'No happiness' for Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza as he wins citizen journalism award amid Gaza war

'No happiness' for Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza as he wins citizen journalism award amid Gaza war
Despite winning a World Citizen award, photojournalist Motaz Azaiza said the experience was not a happy one as his native Gaza remains under Israeli assault.
3 min read
28 February, 2024
Azaiza lost 15 members of his family in an Israeli attack on his home in Deir el-Balah in Gaza [Getty]

Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza travelled to Istanbul on Tuesday to pick up a media prize, but admitted he could “feel no happiness” for the award due to the trauma of Israel’s continued war on Gaza.

In a post shared to social media platforms X and Instagram, Azaiza shared pictures of himself in a suit receiving the TRT’s World Citizen Award for his documenting of the brutal realities for life in Gaza.

However, his caption revealed the bittersweet circumstances surrounding the accolade.

"I used to work hard for things I wish to get, actually hardships is kind of my lifestyle for the past years. I used to [love] the [feeling] when I achieve something, but this time is totally different," the journalist wrote on Instagram.

"Don’t be faked by the nice suit, I literally can’t [feel] any kind of happiness, I only feel something is squeezing my heart, chest and stomach," he added.

"I’m gonna continue to spread realities till the genocide ends."

Azaiza was in the Turkish city to pick up TRT’s World Citizen Award for Communicator due to his most recent work documenting the harsh realities of everyday life in Gaza as Israel wages all-out war on the enclave.

The 25-year-old won the award in January but couldn’t attend the original ceremony due to being trapped in Gaza.

On 10 October, days after Israel began its war, 15 members of Azaiza’s family were killed after an Israeli airstrike targeted his home in the Deir el-Balah refugee camp. Even this did not stop Azaiza from documenting, in graphic detail, the wreckage of his home and his life.

After months of documenting Israeli atrocities, Azaiza managed to escape Gaza through Egypt to Qatar.

Before, Azaiza had around 25,000 followers on Instagram, with his journalism focusing on the already crippling life of people in Gaza under a 17-year Israeli siege.

However, as Israel began its war, Azaiza became a vital window into the life of Gazans under constant attack, his fanbase grew to over 18.5 million people.

His journey from Doha to Istanbul was his first flight out of Gaza, with travel out of the territory almost impossible even before Israel’s current war.

Despite the personal tragedy and trauma visited upon Azaiza and his family, the journalist wants to use the platforms provided to him through his work to sustain attention on what’s happening in Gaza.

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Speaking of his presence in Istanbul to pick up the award on X, he posted: "In the end, I’m just a sample to remind you there’s more to see."

Israel’s war on Gaza has killed at least 29,900 people and has been one of the deadliest war zones for journalists in history.

At least 88 journalists and media workers have been killed since the war began, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, of which 83 were Palestinians, while UN figures put the number at 122.