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Aleppo is the mass murder we know everything about – and will do nothing to stop

Civilians are reporting and dying in front of the world's eyes. 

Bana Alabed is seven, and she likes Harry Potter. She has also gone to bed every night for the past few months wondering if she will wake up alive. Five days ago, her family fled her neighbourhood as pro-Assad forces moved in. The home she moved to was hit by a rocket. On Monday her mother, Fatemah, tweeted: “I am very sad no one is helping us in this world, no one is evacuating me & my daughter. Goodbye.”

The Assad regime would like you to believe that everyone left in eastern Aleppo is a terrorist. But we know enough about what is happening in Aleppo to act. We know, not just from the news reports, and the drone footage, and the human rights briefings, but from the daily trickle of reports from citizen reporters under siege.

Even accounting for rebel counter-propaganda, we have enough video footage and individual accounts to know that the bombing is indiscriminate, that it destroys whole apartment blocks from the air, and kills medics attending to the wounded. 

Journalists like Waad al-Kateab, who made award-winning films for Channel 4, and Salah al-Ashkar, have been reporting for months. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, it is possible for journalists sitting in centrally-heated offices in London and New York to ask their counterparts under siege questions, and get an answer in days, or even hours.

In October, the photographer Thaer Mohammad wrote to me describing civilians trapped under rubble, air strikes on hospitals and a lack of medicine, food or baby milk. “The regime is trying to cut all sources of life in besieged Aleppo,” he wrote. 

The regime would like us to believe that those who stay in eastern Aleppo have chosen death, but that choice may have been taken away from them a long time ago. We know this too.  In his message to me, Mohammad told me the regime arrested him for eight months because he was organising protests and sharing images on social media. 

The Assad regime’s intolerance of free speech does not stop there. The family of Marie Colvin, the Sunday Times foreign correspondent killed in Homs, has accused it of deliberately tracking and targeting her

As citizen journalists have created their own outlets, a strange online community of concerned humans has emerged. Alabed’s tweets are retweeted thousands of times by well-wishers. JK Rowling sent her e-books of the complete Harry Potter series. Pro-Assad Twitter trolls have attempted to steal her identity. 

Meanwhile, in the growing Syrian diaspora, stories are shared through outlets like the grassroots radio SouriaLi, and Humans of Syria. Syrians living in exile receive private messages from friends and family. One Syrian refugee in the UK wrote to me to highlight the plight of his family in western, regime-controlled Aleppo, where civilians have had to bear the rebels' counter attack. "I can talk about both sides of the poor Aleppo city and the kind people who lived/are still living there," he wrote. "But I just want to highlight that the main casualties here are civilians."

We live in a world that can read instant messages from a warzone (imagine if Londoners in 1940 were live-tweeting the Blitz). And yet that same world does not seem to have figured out what to do about this information. We know what is happening to these people, and we can guess at the fate that awaits them. 

The inertia of the Twittersphere is repeated on the world stage. Haid Haid, a Syrian columnist and Associate Fellow at Chatham House described the international community’s public condemnations of mass violence as “toothless”. 

The regime, he points out, only responded to Western demands when the US threatened airstrikes. “The lesson learned here is clear,” he said. “Only strong enforcement mechanisms and real pressure could force Assad to change his behaviour.” At the end of the day (and that end is rapidly approaching in Aleppo), the old-fashioned practice of 650 MPs making a judgement call is more influential than thousands of clicktivists. 

Meanwhile, the besieged of eastern Aleppo keep tweeting. A Syrian activist who calls himself Mr Alhamdo tweeted about how he feared for his daughter’s life, but how he couldn’t seek protection in a regime-held area, because “I am speaking out, and that is a crime”. 

One young woman from Georgia, USA replied:  “I’m so sorry we couldn’t stop this.” A mother from England responded: “I understand your call and I wish we could save your daughter.”

Mr Alhamdo ended with what, at time of writing, was his last tweet: “Thanks for everything. We shared many moments. The last tweets were from an emotional father. Farewell.”

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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I’ll miss the youthful thrill of Claire’s Accessories – but the tween Mecca refused to grow up

From an adolescent rite of passage to struggling to stay open: how the tackiest shop on the high street lost its shine.

The first day I was allowed to go into “town” (hailing from rural Essex, that’s the local shopping centre, not London) with a friend – unsupervised by a parent – was a real cornerstone of my childhood.

We were 13, and looking back, we had neither mobile phones nor contingency plans, and my mum must have been sat at home for the entire two hours scared shitless, waiting for when she could pick me up again (by the Odeon carpark, 3pm sharp).

Finally free from the constraints of traipsing around department stores bound by the shackles of an adult, my friend and I had the most grown-up afternoon we could imagine; Starbucks Frappuccinos (size: tall – we weren’t made of money), taking pictures on a pink digital camera in the H&M changing rooms, and finally, making a beeline for tween Mecca: Claire’s Accessories.

As a beauty journalist, I’m pretty sure Saturdays spent running amok among the diamante earrings, bow hairbands and fluffy notebooks had an influence on my career path.

I spent hours poring over every rack of clip-on earrings, getting high on the fumes of strawberry lipbalm and the alcohol used to clean freshly pierced toddlers’ ears.

Their slogan, “Where getting ready is half the fun”, still rings true for me ten years on, as I stand on the edge of dancefloors, bored and waiting until my peers are suitably drunk to call it a night, yet revelling in just how great my painstakingly applied false lashes look.

The slogan on a Claire's receipt. Photo: Flickr

On Monday, Claire’s Accessories US filed for bankruptcy, after they were lumbered with insurmountable debts since being taken over by Apollo Global Management in 2007. Many of the US-based stores are closing. While the future of Claire’s in the UK looks uncertain, it may be the next high street retailer – suffering from the surge of online shopping – to follow in Toys R Us’ footsteps.

As much as I hate to say it, this is unsurprising, considering Claire’s commitment to remain the tackiest retailer on the high street.

With the huge rise of interest in beauty from younger age groups – credit where credit’s due, YouTube – Claire’s has remained steadfast in its core belief in taffeta, rhinestone and glitter.

In my local Superdrug (parallel to the Claire’s Accessories, a few doors down from the McDonald’s where we would sit, sans purchase, maxed out after our Lipsmacker and bath bomb-filled jaunt), there are signs plastered all over the new Makeup Revolution concealer stand: “ENQUIRE WITH STAFF FOR STOCK”. A group of young girls nervously designate one among them to do the enquiring.

Such is the popularity of the three-week-old concealer, made infamous by YouTube videos entitled things like “I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS CONCEALER!” and “FULL COVERAGE AND £4!!!”, no stock is on display for fear of shoplifters.

The concealer is cheap, available on the high street, comparable to high-end brands and favoured by popular YouTube “beauty gurus”, giving young girls a portal into “adult life”, with Happy Meal money.

It’s unlikely 13-year-olds even own eye bags large enough to warrant a full coverage concealer, but they’re savvy enough to know that they can now get good quality makeup and accessories, without going any higher than Claire’s price points.

They have naturally outgrown a retailer that refuses to grow with them; it’s simply not sustainable on Claire’s part to sell babyish items to a market who no longer want babyish things.

Adulthood is catching up with this new breed of teenagers faster than ever, and they’ve decided it’s time to put away childish things.

Tweenagers of 2018 won’t miss Claire’s Accessories if it goes. The boarded-up purple signage would leave craters in shopping centre walls soon to be filled with the burgundy sheen of a new Pret.

But I will. Maybe not constantly – it’s not as if Primark has stopped selling jersey dresses, or Topshop their Joni jeans – it’ll be more of a slow burn. I’ll mourn the loss of Claire’s the next time a pang of nostalgia for blue-frosted shadow hits me, or when it’s Halloween eve and I realise I’m bereft of a pair of cat ears. But when the time comes, there’s always Amazon Prime.

Amelia Perrin is a freelance beauty and lifestyle journalist.