08:39
TED2016

Ameera Harouda: Why I put myself in danger to tell the stories of Gaza

Filmed:

When Ameera Harouda hears the sounds of bombs or shells, she heads straight towards them. "I want to be there first because these stories should be told," says Gaza's first female "fixer," a role that allows her to guide journalists into chaotic, war zone scenarios in her home country, which she still loves despite its terrible situation. Find out what motivates Harouda to give a voice to Gaza's human suffering in this unforgettable talk.

- Fixer
Ameera Harouda leads journalists to the harrowing (and often hidden) stories of the Gaza Strip that they couldn’t find on their own. Full bio

Hello.
00:13
This is my first trip,
00:16
first time in life I'm outside
of the walls of Gaza.
00:18
I'm so happy to be here.
00:22
(Applause)
00:25
My ambition always was
to be a pilot, to fly a plane,
00:31
to feel free to fly the sky,
to touch the sky.
00:36
But that didn't happen.
00:42
Simply, I live in Gaza,
there is no airport.
00:44
All borders are closed on every side.
00:49
We live in one of the biggest
prisons in the world.
00:52
The only thing I can do
is just to look up to the sky.
00:57
On some days, we are lucky
if we have electricity
01:02
for four or five hours.
01:05
When it's cold, we make a fire
on the front or on the roof of our homes.
01:09
Sometimes we make food, too.
01:15
My job in Gaza is to arrange everything
for journalists who come to my homeland
01:18
to tell the stories
about what's going on in Gaza.
01:23
Many mornings,
I had to go to the border area
01:28
to collect a journalist.
01:31
If anything should happen
to the journalist,
01:32
or if the journalist decides
to cover a story
01:36
the government doesn't want us to cover,
01:39
bad things could happen.
01:43
Navigating through my country
helping journalists,
01:46
filmmakers, news crews,
is my working life.
01:50
I believe my success comes
from building a relationship
01:55
not only with journalists
and the news crews,
02:00
but also with the communities
in the Gaza Strip.
02:03
These communities who don't want
their stories to be told,
02:06
I never looked to them
as stories or numbers.
02:11
But like me, they are human beings.
02:15
I have built up
many relationships over 10 years.
02:21
And guess what?
02:26
This gives me the chance
to get access to people,
02:28
to stories that others can't.
02:31
In some certain situations,
I feel, as a woman, I have more power.
02:34
Many male journalists in my society,
02:41
they want to cover a story
about drug addiction in my country.
02:44
That problem started
when the Gaza tunnel was being built.
02:48
With the siege on Gaza,
02:54
tunnels brought people all the basic needs
02:56
like food, building material,
other stuff we needed.
02:59
But not anymore, because the Egyptian side
flooded them up with water
03:02
and they are not working anymore.
03:07
Drugs were being smuggled,
03:10
and many young people got addicted, too.
03:12
In the tradition
of the Palestinian society,
03:17
it's forbidden for men
to enter the household.
03:20
So, no male journalists get the story.
03:24
But I did.
03:27
I have a wonderful husband,
03:30
a wonderful husband who supports me
03:33
despite all the criticism
he gets from the society.
03:36
He's at home now with my two kids,
03:40
and I have another one
that's growing in here.
03:43
(Applause)
03:46
When I'm working,
I call him every two hours,
03:52
and he knows if he doesn't hear from me,
03:55
he should call my contact,
03:59
the one who gives me access to the story,
04:01
which is the one who I trust.
04:04
One of the times in Gaza,
04:09
during the kidnapping
of the British journalist Alan Johnston,
04:11
I was asked by an American magazine
04:16
to set up a meeting
with the kidnappers in Gaza, and I did.
04:20
The journalist covering the story and I
04:26
were asked to meet outside of his hotel.
04:29
They came, they picked us up
in a black van with black windows,
04:33
they were wearing masks on that day.
04:38
And they drove us away,
far away in the middle of a field.
04:43
They took our cell phones
04:48
and we did the interview
with the kidnapper outside in that field.
04:51
I was so scared that day,
04:57
a day I will never forget.
04:59
So, why do I do what I do?
05:03
I do it because I believe if I didn't,
05:07
a huge part of the story
about Gaza will be missing.
05:10
There are some more stories
I could tell you about my country.
05:15
And not all of them are bad.
05:20
I love my country, despite
the terrible situation we live in --
05:22
siege, poverty, unemployment --
05:27
but there is life.
05:31
There are people who are dreamers
and amazing people full of energy.
05:33
We have wonderful music,
and a great music school.
05:40
We have parkour dancers
who dance in the rubble of their homes.
05:44
And Gaza is the only place
in the Arab world
05:49
where Muslims and Christians
live in strong brotherhood.
05:52
(Applause)
05:58
During the time of war,
06:03
the hardest part for me
is leaving the house early in the morning,
06:05
leaving my children.
06:09
I take a picture of them everyday
06:11
because I never know
if I will make it back to them.
06:15
Being a fixer and a journalist
is difficult and dangerous in Gaza.
06:20
But when I hear the sound of the shelling
or the sound of the bombing,
06:26
I just head straight toward it,
06:30
because I want to be there first,
06:33
because these stories should be told.
06:37
When my children were small
and we heard the sound of the war,
06:43
I used to tell them
that they were fireworks.
06:48
Now they are older, they understand.
06:52
I do have terrible nightmares
06:56
because of all that I witnessed
during war times,
06:59
especially these lifeless bodies
of young children.
07:03
I still remember a little girl,
her name is Hala.
07:08
She's the only survivor from her family.
07:12
Her picture will be with me forever.
07:15
I will never forget her.
07:18
I'm proud that I can stand here
and be here today with you.
07:24
I'm proud that I can tell you
stories, sad and happy,
07:30
stories about my small corner
of the world, Gaza.
07:36
I'm proud that I am
the first female fixer working in Gaza.
07:41
And the funny thing is
they call me Mr. Rambo in Gaza.
07:46
(Laughter)
07:49
I hope one day, I will get the chance
to tell the stories of all other women,
07:52
all other amazing women
I know in my country.
07:57
I hope that one day
I can help other women in my country
08:01
to be fixers like me.
08:05
And of course sometimes,
I feel I can't do this work anymore,
08:07
it's just too much for me.
08:11
But I remember these words:
08:14
"Don't limit your challenge,
but challenge your limit.
08:16
Don't allow others to stand
in front of your dreams."
08:20
Thank you.
08:25
(Applause)
08:26

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About the Speaker:

Ameera Harouda - Fixer
Ameera Harouda leads journalists to the harrowing (and often hidden) stories of the Gaza Strip that they couldn’t find on their own.

Why you should listen

In the Gaza Strip, foreign correspondents rely on state-approved "fixers" to direct and guide them on the ground. Although Hamas requires journalists to use fixers as local "sponsors," the fixers also provide ease of movement, translation and an eye for where the real stories are -- making them an invaluable asset in frequently chaotic scenarios.

Ameera Harouda has been a fixer for over a decade. Although many fixers are male, journalists increasingly seek women like Harouda for their access to areas where men are forbidden, and for a new lens on stories of human suffering often overlooked in the headlines.

More profile about the speaker
Ameera Harouda | Speaker | TED.com