Aleppo girl Bana describes life or death moment

Syrian girl, evacuee gets presidential meeting
Syrian girl, evacuee gets presidential meeting

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Story highlights

  • Bana Alabed and her family have been evacuated to Turkey
  • Girl met with Turkish leader, whose help she had sought on Twitter

(CNN)A young girl whose struggles in Syria's war-ravaged Aleppo gained wide attention via Twitter recalls the moment when she thought she was going to die.

"There was bombing and our house was bombed, but we survived. We felt afraid and went down (to) the basement. There was a lot of stones and dust. We were about to die, but thank God we survived," 7-year-old Bana Alabed told Reuters in an interview Thursday in Ankara, Turkey.
"My school and my garden were bombed. I miss my house."
    Seven-year-old Bana Alabed captured the world's attention with her tweets from Aleppo, Syria.
    The child and her family are among thousands evacuated this week from eastern Aleppo. Syrian regime forces are on the brink of taking control of the enclave after more than four years of rebel rule.

    A visit with Turkish President

    And in the latest chapter in her extraordinary story, Bana met Wednesday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, having solicited his help on Twitter to evacuate her family from the epicenter of Syria's civil war.
    On Thursday, Bana posted her latest tweet -- a video of herself thanking Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu for the "gifts" of freedom for her and other children.
    Bana, who tweets with the help of her mother, an English teacher, became one of the world's most-watched storytellers in eastern Aleppo in recent months as the siege there made it more and more difficult for foreign journalists to report or get information from the ground. Her Twitter account has more than 360,000 followers.
    The girl explained Thursday that tweeting became a matter of survival.
    "I asked my father to film me near my school. He filmed me and I asked him if it was OK to tweet it. I sent it to Twitter for the sake of Aleppo's children, to stay alive. We used Twitter to make the voice of Aleppo children reach the world," she said in the interview, with her mother at her side.
    When she grows up, she wants to be a teacher, like her mother, and return to Aleppo to work.

    'We are frozen'

    But the girl whose bravery captured the world's attention has also been subject to skepticism.
    Many thought the tweets from Bana and her mother were fake, and that she was being used as a mouthpiece for activists or rebels.
    Bana's mother, Fatemah Alabed, said she felt "nervous and angry" by the criticism, but she persevered with the tweets anyway.
    "I feel that they do that to make my energy down, get me down, and I feel sad so I surprise them that I will continue to reach this message to all the world and see what happen and what the people there are suffering from," she said in the same interview.
    Fatemah Alabed with daughter Bana speaks to journalists about the evacuations from Aleppo.
    While members of Bana's family feel a sense of relief for having survived Aleppo, they have taken the fear and trauma with them. Everyday noises can sound like shelling, the girl's mother said.
    "Yes, yes, when we hear (the) sound of (a) car that's hurried, we think it is the sound of bomb so we are frozen, like that. So our memory is still with us until now," she said.
    "But I am happy that my kids now live in peace and have time to think about their future, and maybe I will make them go to schools."