Two young people from Gaza have won the first prizes in the photography and film categories of a competition run jointly by the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and the European Union. Photographs and short films submitted reflected the lives of Palestinian refugees, their suffering and camps across Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
First prize in the photography section went to Bilal Khaled Telawi from Khan Younis Refugee Camp in the south of the Gaza Strip. Awarded first prize in the film competition was 20-year-old Salah Alhaw, also from Gaza, who said that his video attempted to portray the "overcrowding and difficulties Palestinian refugees in the camps face on a daily basis." Second prize in both categories also went to young people from the beleaguered territory.
Although the winners were announced in October, the prize-giving ceremony has only just been held. The EU representative in Palestine, John Gatt-Rutter, described the contest as "a unique opportunity for young Palestinian youth to find cultural ways to express themselves despite the difficult circumstances."
UNRWA's Director of Operations in Gaza, Robert Turner, said, "Gaza's youth have always impressed me with their talents and abilities and their commitment to develop and refine their talents despite the considerable difficulties they face." Turner stressed that talented young Gazans are still rising above the physical siege imposed on them and they know how to overcome it.
This year's competition theme was "Clothes line", which symbolised the chaos of life in the refugee camp. According to the organisers the homes in refugee camps (always called "shelters", not houses, by UNRWA) are themselves like clothes hanging from a line, adjacent to one another, without separation or privacy; the residents cannot escape the ropes, placed randomly all over the camp.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad