Gaza In­sta­gram stars want world to get big­ger pic­ture

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Sports -

THEY may not be able to leave Gaza with­out Is­raeli or Egyp­tian per­mis­sion, but their pho­tos can.

The two women are among a small num­ber of In­sta­gram stars in the block­aded Pales­tinian en­clave, show­ing fol­low­ers a dif­fer­ent side of their home­land from what much of the world may be used to hear­ing or see­ing.

“I see In­sta­gram as a win­dow,” says Kholoud Nas­sar, 26, wear­ing a pink hi­jab and fid­dling with a toy car that fea­tures in many of her pic­tures. Fatma Mos­abah, 21, agrees, say­ing: “When I open the in­ter­net I can talk to peo­ple across the world.” Both have more than 100,000 fol­low­ers on the so­cial plat­form and say they get rec­og­nized mul­ti­ple times a day in the tiny ter­ri­tory that is home to two mil­lion peo­ple.

In the en­clave sealed off by Is­rael to the east and north, Egypt to the south and the Mediter­ranean Sea to the west, it is im­pos­si­ble for Gazans to leave with­out per­mis­sion. Nei­ther of the women has left Gaza in more than a decade.

Is­rael also re­fuses to give per­mits for tourists to visit the strip, leav­ing most peo­ple out­side to imag­ine life there.

And with three wars since 2008 be­tween the strip’s rulers Ha­mas and Is­rael, many peo­ple’s ideas of Gaza cen­ter on dev­as­ta­tion, poverty and suf­fer­ing.

The women use In­sta­gram, with its fo­cus on pic­tures over text and po­lit­i­cal ar­gu­ments, to show an­other side.

“War is a part of Gaza, but it is not all Gaza. I wanted to show there was more to Gaza -- as in any coun­try,” Nas­sar tells Agence France-Presse (AFP) in a cafe near the coast in Gaza City.

“Take Amer­ica: there is poverty, there are de­stroyed homes, but at the same time there are beau­ti­ful places. Gaza is the same.”

“Through these pic­tures I want peo­ple to see Gaza, how peo­ple live, eat and work.” Nas­sar’s pic­tures range from young chil­dren to har­vests, all bathed in a range of col­ors, while Mos­abah shows all sides of daily life.

Both women fea­ture heav­ily in their own pic­tures, with wide smiles.

Mos­abah agrees that the aim is to “change the per­cep­tion of Gaza” away from po­lit­i­cal mat­ters.

“To show its beau­ti­ful side, that’s the most im­por­tant thing. Far from the de­struc­tion, block­ade and the wars.”

‘TRY­ING TO LIVE’

A United Na­tions of­fi­cial re­cently said the strip may al­ready be un­liv­able.

De­spite Gazans re­ceiv­ing only a few hours of elec­tric­ity a day in re­cent months, so­cial me­dia out­lets re­main pop­u­lar.

Ali Bkheet, pres­i­dent of the Pales­tinian So­cial Me­dia Club, es­ti­mates that around 50 per­cent of Gazans have Face­book, though num­bers on In­sta­gram and Twit­ter are sig­nif­i­cantly smaller.

He said the decade-long Is­raeli block­ade had made Gazans par­tic­u­larly keen to use so­cial me­dia “to ex­press our­selves and com­mu­ni­cate our voice”.

Nas­sar started be­fore the last war in 2014 and doc­u­mented the hu­man toll of the con­flict.

In the three years since, she has sought to fo­cus on how Gazans strug­gle through ter­ri­ble con­di­tions -- in­clud­ing creat­ing a “try­ing to live” hash­tag to show how peo­ple were putting their lives back to­gether after the war.

The toy car, an old Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle Nas­sar car­ries in her bag at all times and which fea­tures in dozens of her pho­tos, has be­come a trade­mark help­ing her con­nect with oth­ers.

Peo­ple from across the Arab world now send her pic­tures of the real cars, which she posts on her page.

For Mos­abah, In­sta­gram is also a source of rev­enue -- mak­ing be­tween $300 (255 euros) and $400 a month from e-mar­ket­ing and ad­verts on her page.

In a re­gion where 60 per­cent of young peo­ple are un­em­ployed and the av­er­age salary is a cou­ple of hun­dred dol­lars, she has carved out a niche for her­self.

Pales­tinian Fatma Abu Mus­abbeh, 21, uses her mo­bile phone to take pic­tures for her so­cial me­dia ac­count in the cen­tral Gaza strip.

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