If you appreciate travel and culture, you know the Middle East might be a place to consider, but some places are undoubtedly uncertain for travel. Hence, we have journalists and photojournalists, to render a snapshot of life abroad. Magazines like Life Magazine and Time Magazine depict our world, in ways we haven’t seen, or fathomed. It’s a bit difficult to grasp a world outside of the U.S. and it’s hard to accept a world too complex to live in, to feel safe in, not knowing whether you live or die.
Monique Jaques is a photojournalist from Turkey, capturing life in the Middle East; war torn and menacing for a photographer, especially as a woman! She holds a BFA from New York University and has been recording life for the past six years across Afghanistan and India. Her passion is conquering life, where we, in our solace, cannot imagine fulfilling. Her most recent mission was a trip to the Gaza Strip, to document the battle-weary city. She later discovered there was a certain charm which hadn’t been bombed away: the women of Gaza. In a war-zone, she accidentally searched for beauty to familiarize herself with good cheer, where there seemed to be none.
Monique stayed with a local family to report the account of her surroundings but determined there may have been more to the city than what we already know. There were young women, married women, and children that were hidden away beneath the black veil of invisibility. She mentions that war is a common part of life, we see it every day, children die regularly and attacks happen so often, it’s just better to stay out of it.
Monique wanted to concentrate on a topic unheard of and unvoiced, yet familiar. What is it like to be a young woman in Palestine? Employment is difficult, so is water, food and electricity. And if you’re a woman, its far more difficult. If you’re a woman with dreams, you may as well neglect them to avoid the backlash from family or a potential husband. Girls are spirited in sports until the age to marry is expected. Being a wife is what women are granted to do. But that doesn’t stop them from daydreaming or relishing womanhood.
Monique documents that war isn’t the only problem in Gaza, but it’s the family that causes strife for young women, as they’re under constant surveillance and control. Girls will fight for what they want, but only before marriage. The Palestinian women are the most enduring women in the world. They’re resistant and firm, not letting the negative world around them hinder their passion for life. It’s usually until the age of 16 that girls are unrestrained before marriage absorbs them into adulthood.
A Palestinian girl is identical to any girl growing up in any part of the world. As they reach their preteens, they desire to be independent and liberal, but like most young women, achieving their dreams, these girls must abandon their ambitions and let their dreams remain a fantasy. The only possibility is if the Israeli government allows them to leave the country for a medical reason, or they secure scholarships to international universities. This weakens education and employment abilities for a woman in Gaza. The same goes for dating; being seen with a boy might cause serious complications amid both families.
Monique’s primary objective was to capture what the Palestinian people deserved: women enduring in hope. She unveiled the courage of the Palestinian woman at the thick of a war. How their strength inspires us, in our affluent world, to compel us to truly appreciate a fruitful and fortunate life we’ve taken for granted. We honor the women of Gaza; a refuge for the oppressed, guiding them to glory.