Hush is a project that maps the various stories of a group of Palestinian women, each of whom-for one reason or another-became a victim of gender-based violence and was consequently placed in a shelter or a so-called safe house.
The project has the clear objective of using the photographic medium in an attempt to portray the distorted image people have of gender-based violence and its victims. The final outcome of the project clearly denounces the violence and harsh circumstances these women have to live in and creates a platform for the victims to make their voices heard.
"He used to undress me, tie a rope around my neck and then rape me. It became harder every time, as I knew what was to come. I could feel the burn and pain between my legs before he would rape me. I hate my brother."
Abeer might have escaped her violent and abusive brother after long years of suffering, but an even harsher reality was yet to come. As she marks her fifth year at the Women's Shelter in Palestine, Abeer is subject to yet more abuse, this time from society. "People talk badly about the shelter. They spread rumours claiming that there are prostitutes inside. Sometimes they even don't hesitate to call it a whorehouse." Abeer cannot leave the shelter. She is still at risk of her brother seeking revenge and carrying out a so-called honour killing. Marriage could be a way out of the shelter for her, but even that will prove a struggle as very few men want to marry a woman who is not a virgin, especially if she is a shelter girl.
Abeer's situation worsens with the Israeli Occupation, as travel restrictions are imposed on Palestinians by Israel, reducing her chances of seeking shelter abroad. Gender-based violence remains a taboo in Palestinian society as most of the attention is given to political and military issues while little time and energy are left for what they dismiss as mere domestic disputes.
Through this project, victims like Abeer are calling out to help raise awareness and present this problem to the public. At no point does the project intend to present them and their stories as cultural dupes. It intends to reflect their everyday life, convey their concerns, the way in which their options have been limited by systemic power and the strategies they themselves have developed to deal with their situations.
© Samar Hazboun