Free Palestine: Inspiring Gazan Journalists Document Brutal Realities

Image via user Alisdare Hickson

By Kimberly Bajarias


The following piece was submitted through the Vanguard’s Berkeley Student Publication and represents the views of the author and not necessarily that of the Vanguard and its editorial staff. The Vanguard invites robust but respectful dialogue on this and all topics. Alternative views can be submitted to:

As a content warning, the following material refers to violence and death.


GAZA, PALESTINE ​​– Barely a month after Oct. 7 (the day Hamas launched an attack on Israel, prompting relentless retaliation and violence), the death toll of Palestinians stands at 10,744 or higher. While the official count captures a large and important depiction of loss, some Gazan individuals have taken it upon themselves to be the reporters and journalists of tragedy on-the-ground—of tragedy in their own homes.


Primarily using social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, these individuals take on the work of showing the world the reality and impact of Israel’s attacks.


Abdulrahman (Aboud) Battah | Instagram: @abod_bt77 | TikTok: @abod_bt77

At 17 years old, Aboud is one of the youngest well-known journalists to document current life in Palestine. According to his Instagram biography, he refers to himself as “the most powerful reporter in the world in 2023.”


Almost every post is ironically lighthearted, and they often start with him smiling or joking; however, they still emphasize the loss that Palestinians are experiencing. On Nov. 9, the young reporter spoke about their internet being cut off, and on Nov. 8, he spoke about his mom’s empty fridge and the lack of food in Gaza.


Bisan Owda | Instagram: @wizard_bisan1 | TikTok: @wizard_bisan1

A 25-year-old filmmaker, Bisan has worked with the United Nations on women’s rights issues and with the European Union on climate change issues. Before the current conflict, she was posting videos about her life, travel, and sights in Gaza. A little over a month before Oct. 7, she had posted a video celebrating her birthday with various food, gifts, and friends.


Her recent content calls for a #ceasefirenow. Each of her posts are dedicated to updates on the massacres around her, explaining why exactly what we are seeing in Gaza is a genocide.


Motaz Azaiza | Instagram: @motaz_azaiza

Motaz is a 24-year-old photographer. In 2021, he graduated from Al-Azhar University of Gaza after studying English Language and Literature.


He captures the horrific—but real—scenes of death, rubble, blood, and tears through pictures and videos. They are graphic and violent, but they capture the reality of what Gazans are experiencing every day. His Instagram has content of “people killed and injured by the Israeli forces on the streets,” “a man holding a little girl and running towards the ambulance after he extracted her from under the rubble,” wounded children comforting younger shaking children, “a young girl stuck under her house rubble after being bombed by the Israeli warplanes.” There is a bleeding child in almost every post. This is their reality.


Plestia Alaqad | Instagram: @byplestia | TikTok: @byplestia

Before the current Israel-Palestine conflict, Plestia was a 22-year-old journalist. According to her LinkedIn, only three months ago, she was in charge of the English Media Club Course, “a significant accomplishment that brought [her] immense pride and joy.”


In contrast to Motaz, Plestia documents the reality of Palestine, but also spotlights the goodness she finds around her. Many of her posts feature children who are alive, well, and excited to see her. On Oct. 29, she posted pictures of strangers offering her food and drinks out of kindness. Her goal is to provide a sense of hope to viewers.


Wael Al-Dahdouh | Instagram: @wael_eldahdouh

An Al Jazeera Arabic Gaza correspondent, Wael continues to report despite having lost his wife, son, daughter, and grandson. They were killed in an Israeli air raid—in an area that was thought to be safe because it was “within the zone to which Israel had asked Palestinians in Gaza to move.”


His Instagram reels depict the war zone that Gaza has become. On Oct. 8, he posted a reel of the city turned to rubble: “Violent clashes, the firing of internationally prohibited white phosphorus shells, the firing of artillery shells, shooting, and a war zone now in the university area in Tal al-Hawa in Gaza City.”


More Palestinian Realities

One circulating video shows a Palestinian father carrying the remains of his children in two shopping bags, one in each hand.


Another video shows a Palestinian doctor breaking down crying when he sees the bodies of his father and brother at the hospital.


Yet another video shows a Palestinian emergency worker breaking down crying while cradling and comforting a baby in an ambulance.


There are more than 10,744 Palestinians who have died since Oct. 7.


These are 10,744 stories that deserve to be heard.


As the number of innocent Palestinians killed increases with Israel’s relentless and unnecessary violence, these journalists document an important, yet tragic, truth that mainstream media does not provide. They capture the destruction of homes and businesses; they capture the deaths of families and lives.


They are heroes. Their commitment to portray these realities is important for everyone to witness, in the name of preserving Palestinian stories and freeing the Palestinian people.

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