Joha, whose work has won wide acclaim both in the Arab and Western worlds, told Sunday’s Zaman in an exclusive interview that her caricatures are a collection of depictions of the daily suffering and pain the oppressed Palestinians experience.
Her caricatures depict innocent children being killed, buildings falling and a territory shrinking, refugees seeking shelter, prisoners, widows and mothers longing for the return of their long-lost children. Through her caricatures, Joha shows the injustices that happen around the world -- she expresses her anger towards the Arab leaders for their ignorance and lack of support, towards the international community for their hypocrisy and towards the Israelis for their silent conspiracy.
“None of my work comes from my imagination. All of my work is a window into the reality that all Palestinians and I live through every day,” Joha said firmly of her creative process.
Once she stops, looks around at her surroundings and sees the horrifying crimes happening, Joha said, she feels a responsibility to respond. “I express life and the pain of my people with my pencil and paper,” she explained.
Joha knows the pain she draws too well. Joha, who was born and resides in Gaza, said she is a widow of two martyrs. Her first husband died in the resistance against Israeli aggression. Her second husband died after waiting months for the Israeli government to allow him immediate medical care outside of Gaza.
After Joha picks the gist of the next message she wishes to send, the “drawing comes very naturally” since she has always been passionate about art. Joha’s caricatures were first published in 1996 in a weekly Palestinian newspaper called al-Risalah.
In a male-dominated and risky profession, Joha was fearless and managed to earn a position at the daily newspaper Al Quds after being hired on a trial basis as a result of the newspaper’s fear of the public’s reaction. Joha’s superb work surpassed all expectations; she won the Arab Journalism award in 2001.
Joha said she was very honored and proud to be the first Arab woman political cartoonist. “It’s a very demanding and rewarding job,” she said simply. But Joha said she was never afraid of the consequences of her job, of being targeted like many other political cartoonists such as Naji Al-Ali or Ali Farzart, who she said were both victims because of the truth they spread. “Fear is important in that it challenges you to prove yourself and to bring out your very best work,” said Joha, adding that if she were to ever be a victim, then it would be for the sake of saving her people and country.
As for Turkey, Joha expressed her happiness over its people’s hospitality and warmth. Palestinians in general are fond of Turkey, according to Joha. She pointed to the number of stores with Turkish names and a beach named Marmara after the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident -- when Israeli commandoes killed nine civilians aboard a Turkish passenger ship in international waters -- which has a memorial boat displaying these martyrs’ pictures.
Joha also described the joy felt by Palestinians when Turkish President Abdullah Gül stood up for them at a meeting in France -- something many Arab leaders failed to do.
With her caricatures, Joha said she constantly reminds the world of what is still happening to innocent Palestinians who deserve to be free and live happily in their own land. Through her work, Joha strives to prompt people around the world to take action and fulfill their duties as modern citizens who uphold in human rights.