She's da bomb: Child's pen is mightier than bullets
At just 12, Janna Jihad is regarded at the world's youngest journalist, tracking stories in her native Palestine - and beyond
A political scientist, journalist, soccer player, artist or fashion designer. In an ideal world, these would be the dream careers of a carefree teenager.
But for 12-year-old Palestinian teen Janna Tamini – better known by her pseudonym, Janna Jihad – her career has been foisted on her, borne out of necessity. She is believed to be the world's youngest journalist.
Born and raised in the conflict-ridden Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, in the central West Bank, Janna witnessed the killing of two of her relatives, allegedly at the hands of Israeli soliders, when she was seven, which forced her to grow up fast and take action.“I looked around and saw that there were no journalists there to tell our story, to show our suffering, so I started filming using my mom's phone,” she said during a speaking engagement in Durban on Monday.After almost two months of filming the clashes that took place between civilians in her village and soldiers, Janna's mother found the videos and began posting them on social media.
Janna is, according to the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, the world’s youngest accredited journalist who has been at the forefront of documenting the violence and injustice facing her people in Jerusalem.
Now 12, Janna has dedicated her life to telling stories of the people – and specifically the children – in her village.
“The world doesn’t know about our feelings and kids losing their childhood. I want to give kids everywhere a voice,” she said.
Recounting her childhood Janna said: “I have never lived in freedom. From as young as three I remember seeing the soldiers. Whenever we would cry our parents would say: ‘If you don't stop crying the soldiers will come for you’.”
For this 12-year-old, a typical day in her life is one filled with tear gas and rubber bullets, so much so that one of her hobbies is spent counting how many gas canisters are thrown into her village by soldiers.“We tried to count how many gas canisters they shoot in one day and we counted 1,500 gas canisters,” she recalled.
Stripped of her innocence from a very young age, Jihad still tries to enjoy her childhood by playing soccer, hanging out with friends and going to the library.
Like most children her age, Jihad admits to not being a big fan of school but it is not for the reasons one would think.
“I live 25 minutes away from my school but because of the checkpoints near my village it takes me three hours to get to school. The checkpoints have become borders around my dreams,” she said.
Jihad has witnessed a number of horrific experiences including her 16-year-old cousin and best friend, Ahed Tamimi, being arrested from her home for allegedly slapping a soldier, to witnessing someone she knew being killed right in front of her.At her tender age, she has already received multiple awards for her work, including the International Benevolence Award for citizen journalism by Turkey in 2017.
Her work, though, has not been received well by the Israeli government, she claims.
“From trying to send the Palestinian issue and message, the Israeli government has declared me a new security threat for them because I am trying to spread my message and I have a large following across the world,” she said.
She said so far she hasn't encountered any problems travelling out of the country.
Jihad’s mother, Nawal Tamimi, who is also an activist and the director of Women’s Affairs in the Palestinian Ministry of Development, said she is both proud of her daughter and scared for her life.
“She is doing the right thing, trying to give a voice to the children of Palestine, but I am also very much afraid for her because she has been receiving death threats on her Facebook page,” her mother said.
Jihad’s visit to South Africa was co-ordinated by Shamsaan, a South African initiative that is focused on global human rights issues. Jihad was one of 300 children who Shamsaan director Nadia Meer interviewed in 2016 as part of her research about Palestinian children.
Meer said that she had heard of Jenna before so when they eventually met, she was the perfect person to become an ambassador for her organisation.
She said the teen was invited to Johannesburg to meet with other non-governmental organisations.