Domestic influencers on Instagram emphasize the difficult situation in Gaza Gaza News

Domestic influencers on Instagram emphasize the difficult situation in Gaza Gaza News

Gaza City – It has been almost eight months since Yara Eid returned to Gaza after six years in the UK to study international relations.

Not once was the 22-year-old able to return home during her studies to visit her family in Gaza because of this 15-year Israeli blockade on the coastal enclave and travel restrictions. Eid said she experienced “tough times” after repeated Israeli attacks on Gaza during her time abroad.

“When I was in the UK, every time there was a bombing in Gaza my heart would literally stop,” Eid told Al Jazeera. “I would be glued to my phone 24/7 trying to call my family to check they were okay. It’s never quiet there.”

Particularly painful, she said, were the attacks that took place after she returned home – three days of Israeli attacks which began on August 5.

Forty-nine Palestinians were killed in an operation targeting Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an armed group active in Gaza. Nearly half of the dead were civilians, Palestinian officials said.

That’s when Eid felt she had to do something, so she decided to use her cell phone, take to the streets to talk about the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and try to get her voice heard.

“Normally I’m very afraid of the sounds of bombing,” Eid said. “After war 2014 in Gaza I suffered from post-traumatic symptoms that led to health complications and kept me in the hospital for years. I was 14 at the time.”

“This time it was different. I decided to overcome my fears. I have a lot of connections and friends in the UK and strong English skills, so I decided to use that to convey the message of Gaza and the injustice, oppression and constant bombing that is happening against the people here.”

The lady is holding her cell phone
Yara Eid, 22, used Instagram to explain Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip in August to her friends in Britain [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera]

Eid used her Instagram account to cover what was going on. She went to several bombed areas and hospitals, and her followers jumped to 40,000 in just a few days.

“Unfortunately, we lack English speakers in Gaza to cover events on the ground, so I decided to use my voice and give a voice to the voiceless,” she said.

“It was my first time on earth [as a reporter]. I just did what my instincts told me. If I saw people running, I would run with them and tell other people, ‘We are running because there is a bombing somewhere nearby’.”

Eid activity on Instagram received a great response from followers around the world. They asked for more coverage and said what she was doing was important.

“Documenting what happened is very important to me because I want people to live the experience that I lived,” said Eid. “We are becoming desensitized to the images on TV and I wanted to share my real-life experience.”

“People in the UK know Yara as an ordinary citizen living and studying in the UK, and she’s a student who’s come back to visit her family, and suddenly she’s on the ground covering dangerous life experiences that sum up the whole story of life in Gaza.”

A girl stands by the sea.
Bisan Odeh, 23, Instagram influencer and social media activist from Gaza [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera]

Bisan Odeh, 23, works on projects that support youth in Gaza, community initiatives and the content production industry. She writes stories that embody the reality of her society and produces social videos.

“For me, creating content on my Instagram page is the sweetest thing I do in my life, and recently I’ve been producing social media programs, the latest one called ‘Hakawatiyia’ [Storyteller].”

During the last offensive on Gaza, Bisan believed that the besieged territory was forgotten, that the victims – many children and women – were only in numbers.

Bisan told Al Jazeera that she started making videos after researching people who were killed in Israeli attacks. She said they included the mother of the groom killed on her son’s wedding day and other innocent civilians, including 16 children.

“The list goes on,” she said. “That’s when I decided to post a video about the victims in Gaza. These are not numbers and what is happening to us is enough.”

The video Bisan recorded in English went viral on social media and was shared by many followers.

“The conversation about Gaza is always different, but through social media there is only a need for a balance in coverage. We can’t portray life here as always rosy, and we can’t just talk about bombing and destruction.”

Bisan said the psychological scars caused by the wars in Gaza are piling up day by day, and she is still fighting.

“Since the end of the war, I have not been able to continue my life normally. Even in creating new content. All I can think about is that we, as Palestinians in Gaza, do not exist and do not matter to the world. And that’s what mentally tires me the most.”

A girl from Gaza stands;
Salma Shurrab is an influencer from Gaza interested in marketing, advertising and fashion [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera]

For dental student Salma Shurrab, 20, her activity on social networks is far from the sphere of geopolitics. She specializes in marketing, fashion, advertising and travel.

Shurrab said that when she first traveled to participate in an international conference in Turkey, she witnessed the diversity of cultures and nationalities.

“What I noticed was that I was no different from them,” she said. “I am a cultured, educated and aware girl who even follows fashion and the latest styles, but after meeting many of the participants, it became clear”there is a part of Gaza unknown to the world.”

After the outbreak August WarShurrab said she felt she should inform her friends and new acquaintances about what was happening.

“I had just returned from a trip, trying to ignore the harsh reality of Gaza, and then as soon as I got back, the aggression started,” Shurab said.

“Here I discovered that I have to accept my reality and contribute to its disclosure, and not cover it with an image that goes with the world. I wanted to tell the world that life in Gaza is not normal and could change in an instant.”

Shurab was filming video depicting her life during the Israeli attack to convey the message that the lives of the people of Gaza can change at any moment.

“The video went viral and many friends shared it. Everyone sent me beautiful messages of support and I was happy to help get the message out even a little bit,” she said.

Despite the psychological impact Israeli attackShurrab said her ambition to produce advertising, travel and fashion content has not changed, but collides with the harsh reality of suffering in the Gaza Strip.

“I’m embarrassed to share travel and fashion again. I feel that all I need to do is talk about our suffering and try to clarify what is happening to people on a daily basis – whether due to military escalations or restrictions imposed on travel and movement,” she said.

“We cannot escape the reality of Gaza. We can’t even go far with our dreams and ambitions as freely as we want to.”

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