Gazan university students on the one thing they want the world to know about their lives

THE DAILY VOX spoke to students at Al-Azhar university in Gaza City about their hopes for the future and how the Israeli blockade affects their daily lives. 

Khalil RamadanKhalil Ramadan, 20, studying Media
Abroad, young people strive for doing scientific researches, technological advances, and going to the moon. But here, young people do “escape” research. If the border won’t open, they want a way out, even if illegally. The economy is crumbling, employment is skyrocketing, and life is unbearable. The Israeli blockade is suffocating us. The border barely opens for a few days a year, nothing comes in and nothing leaves. We barely get electricity at home, like 8 to 12 hours a day. And to top it off, we have no say in our political process. No elections. Nothing. While recent graduates dream of getting a job, getting married, and starting a family, they can do nothing of that. The young have no future here.

Eman InjaziEman Injasi, 18, studying English Literature
When I was abroad, I used to hear about Gaza all the time. All we heard was war, destruction, and suffering. And the images we saw on the news were of Palestinians, they were either facing death head-on, or running away from it. So they were all images of death. Then my family moved to Gaza, and I discovered that people here are quite normal. Before, all I thought about the people are is that they are victims. But then, I discovered that they are normal people who lead normal lives. Palestinians here study, work hard, play, hang out with friends, crack jokes, and so forth. Sure thing suffering is part of life here, and they are indeed victims, but that’s not the whole story and suffering shouldn’t define them.

Ahmed DheerAhmed Dheer, 28, has a BA degree in Basic Education, and studying psychological counselling
I dream of going to graduate school, to work, to travel, and to maybe get employed abroad and acquire new skills. But unfortunately, I cannot do any of that here. We cannot work here. A regular person cannot find a job, because there are not many jobs available. And the few jobs that are out there are given to the people with connections and power. Favouritism is a big problem here. So, facing all these problems, we try to leave the country. But even leaving this place is impossible, due to the Israeli blockade. What is my message? I want to leave, I want to get higher education, and I want to work.

Mohammed al-HadadMohammed Al-Haddad, 20, studying History
People abroad have a dangerous misconception about us. They think that we want trouble, that we are causing problems and initiating wars and conflicts with Israel. But this is wrong; we are innocent of all these accusations. Israel kicked us out of our lands. Israel is militarily occupying us. So when we fight, we are defending ourselves and protecting our land and the land of our ancestors against the Israeli occupation. Some foreign media calls us terrorists, but we are freedom fighters; we are fighting for our freedom and political and human rights. And one day, we will certainly be free, and our chains will be broken.

Asmaa al-TayehAsmaa Al Tayeh, 19, studying English Literature
The education level is high here. A lot of Palestinians have higher education degrees, like MA’s and PhDs. Many are skillful, and there are a lot of programs and projects that aim to enhance skills and talents. I know a lot of NGOs that organise workshops about social media, communication skills, and languages. So people care about learning, since such workshops are in high demand. Additionally, we have a lot of Palestinians that work abroad in prestigious positions, as professors and businessmen. They contribute a lot to their countries of residence. So, my point is, we certainly do not lack the brains, and we have a lot of hidden talents. But unfortunately, due to the current political situation, people cannot reach their potential.

Laila Abu EssaLaila Abu Essa, 19, studying English Literature
We have a good number of unique places here, with historical and cultural significance. For example, Hamam al-Sammara, the only Turkish bath in Gaza, is an ancient structure and a historical piece. Great Omari Mosque, Church of St. Prophyrus, and Qasr Al-Basha are other examples that come to mind. This land is ancient and there are a lot of nice places here that people abroad might not know about.

Interviews: Mohammed Alhammami.
Images: Mohammed Mohammed Majdalawi