A timeless photograph capturing the anguish of children affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria has won first prize in the European Union-supported 2014 UNRWA youth photography competition.
The theme for the 2014 competition, ‘I Am Not a Statistic’, called on participants to capture the stories and emotions of the people behind news headlines, making personal the lists of Palestinians killed, wounded and displaced by conflicts throughout the region. The annual competition is open to all Palestine refugees aged 16-29.
The winning photograph was captured by Niraz Saied, age 23, in Yarmouk Palestine refugee camp, near Damascus in Syria. Titled ‘The Three Kings’, the image shows three brothers waiting their turn to leave the besieged refugee camp in order to receive medical treatment.
Speaking about his photography, Mr. Saied said: “You can’t find a complete family in the refugee camp. I used to feel that in every portrait of a Palestinian family you could see the shadow of a person missing, and that is why my photos are dimly lit.
“But there is always hope. Difficult times have fallen on Yarmouk camp before and they have always passed. The Palestinians continue to struggle to live. The Palestinian people appreciate life and deserve life. Despite all that they live through, they hope that tomorrow will be a better day.”
The winner of the people’s choice award was Khalid Atif Hasan from Gaza, with a photo of two young boys playing amongst the devastation in Gaza.
The European Union representative to the West Bank and Gaza, John Gatt-Rutter, said he was glad to be present at an annual event that “takes us closer to the lives of Palestine refugees”.
“Holding the exhibition this year in Gaza is a statement of hope against the tough reality that you are facing. There is a lot to do to bring substantial and sustainable change here and the European Union is ready to contribute. Each of these photographs tells a story related to a life, a human being, a family,” Mr. Gatt-Rutter said.
“Palestine refugees are facing serious and complicated challenges not only in Gaza, but in Syria, where we must not forget the protracted violence raging there. The photo that won this year's round reminds us with the need to end the Syrian crisis soon so the Syrian and Palestinian children can live with dignity and peace. The EU remains committed toward Palestine refugees and our strong partnership with UNRWA demonstrates this commitment.”
UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza Robert Turner added: “We are very pleased to be hosting the award ceremony in Gaza. The venue of the exhibition, the UNRWA Rehabilitation Centre for the Visually Impaired, sheltered displaced women, men and children from the terrible 50 day conflict that ended exactly three months ago. To those people I particularly reiterate: you are not a statistic.
“The photo exhibition not only highlights the vast talent, creativity and innovation amongst young Palestine refugees, but also serves as a reminder that behind every number we quote on the recent war in Gaza is a human being with hopes, dreams, aspirations and the desire for a decent life.”
Photo competition winners
First prize: Niraz Saied, Yarmouk camp, Syria
Second prize: Manar Nakhleh, Ramallah, Palestine
Third prize: Riham Alghazali, Gaza, Palestine
People’s choice: Khalid Atif Hasan, Gaza, Palestine