Palestinian Journalist Fatima Shbair Receives IWMF 2021 Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award

Brazilian and Iranian-Canadian women photographers also recognized 

[September 29, 2021 – WASHINGTON, DC] – Today, the International Women’s Media Foundation presented Palestinian freelance photojournalist Fatima Shbair with the seventh annual Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award. Since 2015, the international award has honored women photojournalists who take risks to capture humanity in dire circumstances, illuminating underreported and sometimes silenced stories. The prestigious award was created in honor of German Associated Press photojournalist Anja Niedringhaus, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2014.

Shbair’s portfolio rose above more than 100 applications that represented women photojournalists from more than 40 countries. At 24 years old, Shbair is the youngest winner of the ‘Anja Award’ to-date and is a self-taught, freelance photojournalist. Her portfolio, “11 Days of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” includes unique moments of tension, violence, devastation, and hope all captured from Gaza City in May 2021.

“Life here is different, and I had to find a way to [show] what was happening,” says Shbair from Gaza. “Despite successive wars and tragedies, people here dig deep in search of hope, and their lives matter – it’s my responsibility to convey their voices to the world.” Shbair continued: “Anja’s work gives us the determination to continue on the path despite the difficulties. I can’t find the words to describe how honored I feel to receive this award.”

The IWMF also recognized two other women photojournalists with honorable mentions in the competition: Brazilian photojournalist Adriana Zehbrauskas, currently working in Phoenix, Arizona, and Iranian-Canadian photographer Kiana Hayeri, who is based in Kabul, Afghanistan. Zehbrauskas’ portfolio included energetic yet sensitive portrayals of migration and the toll of COVID-19 in Latin America, while Hayeri’s work spotlighted the rising conflict and looming crisis in Afghanistan from an alternative perspective.

“Within the past two years so many communities worldwide have been pushed to the brink in order to survive,” says the IWMF’s Executive Director Elisa Lees Muñoz. “Anja’s focus on resilience, hope and the intimate struggles people face in times of crisis is a legacy we turn to now more than ever. The IWMF is thrilled to recognize this year’s winner, Fatima Shbair, as well as Kiana Hayeri and Adriana Zehbrauskas in Anja’s name.”

This year’s jury included Corinne Dufka, Jacqueline Larma, Robert Nickelsberg, Tara Pixley, and Bernadette Tuazon. Together, the committee issued the following statement on this year’s Anja Award selection: “The portfolios from this year’s winner and honorees draw in the viewer and continue to grow with impact and intimacy. Each photojournalist demonstrated remarkable tenacity and developed clear and close bonds with her subject, accessing what few photographers can convey. We congratulate Fatima, Adriana and Kiana on their remarkable work; Anja would be proud to recognize each of you.”

Anja Niedringhaus was a recipient of the IWMF Courage in Journalism Award in 2005. The winner’s $20,000 prize is made possible by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. Honorees’ images and captions, biographies and headshots are available for media use with proper attribution; to inquire further, please contact Charlotte Fox (

Courage in Photojournalism Award Winner

This year’s winner, Fatima Shbair, is a Palestinian freelance photojournalist from Gaza City.

After studying business administration for three years at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, Shbair switched to study journalism and began concentrating on photojournalism in 2019 through independent study and working in the field.

In 2020, Shbair began to receive assignments from several international agencies, including Getty Images and The New York Times, to cover her hometown as tensions continued between Israel and Palestine. Her assignments increased in 2021 but came with the challenge of working during a global pandemic, which also strained and ravaged her own community. Shbair is currently a contributor to Everyday Middle East and continues her work with Getty Images. Her work has been exhibited in Palestine, the UAE, London, and Paris.

As a women photojournalist, Shbair’s gender and line of work are challenged daily, due to the conservative nature of society in Gaza, and the prevenance of male photojournalists in the industry.

Juror Dufka noted, “Fatima’s stunning photo essay is one of the strongest entries the jury had the pleasure of reviewing these past several years. Her work with light, angles, and composition is remarkable as she weaves through a forest of destruction in her own backyard.”

Juror Larma continued, “She clearly spent a great deal of time with her subjects and pursued what’s beyond obvious for most photojournalists. Within these 11 days, Fatima took the time to pursue intimate storytelling, showing us both the physical and emotional toll on her subjects while operating in extreme danger.”

From Gaza, Shbair further remarked: “Courage is not just about taking risks; being human first is the true courage of a photojournalist. It is a great honor to receive this award, especially in Anja’s image, as we are all still learning from her creativity, journey, and pursuit of the truth.”

Twitter: @FatimaMshbair, Instagram: @fatimashbair

Courage in Photojournalism Honorees

Honoree Kiana Hayeri was born and partially raised in Iran and was first introduced to photography in high school after her family moved to Canada. Hayeri left Toronto during her final year of university and traveled to Afghanistan on assignment in 2013, where she’s remained.

In 2021, Hayeri received the Robert Capa Gold Medal for her photographic series, “Where Prison is Kind of a Freedom,” documenting the lives of Afghan women in Herat Prison. In 2020, she received the Tim Hetherington Visionary award and was named as the 6th recipient of the James Foley Award for Conflict Reporting.

Hayeri was an IAAB fellow in 2011 and completed a CIS artist residency at MIT University in 2012. In 2014, she was named as one of the emerging photographers by PDN 30 Under 30. In 2016, she was selected for the IWMF’s cross-border reporting fellowship to work on her proposed story in Rwanda and DRC and was selected as the recipient of Chris Hondros Fund Award as an emerging photographer. In 2017, Hayeri received a grant from European Journalism Center to do a series of reporting on gender equality out of Afghanistan and received Stern Grant in 2018 to continue her work on the state of mental health among Afghan women.

Hayeri is a Senior TED fellow, and her work has appeared in The New York Times, Le Monde, Harper’s Magazine, Washington Post, NPR, Monocle Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Marie Clare, Glamour, The Globe and Mail, Al Jazeera America, and CBC, among others.

When reviewing Hayeri’s portfolio, Tuazon noted that, “These images can only be captured by a woman with her specific access and lens. Every single day in this portfolio demonstrates unbelievable courage as the women and children she illuminates convey a harrowing narrative.”

Twitter: @kianahayeri, Instagram: @kianahayeri

Adriana Zehbrauskas is a Brazilian documentary photographer based in Phoenix, Arizona. Her work is largely focused on issues related to migration, religion, human rights, underrepresented communities, and the violence resulting from the drug trade in Mexico, Central and South America.

Zehbrauskas contributes regularly to The New York Times, UNICEF and BuzzFeed News and her work has been widely published in outlets such as The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Stern, Le Monde and El País, among others.

She is the recipient of a 2021 Maria Moors Cabot Prize, a New York Press Club Award in Feature-Science Medicine and Technology in the Newspaper category for the article “Zika’s Legacy: Catastrophic Consequences of a Continuing Crisis (NY-2018) and a POY International (2019). She was a finalist for the Premio Gabo (2018) and received two Honorable Mentions at the Julia Margaret Cameron Award (2018).

Zehbrauskas is one of the three photographers profiled in the documentary “Beyond Assignment” (USA, 2011, produced by The Knight Center for International Media and the University of Miami. She’s a recipient of the first Getty Images Instagram Grant and was awarded Best Female Photojournalist -Troféu Mulher Imprensa (Brazil). Her mobile photography work was selected by Time Magazine for the “29 Instagrams That Defined the World in 2014″ and her project on Faith in Brazil and Mexico was awarded an Art & Worship World Prize by the Niavaran Artistic Creation Foundation.

She’s an instructor with the International Center of Photography (ICP- NY), the World Press Photo Foundation, Gabriel García Márquez’s Fundación Gabo, the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop and serves as a jury member to dozens of grants and awards worldwide.

Commenting on Zehbrauskas’ portfolio, juror Pixley said, “The strength of her images is indicative of a lengthy time occupying difficult spaces despite both health and safety concerns. Her consistency across countries, issues and movements reveals the same, unique human connection.”

Twitter: @AZehbrauskas, Instagram: @adrianazehbrauskas


About the International Women’s Media Foundation

Founded in 1990, the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) is the only global non-profit organization that offers emergency support, safety training, reporting opportunities and funding avenues offered specifically for women and gender diverse journalists. We are making more women’s bylines possible and work tirelessly to ensure a greater diversity of voices represented in the news industry worldwide. Follow the IWMF on Twitter at @IWMF, on Facebook at @IWMFPage, and Instagram on @TheIWMF.

Media Contact:
Charlotte Fox
Director of Communications
(202) 567-2615