Winner of the 2021 Ville de Perpignan Rémi Ochlik Visa d'or Award
My name is Fatima Shbair, I was born in 1997 in Gaza City. After studying business administration for three years at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, I switched to study journalism. Then in 2019 I started in photojournalism, working in the field, covering the escalation by Israeli forces targeting Gaza City.
As there were no institutions for photojournalism in Gaza, I had spent years, from 2013 to 2017, learning through experience. It all started as I live in a conflict zone and have a message that I want to convey to the world. I wished one day to be the person carrying the camera and transmitting the image. I worked as hard as I could and have achieved part of that. As a female photojournalist I have encountered many difficulties because of the conservative nature of Gaza society.
The 2021 Gaza War was the most difficult experience. It was the first war I covered for so long; it was eleven days non-stop, and I was concerned about my family at home in the north. I had to find a balance between work and family, but realized I had to concentrate on what was happening in Gaza. The war brought me more experience and awareness of the working environment in the field. As a photojournalist, I realized every day just how important the camera is, how it can convey details of the city where some two million people have been living in an open-air prison since the blockade of Gaza was imposed in 2006. The city has been separated from the world, with the Erez crossing to the north and the Rafah crossing to the south, and a miracle is needed to get through them. With only four to six hours of electricity a day, it is hard to do even the simplest things.
The sea is the only relief for citizens, offering a refuge at all times, and even that is in danger because of severe pollution. No one here can dream of the long term, and day to day dreams can turn black with a sudden Israeli raid.
In war we prepare for all possibilities: to die, to go on without your family, or to start from zero after losing everything. War is not just missiles and destruction; there are dozens of people dying every day simply because they are unable to leave Gaza for treatment, and there is repeated targeting of farmers and residents along the Israeli border. People endure all kinds of things, and no matter how lost or disappointed they are, no matter what difficulties they face, they somehow continue as if they can see something beautiful at the end, despite everything, they see a little spot, filled with life and peace, with life continuing.