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Gaza’s blogging boom

Gazan blogger Sharif Al Sharif writes to vent his frustration and the humanitarian crisis he’s living through. He says ‘Gaza is not hell it’s just a very unnatural place to live.”
Le blogueur gazaoui Sharif Al Sharif écrit pour exprimer sa frustration et parler de la crise humanitaire qu’il vit quotidiennement. Il dit : « Gaza n’est pas l’enfer, c’est juste un endroit plutôt malsain pour vivre » (Phoebe Greenwood/IRIN)

Sharif Al Sharif, 27, launched his blog in 2006 when there were only a handful of bloggers in the Gaza Strip. Now, he says, there are more than 50. The past year has seen a boom in social media in Gaza as young women, and men like Sharif, take to the web to join a global community they are otherwise unable to access. A growing international audience is logging on to read them.



Sharif has always been interested in politics but never enjoyed talking about his political opinions publicly. When he started his blog, it was not with a political agenda: “I just wanted to be heard. When I started to blog I felt like I had a presence in this life, even if it was just a digital presence. I wrote to be recognized.”



Sharif writes about his experience of daily life in Gaza. He often writes music reviews or about films he has seen and liked - anything he feels strongly about. Given the context he writes in, politics and the humanitarian crisis he is living through are often unavoidable. “Everything here is mixed with politics - it’s in the air here; you can’t not think about it,” he explained.



The borders of Gaza with Egypt and Israel were sealed in 2007 after militant group Hamas took control and tight restrictions on the movement of goods and people in and out of the Strip were imposed. Now more than1.5mililon people living there are confined within 360sqkm.



Sharif said the most satisfying part of the blogging experience for him was communicating with a wider online community: “As a Palestinian youth, you have no chance to live like everyone else. You’re not getting the whole package of life experience. So you create an `Internet life’ to replace what’s missing.”



Like Sharif, Ola Anan, 25, has been blogging since 2006. Her English is flawless but she prefers to write in Arabic. Her priority is to create an online forum for her immediate community to address problems that are closer to home.












Ola Anan created her blog ‘From Ghazza’ in 2006. For her, blogging is an important way to start discussion within her community about problems, both personal and political

Ola Anan created her blog “From Ghazza” in 2006. For her, blogging is an important way to start discussion within her community about problems, both personal and political
Phoebe Greenwood/IRIN
Ola Anan created her blog ‘From Ghazza’ in 2006. For her, blogging is an important way to start discussion within her community about problems, both personal and political
http://www.irinnews.org/photo.aspx
Monday, January 24, 2011
Gaza’s blogging boom
Ola Anan created her blog ‘From Ghazza’ in 2006. For her, blogging is an important way to start discussion within her community about problems, both personal and political


Photo: Phoebe Greenwood/IRIN
Ola Anan created her blog “From Ghazza” in 2006. For her, blogging is an important way to start discussion within her community about problems, both personal and political

Says Anan: “A lot of people are blogging in English to reach people outside of Gaza, particularly in the West. I don’t like that. We have to talk about these things among ourselves, that’s why I write in Arabic.



“Those people who write for the West always feel they need to talk about politics but there’s so much to solve here on a social level, like reconciliation [between warring factions Hamas and Fatah]. I think we need to resolve those issues among ourselves before we turn and talk to the outside.”



She admits that local bloggers can be reluctant to address controversial domestic issues in part out of fear of who might be reading. Sharif agrees: “A friend of mine was addressing some very sensitive issues in his blog, attacking people [in power in Gaza] on a professional and personal level. He had a warning from a friend of a friend to slow down and back off.”



International audience



Whether it is their intention or not, Gaza’s bloggers are attracting more and more foreign readers. During Operation Cast Lead (27 December 2008 till 18 January 2009), Israel’s latest military incursion in Gaza, with journalists banned from Gaza, an unprecedented international audience flocked to Gaza’s blogs to read the reality behind the headlines.



Anan was studying in Belgium at the time of the war but was in daily contact with her family in Gaza. Throughout the three-week conflict, she found comfort in blogging and the comments posted in response to her entries. Her page views soared from 50 to 1,500 a day.









''Even if people were sending cash transfers to accounts in Gaza there was no cash in the banks so it wasn’t getting through. I was able to get that news out there''

“There was a lot that wasn’t mentioned in the news. For example, bloggers in Egypt were asking if the donations they were giving were reaching people here. My parents told me that food warehouses had been bombed and the hospitals were all running short of supplies,” she said.



“Even if people were sending cash transfers to accounts in Gaza there was no cash in the banks so it wasn’t getting through. I was able to get that news out there,” she added.



Outlet for letting off steam



Increasingly, blogs and social media provide outlets to vent. This was clearly demonstrated by Gaza’s Youth Breaks Out, a group of young Gazans that erupted on Facebook earlier this year with a firey manifesto:



“We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community!



“We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16’s breaking the wall of sound; scream with all the power in our souls in order to release this immense frustration that consumes us because of this fucking situation we live in.”



This Facebook group has attracted more than 18,000 friends. With Gaza’s online presence established, as long as Israel’s blockade is in place and the movement of people in and out of the Strip is restricted, the Internet will be a vital window between Palestinians in Gaza and the world outside.



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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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