Meet our grantee partner, alQaws

An interview with Haneen Maikey, founder of Palestinian grantee partner alQaws, who discusses the organization’s work and what it’s meant to receive support from Astraea.

alQaws, founded in 2007, is the leading Palestinian LGBTQ organization working directly with Palestinian civil society to create a sustainable, persistent, community-based social change movement.

In the above video, founder Haneen Maikey discusses the organization’s work and what it’s meant to receive support from Astraea.

Learn more about alQaws.

Join us to support organizations like alQaws who are leading transformative movements for social change in their communities in the U.S. and around the world!

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Video transcript:

I have been involved in queer organizing since 2001. Basically to try to bring together LGBT individuals and communities to discuss sexual and gender diversity and policy in society.

We thought that our mission or our name should represent our broader kind of vision of a society that would accept different forms of diversity, including sexual and gender diversity.

We see our existence as queer bodies and queer experiences inherently linked to other formats of violence. Being Palestinians who’re living under occupation, refugees and people who are part of ongoing, colonial violence. We are a very local organization while holding this very global kind of analysis. We really work only in Palestine; Really invest in understanding these complex, local realities.

To be queer in Palestine, that’s not an easy experience in general. One major issue that we deal with a lot inside of our queer organizing is how our individual-how we see all the time, sexuality in individualist kind of lens which cannot work in Palestinian society as the society is built on our family or collective structure that value the family’s interest more than the individual one. The main form of violence would be basically taking you in inside the family, cutting your links with your friends outside. You would never be an individual.

This is like the rationale behind our youth groups, providing a space for youth, LGBT Palestinians to understand their own experience in a very broad way that they could find these spaces to live.

There is a growing gap between what schools as like teachers, counselors, principals think and know and what are the students going through. We play on this momentum and say we could be one of the organizations who could translate what’s happening. We could give you some kind of information and tools to discuss this sexual and gender kind of diversity that’s happening in your school. And you need us and we’ll be there.

Being part of Astraea family will really keep us on track to really all the time, revisit that question of what that means to be feminist and queer. Astraea is one of the few organizations that in a way allow organizations to politicize themselves. So you’re not having this human rights language or talking about sexuality in isolation with your local context. There is a political kind of struggle that in a framework of Astraea we could also work on it in a way together and also in a way respecting our local context. So you could give space for grantees to be who they are, give them a chance to see that politics are not apart from queer organizing, how feminist and queer approach is inherent to any LGBT work. And I think all of these together made alQaws’ relationship to Astraea and the mutual relationship pretty important for us.

alQaws for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society

Active at every level of society, alQaws supports resilient LGBTQ communities and leads a critical social engagement with sexual and gender diversity.

Founded in 2007, alQaws is the leading Palestinian LGBTQ organization working directly with Palestinian civil society to create a sustainable, persistent, community-based social change movement. Active at every level of society, alQaws supports resilient LGBTQ communities and leads a critical social engagement with sexual and gender diversity, challenging deep-rooted misperceptions and sparking new, locally relevant discourse.

alQaws’ programs in three primary work areas–individual support, community, and social change–empower community members to become engaged in activist, arts and cultural, education and institutional initiatives; they also organize community members to spark change in LGBTQ-inclusive health, education, and media. Their activities include a National Hotline with a new team dedicated to supporting transgender individuals, regular “Hawamesh” community gender and sexuality discussion events, a training-of-trainers program that prepares a new generation of community organizers working with influential civil society partners, and direct in-depth training of leaders in key Palestinian institutions, such as human rights and youth organizations and schools. In 2013, alQaws embarked on an innovative initiative to reach Palestinian youth through alternative music and pop culture, an effort that brought together over 70 community members, well-known Palestinian singers, and music technicians to collectively write and produce gender and sexuality focused songs. Since then, they have continued to increase the visibility of their creative vision in new local media-focused cultural change initiatives, and expand their reach into established professional and educational sectors.

Today, alQaws runs working spaces and active programs in diverse locations that unite fragmented Palestinian communities together across city hubs and rural areas. Drawing from a wealth of activist, professional, and creative capacities, alQaws is promoting alternative approaches to sexual and gender discourse and visibility in Palestinian society, paving the road for a social justice movement in which LGBTQ rights are recognized and accepted as integral to broader sexual and human rights.