7-year-old Bana al-Abed has been called “the voice of Syria.”
For months, her tweets leading up to and during the siege in Aleppo gave the world a glimpse into the conflict and its human consequences. The world watched with bated breath and eager eyes as Bana read books, played games, and kept hope alive while bombs went off outside her home.
On Jan. 25, 2017, Bana wrote a letter to newly sworn-in President Trump with a simple request for his new administration.
“Dear Donald Trump,” the letter begins. “My name is Bana Alabed and I am 7 years old Syrian girl from Aleppo.”
In the letter, which was tweeted by Bana’s mother, Bana asks President Trump to help the children of Syria:
“I lived in Syria my whole life before I left from besieged Aleppo on December last year. I am part of Syrian children who have suffered from the Syrian war. But right now I am having peace in my new home of Turkey.”
After narrowly escaping a violent and horrifying war, Bana refuses to turn her back on those who didn’t make it out with her. In her letter, she implores Trump to help children who are still stuck in the middle of the conflict:
“Millions of Syrian children are not like me right now and suffering in different parts of Syria. They are suffering because of adult people. I know you will be the president of America so can you please save the children and people of Syria? You must do something for the children of Syria because they are like your children and deserve peace like you.”
Bana’s letter came on the same day the Trump administration announced a plan to bar Syrian refugees from entering the United States.
The president’s sweeping executive order also promised an aggressive crackdown on illegal immigration and immediate construction of a border wall between Mexico and the United States.
In addition to Syria, the order promised to freeze immigration from Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia, stating that their citizens “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
The purpose of the ban, according to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, is to prevent entry to “people who are from a country that has a propensity for doing harm.”
We all know the president loves Twitter, and if Bana’s letter manages to reach him, he will hopefully take her message to heart. If not, it’s on the rest of us to amplify her voice and let the world know what’s at stake.
That could be a powerful thing, and it’s voices like Bana’s that are needed to combat the idea that all refugees (or all Muslims) are terrorists who pose a “detrimental” threat to the U.S.
Holding refugees responsible for the actions of an extreme and radicalized few because they happen to share a religion or country of birth sets a dangerous precedent. In an article titled “The U.S. Record Shows Refugees Are Not a Threat,” The Migration Policy Institute reported, “The reality is this: The United States has resettled 784,000 refugees since September 11, 2001. In those 14 years, exactly three resettled refugees have been arrested for planning terrorist activities—and it is worth noting two were not planning an attack in the United States and the plans of the third were barely credible.”
It can take 18-24 months or longer to go through the process of applying for refugee status, being vetted, and being placed in a new home. Any delay or pause to that process puts people at risk while they wait to find out if they’ll be able to escape to the safety and security of a new home.
Refugees are people looking for safety and security, a place to start a new life after their homes were destroyed. They’re innocent men, women, and children — like Bana — who are caught in the middle of a war they didn’t start.
“If you promise you will do something for the children of Syria, I am already your new friend,” Bana addresses the president in her letter. “I am looking forward to what you will do.”