The Iris grows: Story of a Palestinian blogger
Trapped in her family’s flat with no place to go. Tanks and bulldozers surround her house as bombs are hurled through the windows. Tears flood her eyes as she stuffs old pictures of family and friends into a bag. Tightly clinging to her younger sister, she watches as her home disintegrates around her.
For over five hours, Israeli soldiers watched as Isra Migdad’s house was swallowed by flames. The Migdad family laid on the floor all night hoping the perpetrators would assume they were dead. Fortunately, all family members made it out alive. But for Isra, this was not the end. She would tell people about what happened that night. She would tell people about the injustice that her family and all Palestinians face. She would have a voice. “I am not as I was before, and I will never be,” said Isra.
“My Death Experience” is Isra Migdad’s story of the 2008 Israeli occupation aggression, which became the inspiration to write her Blog, The Iris. The blog features stories about Isra’s experiences as a Gazan, a Muslim, and a women. “Palestinians are going through far, far more than what we hear on the news,” said Isra. “People just don’t know what is going on here.”
The occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), Gaza and West Bank, have had a history of conflict with their occupiers. According to the CIA World Factbook, tensions rose when Israel took over the OPT in 1994 leading to a violent insurrection in 2001. Since the uprising, conditions have been less than adequate for the Palestinians. The CIA World Factbook reports that unemployment rates are an excruciating 26 percent with 30 percent of the population living below the poverty line.
Journalism and media are among the many facets of Gazan life that are restricted by Israel. Gaza and most Arab countries, according to Zayyan & Carter, have local media that is controlled by the state, which implement heavy censorship; therefore, it is difficult for journalists to oppose traditional political and social issues. Although Gaza is not included on the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index (WPFI), Israel is ranked 91st. According to the WPFI, Israelis are not necessarily the victims of “military censorship,” rather it is the people living in Gaza and West Bank who face punishment: “Under Israel’s system of administrative detention, Palestinian journalists can be held indefinitely without trial, without formal charge, and without notifying a lawyer. They are often accused of inciting violence, cooperating with terrorist organizations, or otherwise posing a threat to Israel’s security,” according to the WPFI.
Restrictions placed on mainstream media have made unorthodox means of disseminating news content, such as Isra’s blog, vastly important. According to Zayyan & Carter, due to a lack of funding, dwindling population, and horrific unemployment rates, the Palestinian regions have been particularly slow to adopting citizen journalism. However, according to Zayyan & Carter, recent growth of citizen journalism has emerged, in part, because of the increasing motive for younger generations to become part of the political and social conversations.
At the heart of The Iris is an emerging citizen journalist who is driven to be part of the conversation. Although people may assume she is a journalist by trade, Isra has no formal journalism or writing background. While attending college, Isra pursued entrepreneurship and Qur’anic Sciences. After sharing her stories about Israeli Aggression, Isra’s teachers and friends encouraged her to continue writing. Isra has passion, stories to be shared, and access to the internet which has gained her over 60 followers on The Iris. Although Isra insists that she does not care about the number of followers or friends she has acquired, her Facebook audience tolls in at over 6,000 friends.
Heavy censorship over Gaza media has no influence on The Iris. Isra has no remorse for criticizing the government for political, social, and economic issues. Specifically, in her article “Gaza Dark-ology,” Isra writes about her experience dealing with only a few hours of power a day. Isra blames the government for not giving Palestinians enough power and attacks the media for justifying the government’s actions. Isra begins the article writing, “Now it’s switched off! Yes I am using “switching” here, because they do it intentionally!”
Although punishment can be brutal for journalists in Gaza, Isra stands unafraid. “It’s my right to express how I feel,” said Isra, “and no one will stop me from this.” By writing about her personal experiences, Isra is telling the story of her home. More importantly, she is telling the not-so-happy story that has been shielded by the government and media from the rest of the world. Isra is one of the voices speaking on behalf of all the oppressed voices that go unheard in Gaza. “I am just trying to live. Despite what we have, all of us are just trying to live,” said Isra.
Isra is an ordinary person who falls to the bottom of the chain of oppression. As a Palestinian, as a Muslim, and as a women, Isra is the embodiment of what some might see as powerlessness. However, it is when the powerless speak that we realize how unjust our world can truly be. Finding a voice in the midst of a state conflict, government oppression, and societal ignorance is a tough feat. Yet, she is up for the challenge. Isra Migdad will continue telling her stories so that her blog can grow and flourish like, well, an Iris.
“Israel : Independent Media Constrained by Military Censorship | Reporters without Borders.”RSF. Reporter Without Borders: For Freedom of Information, Web. 28 Apr. 2017.
Migdad, I. (2017, April 1). Personal interview.
“The World Factbook: GAZA STRIP.” Central Intelligence Agency. Central Intelligence Agency, 12 Jan. 2017. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.
Zayyan, H., & Carter, C. Human rights and wrongs: Blogging news of everyday life in Palestine. AllanS. ThorsenE.(Eds.), Citizen journalism: Global perspectives, 85–94. 2009.