aleppo, and to deflect attention from the reality of her family’s connections with al Nusra, al Zinki etc.
Revelations about her parents were likewise met with protestations:
It was claimed that both Assad and ‘Bana trolls’ were accusing Bana herself of being a terrorist, part of a campaign of persecution against a small girl (rather than to prove the fakery of the account), e.g, ‘All of this hasn’t stopped the trolls, who seem to follow Assad’s claim that Bana is a “terrorist”‘.
The Bana defence relies heavily on straw men, and goes something like this:
– Bana trolls (ie sceptics) claim that Bana doesn’t exist (false)
– Bana trolls claim that Bana herself is a terrorist (false)
– Bana trolls claim that Bana does not live in Aleppo (false: matter of debate amongst Bana critics themselves; by no means an essential part of the argument for dismissing her account as fraudulent).
All of these straw men are the focus of Bellingcat‘s analysis, which makes no attempt to confront the real reasons for doubt, which are based on, for example, the contrast between Bana’s native adult speaker command of English and her practically non-existent spoken English, some very damning ‘accidents’ and the people Bana chose to follow – Charles Lister, fellow at the Middle East Institute and an anti-Syria propagandist well-known for his close links with terrorist groups, was an especially bizarre choice for a seven-year old.
Syrian journalist Khaled Iskef has just released a video that records his examination of the Alabed’s house in Aleppo:
Iskef prefaces the video with information about the Alabed family, gleaned from what appears to be a document from the Civil Registry of the Aleppo Governorate Council concerning Ghassan Alabed. Bana’s grandfather Mohammed or Abu Ghassan owns a gun shop, which fixed guns for al Nusra, and provided them with ammunition. Her uncle Munther was arrested for smuggling guns, but released by the government under the 2009 amnesty, which suggested that the Alabed’s links with the planned insurgency may predate the war.
Iskef finds a notebook in Ghassan’s handwriting, which contains his CV, or a draft CV. The notes reveal that Ghassan worked for a ‘Sharia committee’, furthermore that he was based in the Aleppo Eye Hospital when it was used by ISIS between 2013-2015. It would appear, therefore, that Ghassan Alabed was working not just with groups that the West likes to term ‘moderate’ but with ISIS itself.
It would be good to have confirmation of the handwriting, but in the case of doubt being cast on the notebook, there would still remain the question of what lawyer Ghassan was doing in those years when ISIS was occupying eastern Aleppo.
ISIS has always been the fall guy for terrorist crimes in Syria, with the impression given that other groups, despite the awful evidence, were not in the same league in terms of barbarity and extremism. Barack Obama steadfastly refused to name any other group as a legitimate target for his war on terror – the US was always ‘fighting ISIS’, even though al Nusra was also on the terrorist list. After al Nusra merged with four other groups in January 2017 to form Harakat Tahrir al Sham, the renamed group was not even declared a terrorist organisation by the United States.
However the affiliation between the gangs in Aleppo and ISIS has become increasingly apparent: the ISIS insignia that Murad Gazdiev saw flying on al Nusra’s front line in December 2016 could also be found inside buildings used by terrorists – if the gangs that took over from ISIS did not install the insignia themselves, they certainly made no attempt to remove them.
Vanessa Beeley even found ISIS insignia in the headquarters of the White Helmets, the so-called Syrian Civil Defense (from 5: 20 but watch it all).
The western media have continued to whitewash the vicious gangs operating in Syria, a prime example being Britain’s Channel 4 promoting al Zinki (see video above, also this article.) As the links between these gangs and ISIS are exposed, it will be interesting to see if Channel 4 attempts damage control by in turn rehabilitating Islamic State.