This week, like thousands other around the world, I have been deeply moved by all the final messages that have been coming out of Aleppo thanks to Twitter. It really has moved me to tears reading these tweets that have been sent from what must surely feel like hell. It is heartbreaking to read these tweets that these desperate men, women and children are sending, detailing the horrors of Aleppo and in many cases saying their final farewells. Through social media we are able to hear their messages, we are able to follow and stay informed about life in this war zone from the civilians trapped inside.
On the one hand this is truly remarkable – especially given the besieged state of the city and the lack of western journalists in the city. Through social media we are able to hear first hand about what is happening – not through the words of professional journalists but by normal civilians trapped in the city. Local self-taught journalists have also been sending out reports, including drone footage of the devastation on the ground. Social media truly is placing the power of reporting news into the hands of ordinary people.
However there are also downsides. How totally demoralising and distressing it must to know that people are reading your tweets, your desperate pleas for help, and to know that you are able to tell people about the hell you are experiencing but to receive no help. To feel so powerless that you resort to sending final farewells out to a big wide world that does not seem to care – that appears to only read but not act.
Similarly as one of those people reading these tweets it is also distressing. I can only read the tweets but I am totally powerless to do much. I can sign petitions or contact my MP and demand action but I know that for many of those tweeting from Aleppo any help will come to late. I also realise that mass global outrage, as seen also through social media, appears to do very little and has not resulted in governments stepping in to stop this slaughter.
I only hope that those sending those tweets find some comfort in knowing that we out here in the world know of their suffering and that we hear their plight, even if we are powerless to do anything. I also really pray that those who send those final goodbyes will live to share their stories from safety and will be able to share their stories on social media post war, as they rebuild a country totally ripped apart by a brutal, senseless and disgraceful war.
Finally, being the animal lover that I am I also have to offer a prayer for the “cat man of Aleppo” and all the stray cats he cares for. Again thanks to social media we have been able to follow the amazing work this ambulance driver has been doing. With so much human suffering going on we often forget the animals that are also caught in this hell. They have no voice and no way of sharing their anguish and terror with the wider world. One very brave man though is there to be their voice and to care for them. When many fled he stayed to care for all the abandoned and stray cats showing the most incredible bravery. The pictures that he shares over Twitter also break my heart but there are also some heart-warming ones such as the little girl playing with a kitten that she adopted from him. What will happen to Alaa and his cats? I have no idea but I will continue to follow him on Twitter and hope that their story has a happy ending at the end of all this horror.