Under fire, undeterred: How Gazan female journalists are redefining digital advocacy

Under fire, undeterred: How Gazan female journalists are redefining digital advocacy

Kishwar Naheed in her transgressive poetry once wrote,“It is we sinful women, who come out raising the banner of truth up against barricades of lies on the highway.”

I have been reminded of her prose ever since Israel started its genocidal campaign against innocent Gazan civilians. Particularly, because of the heroic role of Gazan women as they have stood firm against the absence of truth from the mainstream media. 

The Western media’s damaging rhetoric that endorsed a genocide, crumbled completely when these women picked up their phones to show the world the horrifying truth. They are Kishwar Naheed’s sinful women – who are not awed by the grandeur of those who wear gowns, and they don’t bow their heads.

Beyond bulletins: How a movement started

One-sided narratives don’t present the whole picture. They conveniently exclude historical context, sharing a very biased description. Crucial Palestinian voices have been absent from the main discourse. But despite the depravity, fearless women have carved out a space with their digital presence. 

Unlike traditional mainstream media, digital media is relatively more democratised. By operating independently it’s not always influenced by power dynamics. It can serve as a powerful catalyst, confronting authoritative structures and exposing injustices. This makes broadcasting false narratives, in the age of social media dominance, completely jarring. Once the mainstream media’s coverage affirmed the side it was on, the women journalists whose lives were caught in the web of ethnic cleansing took charge of the situation themselves. 

“This is Bisan from Gaza, I am still alive”

Instagram has emerged as the go-to platform for journalists from Gaza, providing first hand, unfiltered coverage of the war.

The first time I came across Bisan Owda was when she posted about losing her 550 ml share of water for the day. Bisan, a 25-year-old filmmaker who has been displaced multiple times, has witnessed the barbaric and strategic extermination of her people, by weapons, hunger and disease.  

Her “This is Bisan from Gaza, I am still alive,” a series of video diaries filmed selfie-style, is the pinnacle of digital resistance when faced with a cruel adversary. Refusing to stay silent, her Instagram is a mirror held up for the world to see the harrowing reality of the colonial occupation of her land.

In one video, she shows the living conditions in Rafah, on the Egyptian border, and where over half of Gaza’s population has sought shelter.

Speaking to the camera, she says: “These people have been living in tents for 5 months – they’ve lost everything. Their homes were bombed. Their shelters, the hospitals and the schools were also bombed, so they live in tents, in the streets, in the middle of nowhere, in the cold, in starvation. Pregnant women, men, women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities—all of them, here. And the Israeli army is waving shamelessly and threatening to invade Rafah. When it happens, all these people will not be able to find any place to go. Keep an eye on Rafah, keep an eye on Gaza. Ceasefire now—this is all we want.”

I stumbled upon Plestia Alaqad’s account when I saw a picture she posted of her journal: “I think of Gaza, how in the glimpse of an eye it became a ghost town.” Plestia’s resilience is emblematic of the land she is from. She was forced to flee Gaza in November for fear that her reporting could put her family’s life in danger, and during the internet blackout, I found myself repeatedly checking her profile, searching for proof of life.  

I discovered freelance reporter Hind Khoudary as I came across her post captioned: “This may be the last.” She has regularly posted photos and videos of the war’s devastation, sharing the trauma of displacement.

Recently, she has reported on the forced starvation of people living in the north of Gaza. “Today, a convoy of food entered the northern Gaza strip and the Israeli forces killed and shot the people who were waiting for the convoy,” she recounts in a series of Instagram stories. “This is unbearable. What’s happening on the ground is unacceptable.”

These women and countless others have been using their digital presence to combat biased reporting, while also actively advocating for a complete ceasefire and enduring peace. The candle of their truth-telling shines a light through the pervasive darkness of misinformation.

A new age of digital feminist resistance

Following October 7th, the normal lives of Palestinians were viciously halted. Their dreams have been postponed indefinitely. But as the entire world witnesses the deafening silence of the alleged upholders of peace and equality, a groundswell of liberation has emerged on social media led by the brave women and men of Gaza.

The digital space has enabled a discussion that was long overdue. Around the globe, people are being educated about the Palestinian cause. Through Instagram reels and X threads, the colonial regime has lost its upper hand somewhere amid the hashtags.

The defiant voices of these women underscore the significance of authentic representation, one that amplifies our truth and voices our struggles. Gazan female journalists have deconstructed the illusion of solidarity that global advocates of women’s rights championed. They showed us a new language; unafraid to denounce the occupier, resolute in its commitment to hold the powerful accountable and bold enough to advocate for peace. Over time, our heroes also changed. In the last five months we have witnessed humanity be almost defeated by military might. But what prevails in the end is the message of peace. The feminist poet Fahmida Riaz wrote hours before her death,“If I could live again, I would not be so mad as to summon revolution.” Her ‘inqalabi aurtein’ (from her poem ‘Revolutionary women’) are reincarnated in the Gazan women journalists who refuse to be silent, armed with nothing but their cameras and unconquerable spirits.

Zainab Amanullah

Featured image: Photo by Freepik


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