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.
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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.