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'Trauma and Hope' - meeting Dr Yasser Abu Jamei

Venue: Birkbeck Main Building, Malet Street

Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities is delighted to have the opportunity to host a meeting chaired by BIH Co-Director Professor Jacqueline Rose, with Gaza's pre-eminent psychiatrist Dr Yasser Jamei who is on a rare visit outside the blockaded Gaza Strip .

Dr Jamei is Director General of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, an independent NGO where he has worked since 2004. He has been Director of GCMHP following the death of its well-known founder, Dr. Eyad el Sarraj, in 2014.  

In this period GCMHP has confronted the mental health  crises of five major Israeli military offensives and nearly 16 years of blockade, against the background of economic and social conditions which caused the UN to warn a decade ago of Gaza becoming unliveable by 2020. This event gives an opportunity to hear first-hand about the psychological and social reality of these unique and recent events from a professional whose work is understanding and ameliorating trauma. The working strategies devised by GCMHP, to be discussed, will show how hope is nourished in circumstances where it appears unthinkable.

The event is a talk followed by a Q&A.

Doors open: 4.30 pm
Talk starts: 5.00 pm

This event is free and open to all but registration is required. Please click on the 'book your place' link to secure your place.




The background of our meeting 'Trauma and Hope' is in the following words written in June 2021 by Dr Jamei for the magazine 'Scientific American':

The 2014 Gaza war lasted for seven weeks through July and August, including a ground invasion into Gaza. There were then 2,251 Palestinians killed and 11,000 wounded.  During the four months that followed the attacks UNICEF reported that more than 370,000 children were in need of mental health and psychosocial support.

This time (June 2021) in one night, it was reported, 160 warplanes attacked 450 targets in less than 40 minutes in northern areas of the Gaza Strip. The strikes happened at the same time as 500 artillery shells were fired. People from outside Gaza asked us if this experience was similar to what happened in 2008 when the first strike took place. On Saturday, December 27, 2008, at around 11:20 A.M., suddenly people in the whole Gaza strip were overwhelmed with the sounds of bombardment and the view of a huge mushroom-like smoke plume that was all over the place. It was a moment where children were either going to schools (afternoon shift) or returning from schools (morning shift). At that moment about 60 fighter planes carried out the first attack in less than one minute. People asked us whether this felt the same. Perhaps it looks the same, but there is a critical major difference.

In 2008 the bombing was a single minute or two minutes, and it was across the whole Gaza strip (140 square miles). But what happened in these 11 days (2021) is entirely different. The strikes continued for about 25 to 30 minutes, or sometimes up to 40 minutes in the same city or geographical area. You could hear continuous bombing in your own city, in your own small geographical area, that continued for about 25 to 40 minutes. In all that time neither you nor your children nor your wife nor any other family member would feel that they could take even a single breath.

The continuous bombardment and shelling that continued in different cities on different nights meant that no one really could feel any moment of safety. All of us had our nervous system at its very highest alarm level for more than 25 and up to 40 minutes. I can say that this is the most fearful experience that I have had throughout the large offensives over the years.

Ours is a life that you will never understand unless you are a resident of Gaza. Outsiders love to call us resilient human beings, rather than see our reality. As the English poet T. S. Eliot wrote in 1936, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”

Contact name:

  • Dr Yasser Abu-Jamei
  • Prof Jacqueline Rose -