Living in a conflict–torn country, I’ve always struggled to understand the concept of peace. How can an individual who lives under air raids, naval shelling and ground fighting feel any sense of security?
For this reason, for the past few months I’ve been documenting nothing but stolen moments of peace. During this ruthless war in Yemen, life has not stopped. I am always amazed how people can cope with the situation, how they manage to enjoy life despite hardships. Women shopping, children playing and men gathering for breakfast in different neighborhoods were among the moments I captured.
When I was younger, war was something that I learned about only in books and movies. Now I find myself living it, trapped in a seemingly endless conflict. Documenting glimpses of peace in a war ridden reality has become a way of defying war, of searching for peace in pages of a torn book.
Lately I started taking photos in the hardest hit areas in Sana'a and I met Hilema; the woman who embraced her pain and refused to be intimated.
She invited me to the ruins of her modest house, the rubble that was her home, where I found the walls and ceilings laid waste.
"We were out and when we came back we found ourselves homeless," she said.
"Holding up remnants of the rockets: I was frozen with terror, I didn’t know what to do."
I decided to go back to her house a few days later. I wanted to know what it takes to endure such pain; there was so much to learn from this remarkable woman.
New buds of warmth and hope had begun to flower. I came to find her creating life out of the destruction, watering her basil and feeding the newborns of her rabbit.
It was beautiful to witness how her strong desire to live restored her family’s energy.
Her grandchildren sat reading in one of the destroyed rooms.
Later she invited me to try her bread, and we went to bring the stuff she needs for baking, including this small circular pillow that she would use to flatten the bread, pressing it against the wall of her tandoor.
Pointing out to the shattered windows she said, “We still haven’t got those fixed yet, sometimes I wish this was all a nightmare to wake up from, not to live.”
Hilema prepared her tandoor oven for baking.
Her generosity was unmatched even though the kitchen was hardly filled with anything. I didn’t have time to stay and try the bread but she ensured I would go home with a small memory of her.
Before leaving she gave me a handful of basil. “They smell beautiful don’t they?" she asked.
To me, what was beautiful was the resilient soul inside this woman who coped with her tragedy with so much grace. She chose to embrace the pain and never be broken.
War might have destroyed her house but it also taught her that the real fight is to continue living despite everything the conflict brings.