Eman Mohammed: The courage to tell a hidden story
March 14, 2014
Eman Mohammed is one of the few female photojournalists in the Gaza Strip. Though openly shunned by many of her male colleagues, she is given unprecedented access to areas denied to men. In this short, visual talk, the TED Fellow critiques gender norms in her community by bringing light to hidden stories.Eman Mohammed
Saudi-born Eman Mohammed is a photojournalist in Gaza. Full bio
Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
When I turned 19, I started my career
as the first female photojournalist
in the Gaza Strip, Palestine.
My work as a woman photographer
was considered a serious insult
to local traditions,
and created a lasting stigma
for me and my family.
The male-dominated field made my presence
unwelcome by all possible means.
They made clear that a woman
must not do a man's job.
Photo agencies in Gaza refused to train me
because of my gender.
The "No" sign was pretty clear.
Three of my colleagues
went as far as to drive me to an open air strike area
where the explosion sounds
were the only thing I could hear.
Dust was flying in the air,
and the ground was shaking like a swing beneath me.
I only realized we weren't
there to document the event
when the three of them got back into the armored Jeep
and drove away, waving and laughing,
leaving me behind in the open air strike zone.
For a moment, I felt terrified,
humiliated, and sorry for myself.
My colleagues' action was not
the only death threat I have received,
but it was the most dangerous one.
The perception of women's life in Gaza
Until a recent time, a lot of
women were not allowed
to work or pursue education.
At times of such doubled war including
both social restrictions on women
and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
women's dark and bright stories were fading away.
To men, women's stories were seen
I started paying closer attention
to women's lives in Gaza.
Because of my gender, I had access
to worlds where my colleagues were forbidden.
Beyond the obvious pain and struggle,
there was a healthy dose
of laughter and accomplishments.
In front of a police compound in Gaza City
during the first war in Gaza,
an Israeli air raid managed to destroy the compound
and break my nose.
For a moment, all I saw was white, bright white,
like these lights.
I thought to myself I either got blind
or I was in heaven.
By the time I managed to open my eyes,
I had documented this moment.
Mohammed Khader, a Palestinian worker
who spent two decades in Israel,
as his retirement plan,
he decided to build a four-floor house,
only by the first field operation at his neighborhood,
the house was flattened to the ground.
Nothing was left but the pigeons he raised
and a jacuzzi, a bathtub
that he got from Tel Aviv.
Mohammed got the bathtub
on the top of the rubble
and started giving his kids
an every morning bubble bath.
My work is not meant to hide the scars of war,
but to show the full frame
of unseen stories of Gazans.
As a Palestinian female photographer,
the journey of struggle, survival and everyday life
has inspired me to overcome the community taboo
and see a different side of war and its aftermath.
I became a witness with a choice:
to run away or stand still.
Saudi-born Eman Mohammed is a photojournalist in Gaza.Why you should listen
has worked as a reporter and photojournalist in Gaza since the age of nineteen. Since she began reporting in 2006, the Saudi-born TED Fellow has shifted her focus from the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to women's issues in the Gaza Strip. As one of the few female photojournalists based in the region, Mohammed regularly faces discrimination, sexual harassment and open spite for what's seen as her audacity to join a men's field. Mohammed believes this can change for future generations of Gazan women. She says of raising her daughters, "Everything comes with a reason. They have the right to ask questions and do with whatever they wish or like, as long as it’s not hurting them or others."
The original video is available on TED.com