Young voices are emerging from Gaza, and they will not be stopped

Young voices are emerging from Gaza, and they will not be stopped
Palestinian author Laila El-Haddad (right) performs a cooking demonstration to promote awareness on Palestinian culture at the Kuala Lumpur Palestine Film Festival (KLPFF).

PETALING JAYA - The siege on Gaza has given birth to a new generation of young writers, whose works provide the most stark depiction yet of the struggle faced by Palestinians on a daily basis.

Palestinian blogger and activist Sameeha Elwan, 26, says the rise of social media has provided the youth there with an active platform with which to "humanise" their struggle, which has not been reflected to the rest of the world.

"The portrayal of Palestinians in the mainstream media is either dehumanising or too humanising. We are often either depicted as victims or as survivors - two contradictory representations that are not totally accurate.

"In 60 years, all we see are pictures of children, body parts, and lifeless bodies. But the lives that have been lived, the stories wanting to be told have been neglected and reduced to statistics," she told the Star Online when in Malaysia recently for the Kuala Lumpur Palestine Film Festival (KLPFF).

Sameeha is one of many writers-cum-activists who have emerged from the ongoing siege on Gaza by Israel.

She says the internet has given a "control of space" to her and many other youths, who have otherwise no freedom of movement in their own country.

"It is very empowering for Palestinians, who are physically entrapped. That is how the blogosphere has become sort of a political space for us to talk about ourselves, whether it is through works of fiction or real life accounts."

Some of Sameeha's writings can be found in Remember Us and Gaza Writes Back, collections of short stories which showcase the aspirations and struggles of young Palestinians as they cope with the Israeli offensive.

Many of these stories first appeared as blog posts, but were eventually compiled into a book as a means to create awareness and raise funds.

Remember Us was compiled by Dr Husna Musa and Dr Zabrina Abu Bakar of Viva Palestina Malaysia, while Gaza Writes Back was edited by young Palestinian writer and academic, Refaat Alareer.

Palestinian author and journalist Laila El-Haddad says her people wish to be viewed as normal human beings, with the same kind of daily struggles that are not always harrowing, but at times also funny.

Much of her work has been about bringing the Palestine-Israel conflict back to the "human scale".

Her first book, Gaza Mom, published in 2011, stemmed from her blog posts which detailed what it was like raising a child in Gaza.

"My blog, Raising Yousef (Laila's son), was initially a means for me to communicate with my husband, who could not enter Palestine. It was about documenting the mundane details of everyday life that we don't really hear about in mainstream media.

"So many people became interested in what it was like mothering in Gaza, because it became a way to convey dispossession, statelessness and the Palestinian story to the world," says Laila, who was also here to promote KLPFF earlier this month.

She said these personal accounts were not only important to the world, but also for Palestinians to see something relatable about themselves beyond the caricatured images reported by the media.

Her second book, Gaza Kitchen, delved deeper into the human struggle by zooming into the household level and raising awareness on Palestinian culture.

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