Palestinian journalist Motaz Azaiza visits Michigan to speak at U-M and meet with Rashida Tlaib

Throughout the last six months, Palestinian citizens have taken on the vital role of journalism, capturing horrors in Gaza through videos and photographs shared across social media platforms. Among many, some of the most prominent faces have been Bisan Owda, Plestia Alaqad, and Motaz Azaiza, gaining millions of followers worldwide who not only seek updates on the conflict but also check in daily hoping for confirmation of the journalists’ continued safety.

In late January, Azaiza announced to his 18.3 million Instagram followers that he would be leaving the Gaza Strip. Since then, he has traveled the world to spread awareness about what’s happening even further.

On Monday, the 24-year-old Palestinian photojournalist visited Michigan, speaking to nearly 2,000 University of Michigan students, faculty, and community members at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater about his life before the war, his photojournalism work during it, and his hopelessness since leaving.

The following day, he met with Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib in Dearborn.

“We talked a lot about our struggles as Palestinians and her work in the congress,” an Instagram post from @motaz_azaiza says. “We are making changes.”

click to enlarge Tlaib presented Azaiza with a plaque of recognition for his journalism work in Gaza. - Instagram, @motaz_azaiza

Tlaib presented Azaiza with a plaque of recognition for his journalism work in Gaza.

At the meeting, Tlaib presented Azaiza with a plaque of recognition for his contributions to the field of journalism through “ongoing coverage of the Palestinian people and his commitment to telling their stories.”

“Mr. Azaiza has focused his life’s work on capturing the family life of Palestinians in Gaza. Since the war began, he has bravely used his platform to document the ongoing genocide in Gaza and the lives of innocent people who have been killed,” the Congressional Record states. “Mr. Azaiza’s images on the ground have exposed the war crimes being committed by the Israeli government for the world to see. We applaud his efforts and bravery for risking his life to report on these atrocities.”

The day after, another of Azaiza’s Instagram posts expressed his struggle to persist through ongoing pain while traveling from place to place to talk about Gaza, as innocent lives continue to be lost.

“I can’t continue doing what I’m doing, traveling from [one] place to another to raise more awareness while every moment my heart goes down when I see a picture [of] a friend of mine injured or dead,” he states. “I am dead from inside and will not be able to continue.”

In another recent post, he expressed that he hasn’t felt comfortable since he left the Gaza Strip. Tlaib echoed the sentiment in an Instagram post of her own following the meeting.

“[Azaiza] may be physically away, but his mind, soul, and heart are still in Gaza,” she says. “The trauma and pain are evident in how he speaks about what he lived through and witnessed. He wants to save lives. He wants to help as many Palestinians as he can (me too). The overwhelming guilt weighing on him is felt instantly. Many of you reading this feel it too. How do we stop a genocide?”

She continues on to say that their “existence is resistance,” and that shining light on what is happening will demonstrate the inhumanity further and help create change.

“One day, our beloved Palestine will be free. One day, Motaz will see that Allah had a plan for him when he picked up that camera. One day, a world will be created where Palestinians are allowed to live,” the post continues. “We will never stop talking about Palestine. We will never forget the genocide in Gaza.”

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