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How Instagram’s ‘Martyrs of Gaza’ Immortalises Palestinian Lives

When citing the loss of 11,000 lives, they're alluding to the tragic specter of genocide - the haunting understanding that no survivors remain to recount its harrowing atrocities.

Farah Desouky

How Instagram’s ‘Martyrs of Gaza’ Immortalises Palestinian Lives

In the month and week since the October 7th escalations in the Gaza strip, the world stood to see the Palestinian death toll increase exponentially, to the point where it now exceeds 11,000 Palestinian lives lost. From the comfort of our homes, it could be easy to reduce this number to just that, a number. This is far from the case, as social media initiative Martyrs of Gaza lives to prove.

In the month and week since the October 7th escalations in the Gaza strip, the world stood to see the Palestinian death toll increase exponentially, to the point where it now exceeds 11,000 Palestinian lives lost. From the comfort of our homes, it could be easy to reduce this number to just that, a number. This is far from the case, as social media initiative Martyrs of Gaza lives to prove.

In mainstream media, the humanity of Palestinian victims is kept to a minimum because of the overwhelming tragedy it entails, a tragedy the world is not prepared to take accountability for. Instead, in an attempt to protect the viewer’s emotions or serve ulterior political motives, the loss is reduced to straightforward numbers and statistics, stripped of its humanity. This vilification of Palestinian victims serves the purpose of globally eliciting as little of an empathetic response as possible. When 11,000 is just a number, the average person is inclined to think about how human loss weighs differently in war, that the politics will figure itself out.

In her essay ‘Naming the dead and the politics of the ‘human’, published in 2017, political theory professor Moya Lloyd reflects on Western dehumanisation throughout the 2014 Gaza war: “As the earlier exploration of orders of grievability revealed, the ability to see others as grievable is shaped and consolidated by socially articulated and historically variable norms that constitute only some persons as fully human and thus visible within a given order of grievability. The dehumanisation of those excluded ontologically from that order means they are neither perceptible nor apprehensible as normatively human, thus their lives are of no particular account.”

This exclusionary narrative has successfully stifled voices throughout history, through the Iraq war, multiple refugee crises as well as in the 2014 war on Gaza. When victims’ stories go untold, it is much easier to eradicate a people. This is why, to truly serve the Palestinian cause, one must look beyond the number and into the context in which it is presented. 11,000 casualties mean 11,000 complex lives, beating hearts, and impactful souls lost. 11,000 mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, friends. It is a loss mourned by the entirety of the human race.

The current bias in mainstream media creates an environment where Palestinian stories are pushed to the side whilst Zionist propaganda is brought to the spotlight; a situation that has elicited an influx of citizen journalists in Gaza to shed light on the stories no one sees. Martyrs of Gaza does this by profiling the lives of the strip’s martyrs.

“We are here documenting the stories of martyrs and discussing their dreams,” the people behind the Martyrs of Gaza tell CairoScene, “This information is challenging to obtain as we communicate with their families.”

Every day, Martyrs of Gaza does in-depth on-ground work to publish a selection of stories on the lives of martyrs from all walks of life, an overwhelming number of whom are children.

Pictured smiling with his sister while holding a kitten is young martyr Adam Husam Muslim. “In the fifth grade, he was very intelligent, one of the top students, loved by everyone, and extremely active. He memorised the Quran, loved basketball, and trained with the youth of the Maghazi camp basketball club. He dreamed of becoming a global basketball player like Michael Jordan.

However, the Israeli warplanes decided to shatter his dream on 11/11/2023 in an early morning airstrike on his relatives' house in the Nuseirat camp.”

Besides allowing deeper insight into the lives lost due to the occupation’s violence, Martyrs of Gaza immortalises the legacies of the victims it showcases. Despite the forceful claiming of their lives, their dreams can live on, engraved in the initiative’s dedicated reader’s memories. 

“Yusuf Al-Dawas’s friends describe him as the simple dreamer who always loved life. He enjoyed reading, art, and writing. Yusuf was a writer who consistently documented human stories; today, we document his story. He empathised with others, especially as a psychology student, leaving a lasting impact on those he interacted with.

Yusuf and all members of his family were martyred in an Israeli airstrike on their home on 10/24/2023.”

Like citizens in any community, the martyrs of Palestine led wildly different lives. As readers sift through the initiative’s files, they can connect with and hold within them the stories of those who touch them most strongly. Martyrs of Gaza ensure those murdered by the brutality of Israel will be mourned, and their stories honoured. 

“Ayah Yasser Al-Muqaid:

Ayah, a software engineering graduate, competed for a job at the university. Ayah was spontaneous, loving life, and delicate. "My little sister and my friend since childhood," her brother Abdulrahman said.

Ayah got engaged two months before the war, eagerly preparing for her wedding. This ring is the only thing left, identified when they searched for her under the rubble. 

Ayah was martyred in an Israeli airstrike on their home on October 15, 2023.”

“Aunt Um Waleed Al Zaem:

A lady filled with love, compassion, tenderness, kindness, and generosity. "Her food was the absolute best," her niece mentioned in her eulogy.

She was martyred with her son and her grandchildren by Israeli airstrike after she baked 500 bread for the displaced people at the Mental Health Hospital in Al-Nasr.

Date of martyrdom: 11/6/2023.”

Through simply following Martyrs of Gaza’s social media platforms on Instagram and X (formerly known as Twitter), and remembering martyrs’ names and faces, you play a part in preserving their identity. You could also help by donating to the initiative’s efforts to create formal documentation of martyrs’ lives here.

(Note: Due to the intensity of the situation in Gaza, any donations received now will be redirected to humanitarian aid for the people until further notice).


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