Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor and UN Women Palestine organized an art exhibition on Tuesday showing paintings made by a survivor of an Israeli airstrike on Gaza during the Israeli military attack on the Strip in May 2021.
Titled “I am 22, I lost 22 people” and held at Euro-Med Monitor’s regional office in Gaza, the exhibition showed paintings made by the fine artist and research intern at Euro-Med Monitor, Zainab al-Qolaq, who lost 22 members of her family, including her mother and three of her siblings in an Israeli airstrike on her home.
In the two-day exhibition, al-Qolaq displayed nine pieces she painted following the attack, in which she depicted the suffering she endured from the moment her house was bombed, her 12-hour stay under the rubble, to finding out that she lost 22 members of her family. She also portrayed life situations and internal struggles that she has experienced since that time.
During the exhibition, Euro-Med Monitor and UN Women Palestine released a booklet that gathered al-Qolaq’s paintings and texts describing the psychological impact of the incident and presenting information about the targeting of the al-Qolaq family home and a number of surrounding houses on al-Wahda Street, west of Gaza City on 16 May 2021.
“Each of these paintings portrays moments and situations that words cannot express. They are things that are difficult to describe or even imagine,” Zainab Al-Qolaq said.
She added, “Through painting, I was able to express a small part of what I lived on that day and after. This exhibition, which contains my paintings and texts, is my voice that I seek to be heard by everyone.”
For her part, Maha Hussaini, Strategy Director at Euro-Med Monitor, said: “Despite our deep sorrow for what happened with Zainab and her family, we are proud of her courage and determination to overcome the trauma and speak firmly of what happened to her. She is truly an inspiring model for a strong survivor.”
“Empowering victims and enhancing their abilities to defend their rights is one of the most important foundations of the work of Euro-Med Monitor, which constantly seeks to build and develop victims’ capabilities, and help them access pressure mechanisms that will speed up the achievement of justice.”
In one of the paintings, entitled “A Corpse in a Graduation Gown,” al-Qolaq explains the lifeless moments of her graduation from university after losing her family. In the description of the painting, she says that she had planned to celebrate with her family, but did not imagine the cemetery being the place she would tell her family that she graduated from college.
Last March, al-Qolaq, on behalf of Euro-Med Monitor, delivered an oral statement before the 49th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling for an end to Israel’s impunity and expressing her fear of a lack of justice.
On 16 May 2021, Israeli aircrafts targeted several adjacent residential buildings on al-Wahda Street, which led to the complete destruction of a number of buildings, killing 43 civilians, including 14 women and 19 children, and wounding 50 others.
Following the Israeli attack, Euro-Med Monitor issued a series of reports that included “Inescapable Hell,” “Left in Tatters,” and “One War Older,” in which, through field research, victim interviews, and field data analysis, Euro-Med Monitor documented the results of direct targeting of civilians during the attack and the complex psychological effects it left on the most vulnerable groups, such as women and children. The reports also presented a comprehensive review of the losses incurred by the economic sector and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.