Gaza: Each day is a struggle for hope
Mohammed Nassar, 22, is a young photographer and Information Technology graduate from Gaza. "Finding a job for a fresh graduate in Gaza is almost a mission impossible. I don't want to be a burden to my family. Therefore, I came up with the idea of starting my own business, a place where people can come for photo sessions," says Mohammed.
"I created an outdoor studio that combines between views of the sea, a garden with a water stream and a vintage car for photo sessions, and a hall for rent for family occasions. It took me a year to open this place. A week after the opening, hostilities broke out in May 2021. All my dreams were shattered into pieces when a nearby airstrike destroyed everything. I hadn't even finished paying the instalments to the construction company," he says.
A mostly invisible consequence of conflict and occupation is the impact they leave on the mental and psychosocial well-being of people. This is especially true for youth aged 18 to 29 years old in Gaza, who constitute one-fifth of the population. A recent online survey conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) found that half of Gaza's youth who took the survey have endured mental health issues throughout the last 15 years, including stress and anxiety. Many have lived through up to five major military operations and countless other escalations.
For Mohammed and many others, each day is a struggle for hope. "In Gaza, we struggle to live a normal life. My studio was partially destroyed again on one of the tense days in July 2022. I will lose my mind if I think for another second why this has happened to me yet again. How can I start over? The only option I had was to revive my dream and source of income by re-building the place. My studio has now become popular among Gaza's residents. Many couples come here to take photos on their wedding day, students come to celebrate their graduation, and parents to celebrate their kids' birthdays," he adds.
"The studio is like a haven to me. The moment I set foot in it I forget all about the challenges I face daily. What keeps me strong is my family. I'm grateful they're all safe. Financial losses can be compensated, but you can't bring back loved ones if you lose them. I'm still afraid that I'll wake up one day to find my business destroyed again," he adds.