>All news // al Qaws 2014 Accomplishments
We consider last year a year of leap in visibility inside LGBTQ communities, civil society organizations and cross different geographical areas. While there are still much to do in this regard, we felt by the below initiatives and projects we were able to lay down a strong base of the future work that we are excited to start

al Qaws 2014 Accomplishments

In an attempt to summarize a full and dynamic year, alQaws activists, leadership and staff community, are proud to share the main accomplishments and highlights we had in 2014.

We consider last year a year of leap in visibility inside LGBTQ communities, civil society organizations and  across different geographical areas. While there are still much to do in this regard, we felt by the below initiatives and projects we were able to lay down a strong base of the future work that we are excited to start.

Here are some of our highlights in 2014:  


Collaboration and Capacity-Building: Developing Support among Palestinian Civil Society Organizations

This year, based on recommendations of alQaws' “Palestinian Civil Society Organizations’ Attitudes on Sexual and Bodily Rights” field study, alQaws began strengthening its connections to other Palestinian civil society organizations. alQaws’ networking meetings built active partnerships and substantially increased the proportion of Palestinian society actively concerned with issues of sexuality and sexual and gender diversity. During this period, alQaws succeeded in establishing connections with more than thirty Palestinian community-based organizations (including youth, feminist, and human rights organizations). These partnerships enjoy wide geographical representation, as these civil society organizations are located throughout Palestine, including north and central in the Palestinian 48' areas and the West Bank.

Building on success, alQaws created a Training Team, designed to enhance awareness and understanding of civil society leadership and staff. The Training Unit offers skill-building interventions, information, and analytical tools for working with issues related to sexual and gender diversity.

Training courses targeted to activists and staffs were comprised of 15 academic hours over the course of multiple days. Four civil society organizations, based in Haifa, Nazareth, and Lod, sent more than 100 participants to alQaws trainings this year. A special training course in Ramallah, which included 14 participants from ten civil society organizations in Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem, also took place in June, 2014.

To enhance the impact of the Training Unit, alQaws organized a Haifa-based "Train the Trainer" course. Designed as a means to prepare alQaws activists to work with other civil society organizations, the "Train the Trainer" course involved developing skills, tools, and concepts for successfully implementing alQaws training modules. Ten activists participated in the course and learned techniques for implementing training modules in civil society organizations.

Finally, alQaws team offered six training sessions for approximately 50 participants as part of independent training series arranged by organizations working on issues of sexuality, operating support hotlines for women, and/or offering leadership development.

alQaws Expands its Presence in Haifa and the North

In order to expand its work and cadre of activists in the north, alQaws opened an office in Haifa in early 2014. The Haifa office offers important space for alQaws’ activists to lead different projects, including the ‘Alkhat’ listening and information line (an online support network), different youth groups, the ‘Hawamesh’ monthly discussion forum, and other activities.

Hawamesh is an important project successfully developed and established by alQaws in Haifa in 2014. “Hawamesh” (which means "margins" in Arabic), is a Haifa-based monthly discussion forum about issues related to sexual and gender diversity in Palestinian society. Hawamesh aims to fill a void in the mainstream discourse - including the rhetoric of local queer organizing and sexuality activism - in order to disrupt and broaden its domain.

Hawamesh successfully organized eight intellectual discussion forums, reaching over 150 activists and academics, as well as others interested in broadening their knowledge relating to sexual and gender diversity. Hawamesh gatherings generally took place at alQaws’ Haifa office, although Hawamesh sessions were also organized in collaboration with Almahata, the Palestinian Youth Cooperative in Haifa.

Some topics addressed in Hawamesh sessions included:

• The Relevance of a Rights-Based Approach in Palestinian Queer Organizing;
• The Palestinian LGBTQ movement and Western Hegemony;
• Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society;
• Gender Analysis in Homosexuality;
• The Potential Use of Arab Cultural Heritage in Modern Queer Organizing;
• Queer Literature in the Arabic and Palestinian Literary Traditions
• “The Journey of Discovering Eden” (2 lectures by Dr. Esmail Nashif)

Rebranding and Website Launch: 5000 New Faces Saw alQaws’ New Website

During 2014, we focused heavily on rebranding, developing alQaws’ visual language in this regard, and built a new website. alQaws new website includes alQaws’ organizational mission, activist agenda, and work, as well as alQaws' views concerning sexual and gender diversity. Over time, alQaws expects this website will grow into an added communication tool, facilitating dialogue among individuals and groups interested in our work. alQaws new site will also serve as a platform to present sexual and gender diversity in an inclusive and holistic manner, focusing on our local social, cultural, and political context.

alQaws' new website is a true resource for sexuality and gender; it contains topical materials, articles, and videos and regularly reports alQaws activities throughout Palestine. It also contains the new AlQaws Dictionary, a dynamic lexicon of terminology and expressions relating to sexual and gender diversity, reframed in a manner suitable to the Palestinian context and to our decade of experience with these topics in the field and in the Palestinian society. In addition, the website's FAQ section offers thoughtful responses to common questions alQaws fields repeatedly on the site and in the field.

alQaws launched its new website at the beginning of October, 2014. By the end of 2014, almost 5000 visitors from all around the world had visited it.

In the context of rebranding and enhancing its reach, alQaws also created new visual representations of important issues alQaws confronts. In this vein, alQaws issued a new bilingual identity card both in Arabic and English, as well as an introduction card for the Alkhat project.

Contributing to the Discourse: alQaws' Participation in Public Events on Gender & Sexuality

Throughout 2014, alQaws participated in several Palestinian and international public lectures and workshops to discuss sexual and gender diversity, anti-colonialism, and Palestinian queer organizing.

This year, alQaws participated in several seminars, including local and international educational and solidarity events. These events, organized by both sister and ally organizations, included seminars dedicated to local university students, as well as, events  held in partnership with Arab and international institutions that shared alQaws' understanding of intersections between different struggles.

Locally, The Baladna Cultural Forum (The Cultural Forum is an initiative led by Baladna -Arab Youth Association, working on university campuses with Palestinian students) hosted alQaws for two lectures for Palestinian students at Tel Aviv University and University of Haifa. Approximately120 students attended these events. The Tel Aviv university lecture focused on gender analysis and roles as a social construct and its impact on our work enhancing sexual and gender diversity, while alQaws intervention at Haifa University focused on a recent phenomenon of violence against individuals with non-conforming gender appearances and expressions in social media among Palestinian youth. In addition, alQaws organized a panel discussion on Homophobia in our feminist and political activism in partnership with the Palestinian Feminist Forum.

alQaws also participated in a day-long art workshop in collaboration with Aswat and alWarsha (art space) this year in Haifa. These workshops took place in Haifa and each session dealt with important community issues. Selected topics included: a graffiti workshop concerning misconceptions about LGBTQ issues; situating LGBTQ issues within and among the social constructs and political realities of Palestine; Psychodrama and Movement; and more.

Globally and regionally, alQaws played an important role in contributing to the discourse, including participation in seminars and panel discussions organized by international and regional groups in Jordan, England and the United States. In England, alQaws participated in Israeli Apartheid Week through a series of lectures entitled "Liberation in Palestine, A Queer Issue" on six different university campuses.

In Amman, Jordan, alQaws was hosted by "Makan - Art Space" for a panel discussion entitled "What is gender?" In the United States, alQaws gave lectures and participated in panel discussions at the University of San Francisco, and at the academic conference of American Studies Association, and was hosted by Los Angeles' activists in a lecture about "Queer Organizing in Palestine and Anti-Colonial Struggle", and in support of a unique evening of performance art and political discussion entitled "Queer Anti-Colonial Struggle from the US to Palestine" organized by Darkmatter in New York City.

Increasing visibility of alQaws in Local Media

One key priority for alQaws is its ongoing contribution to the development of a critical view of gender discourse in the Palestinian community in general, and in the local media in particular. alQaws realizes this goal by producing written materials discussing sexual and gender diversity issues from critical political and social perspectives. In 2014, in an attempt to enhance its work with the local media, alQaws began collaborating with journalists and media professionals to create innovative and timely publications on gender issues that would challenge pervasive stereotypes and the ongoing faulty media discourse on these issues.

In the last year, alQaws published six articles and texts discussing the many and varied aspects of gender and sexuality, including an article about gender violence in social media, which was first published in print in the local newspaper “Fasl-el Maqal” as well as on their website. Later, the piece was also published on the Palestinian website, Qadita, and the Jordanian website, 7iber .

Furthermore, alQaws activists have published short articles about the “Hawamesh” (the Arabic word for 'margins') discussion forum, including: The Potential Use of Arab Cultural Heritage in Contemporary Queer Organizing, published on the Oximity website; Palestinian LGBTQ Movement and Western Hegemony, published on the 7iber website; The Relevance of A Rights-Based Approach for Palestinian Queer Organizing, published on the Qadita website.

Finally, alQaws published an important statement regarding the complicity of the international media in problematizing Palestinian queer identities in singling out and perpetuating an unwarranted focus on queer Palestinians as complicit with Israeli surveillance as a result of extortion and blackmail. The piece, entitled Media Response to Israel's Blackmailing of Gay Palestinians, was written in response to a spate of western media discussing IDF Unit 8200 veterans’ refusal to complete reserve duty due to their rejection of Israel’s surveillance and blackmail of Palestinians for any number of reasons. Media Response to Israel's Blackmailing of Gay Palestinians was published in Arabic and in English on alQaws' website, as well as at the Electronic Intifada website, and catalyzed a broader local and international debate on the issue.

alQaws Brings First-Ever Sexual and Gender Diversity Academic School to Palestine

After a year of collaborative development by alQaws activists and Palestinian academics, alQaws opened Palestine's first academic sexual and gender diversity school in the West Bank in December. The academic school took place from 18-20 December and involved with 30 participants, including activists, academics, and speakers.

Titled “Sexual Politics in the Colonial Context of Palestine”, this three-day program created a space for diverse viewpoints, ideas, and backgrounds among Palestinian activists and academics in order to discuss three main topics: (1) Sexual and Gender Politics, including theory, key concepts in sex and gender, and the power relations that regulate different sexual and gender orientations; (2) the Dialectical Relationships Between Social Systems and the Colonial Context of Palestine vis-a-vis Sexual Discourses and Activisms; and (3) Sexuality and Strategies of Decolonization.

During the three days, speakers, academics researchers and activists shared rich presentations on innovative topics, including masculinity in the colonial context, what is queer in Arabic, the body and sexuality in student movements, a critical reading of gender and women studies, basic concepts in gender and sexuality, a critical introduction to modernity and post-modernity and beyond, concepts of liberty and freedom outside the central Western and liberal hegemony with respect to body and sexuality, sexual violence and the violation of the Palestinian women's bodies by the Israeli colonial system, Israeli law and crimes against women (a model of dialectic relationship between the colonial power and patriarchy, pinkwashing and homophobia. The academic school concluded with an intervention and a discussion on sexuality and decolonization in Palestine.

alQaws Youth Groups in Ramallah and Haifa

In 2014, alQaws organized 2 long-term youth groups with over 20 participants. The youth groups, entitled "Me, My Sexuality, and Society: Knowledge and Impact” are a safe space to examine aspects of gender and sexuality, and to voice and discuss personal opinions related to sexuality. The first group took place in Ramallah between April and July. The second group started in Haifa in October and is due to continue through February 2015.

The youth groups offer an opportunity to discuss, in-depth, various sexual and gender diversity issues and their relation to the daily life of the participants, as well as a platform to share the challenges participants face. Moreover, this is a space facilitating exploration of abilities and capacities for change within the group and the individuals. These groups involve LGBTQ youth who are interested in exploring these issues in a group setting, and with the support that entails, and looking to understand their sexual and gender experience in holistic and local ways. The success of these groups underlies alQaws' plans to establish new groups in additional locations in2015.

AlKhat's Fourth Year: Listening and Information Hotline Shows Increasing, Record Community Access.

AlKhat ends its fourth year with a team of 15 volunteers, 105 shifts, and more than 200 queries via the telephone hotline and the online chat platform at www.alkhat.org. In addition, alQaws reached to new populations, particularly women, transpersons and youth. alQaws also trained a new team of volunteers during its fourth training course, which took place in Jerusalem and resulted in building a Jerusalem-based volunteer corps. alQaws’ professional staff also provided ongoing supervision and assistance to volunteers in order to ensure they had the tools and resources to best fulfill their role.

The volunteer team includes people of different professions and experiences. Yet they are united in purpose – and in the willingness to listen to people in need. AlKhat offers a platform for community members to reach out for assistance, support or information on sexuality and gender-related concerns. They can discuss the impact on their thoughts, feelings and relations with friends, family and coworkers.

AlKhat also serves as a resource to friends, family, coworkers or others with questions about issues of gender and sexuality.

Finally, alKhat serves the general public as a key resource for information about the field. As necessary, alQaws offers help, connect callers with relevant professionals, and follows up and mediates between the callers and relevant service providers.

Privacy is assured in using alKhat. Callers/chatters may remain completely anonymous, revealing only those details they choose to disclose during the session. AlKhat volunteers are obligated to maintain the confidentiality of each alKhat chat or call, refraining from sharing any information outside the alKhat platform.
AlKhat operates twice weekly, on Sundays and Wednesdays between 17:00 and 21:00. AlKhat can be accessed via phone at 0722220202 or via chat at www.alKhat.org.

alQaws' Therapists' Group Ends Inaugural Year with New Peer Advocacy Group

At the beginning of 2014, alQaws launched a new initiative that established a direct relationship and deep engagement by therapists and psychologists with different expertises and approaches. Initially, alQaws convened an intensive training course (30 academic hours) about sexual and gender identities and sexual orientation. This training, the first of its kind, was held in Jaffa between January and March and involved 12 participants.

The training course sought to expand participants' knowledge and analytical tools on topics of sexual and gender identity and sexual orientation. The course was also designed to enhance their professional capabilities, enabling them to integrate these topics into their individual and group therapy sessions. The training sessions included workshops and lectures led by alQaws and guest speakers on various topics related to sexual and gender themes in therapy.

As a complement to the training course, alQaws organized a new peer-to-peer and advocacy group for therapists. The group facilitates a learning process that translates knowledge into action, adding a practical element to the training sessions, and allows participants to both explore and reflect on aspects of sexuality and gender in therapy. The peer advocacy group also promotes professional activities that elevate the level of practice and knowledge. Finally, the peer-to-peer group strives to develop public actions on these topics within psychologist and therapist communities to be held in early 2015.