Fatenah: A Tale of Cancer and Conflict in Gaza

In times of conflict the atrocities of war come to over shadow the atrocities of nature: the terminal ailments that rob families of loved ones the world over.

If we think of Gaza, mortars, bullets, white phosphorus and drones come to mind.

Perhaps we do not immediately think of cancer, leukemia, or heart disease.

Which is why a new animated film emerging from Ramallah is creating waves in both Gaza – from whence the movie is inspired – and the wider community.

Directed by Ahmad Habash, Fatenah took two years to make on a budget of $60,000 (Β£36,400) provided by the World Health Organisation.

Focusing on a Gazan woman called Fatenah, the film follows her dream of finding love and salvaging a semblance of a normal life that has been wrenched by cancer and the simultaneous Palestine-Israel conflict.

Though the conflict is omnipresent, it does not set the tone for the 30-minute film – rather it is the daily obstacles posed by the conflict that are observed.

More tragic is the inspiration behind the film.

Based closely on the experiences of 26-year-old Fatma Bargouth, her battle against breast cancer was detailed by the Israeli group Physicians for Human Rights in a report published in 2005.

After reading the report the film’s producer, Saed Andoni, set aside the tragic absurdity of the contents to bring the injustices and plight of Fatma to the masses.

In 2004 Fatma felt a lump in her breast, but was advised by Palestinian doctors to either have children or switch bras.

Inevitably, months later aggressive cancer was diagnosed, yet the doctors continued to refuse to refer her for treatment in Israel.

Fighting for survival, Fatma sent her medical report to an Israeli hospital where doctors confirmed she needed immediate care, and Israeli activists lobbied defence officials to allow her entry to Israel.

Nevertheless, she often confronted delays and was turned back by soldiers, while on other occasions her ambulance was forced to return to Gaza because of fighting.

Fatma finally succumbed to the illness in 2005.

A key scene in the film depicts Fatenah’s disrobing in front of a female Israeli soldier; in September 2004 Fatma endured the same process, though she wore a t-shirt and a stuffed bra, as her breasts had been removed under previous treatment.

Lying on the floor because she was too weak to stand, the Israeli soldier yelled at her to dress.

She was then sent back into Gaza for failing a security check.

The film is incredible in the sense that it emphasizes those forgotten victims of the conflict.

All too often during my time in the camps in Jordan tales of were recounted of family members dying at checkpoints, women forced to give birth without hospital care due to delays, and ambulances prohibited entry.

Even if the bombs are not falling or the guns firing, bureaucracy and prejudice continue to claim victims whose life is already hanging by a thread.

At last, Fatenah is providing a means by which to raise awareness of the plight of countless cancer sufferers and in the process not only draws attention to the Palestine-Israel scenario, but also prompts thought on war-zones the world over.

To read the report on Fatma and to find out more on breast cancer in the Gaza Strip, click here.

2 comments on “Fatenah: A Tale of Cancer and Conflict in Gaza

  1. Pingback: Fatenah: A Tale of Cancer and Conflict in Gaza

  2. Sandra Perratt
    October 9, 2010

    I saw the film last night in Scotland at local church. I was ashamed and appalled that any woman should have to suffer so many barriers, such indignity and lonliness whilst in so much pain and fear. Having undergone treatment for breast cancer for the last year, I realise how lucky I am to have been so well looked after, and vow to ensure that I can do whatever I can, however small to change the plight of the men, women and children in Palestine suffering such a disease and suffering such neglect. My thoughts are with those suffering such inhumane treatment and lack of facilities for treatment.

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This entry was posted on July 5, 2009 by in Conflict Zones, Culture, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, Pop culture and tagged , , , , , , , .
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