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Engaging with a New Political Reality: Lessons & Changes

To read alQaws' full annual report for 2021, click here. You can find the Arabic version here.

This year’s annual report highlights our engagement with a changing political, social and organizational reality inside alQaws and in Palestinian society in 2021.

Titled “Engaging with a New Political Reality: Lessons and Changes”, this report details our biggest accomplishments, projects, and strategic questions at this moment in time, as well as the politics and principles underlying our work this year. Additionally, we share an overview of our new strategic plan 2022-2026.

In 2021, we experienced a whirlwind of rapid and successive socio-political changes in parallel with alQaws’ internal organizational transitions:

the May 2021 Palestinian uprising, a central event that created a cultural reset whose impact still ripples through our work and the overall socio-political scene in Palestine; the impacts of the pandemic, whether social or psychological, continue to affect the most vulnerable Palestinians, including LGBT/queer people; alQaws’ ongoing leadership transition; and creating our new strategic plan for 2022-2026 in response to the new socio-political reality surrounding sexual and gender diversity issues in Palestine.

Year of the Uprising: New Frontiers

The 2021 Palestinian uprising may have changed some equations on the ground, but in a larger sense it only solidified the discourse we had been building and working to mainstream for years. The 2021 uprising pushed the frontiers of political and social dynamics in Palestine on two levels: The first level is the relationships we have with each other as a Palestinian society. The events of 2021 fostered a spirit of unity and belonging - experiencing the same colonial condition.

As queer and trans people, we felt this spirit as we went out into the streets and pushed ourselves to the frontlines. Yet, these moments were interspersed with familiar feelings of isolation driven by gendered power dynamics. As queer people, we did experience some gendered violence from our own people, especially when it came to exclusionary and patriarchal discourse.

The second level is our relationship to colonialism. There was a moment of common understanding that Palestinians are one people living under the same colonial regime. This collective consciousness intersects with alQaws’ political and organizational heritage in two ways: The first is the fact that alQaws has been working on a national level across all of Palestine since its founding two decades ago. The second is our challenging and questioning of sexual/gender identity politics, which tend to ignore colonial power relations, and re-affirming our work as inherently anti-colonial.

Working in the Spirit of the Uprising

Our work at alQaws is guided by strategic goals and annual action plans that allow us to achieve our political vision. Yet we are aware that major socio-political events, such as the uprising, can greatly impact our plans and work processes. We had a lot to learn from the uprising and the work we did last year, mainly we learned we need to continue to bring feminist and queer discourses to wider audiences, and not to keep them separate from the reality on the ground. The uprising affected all of alQaws’ work, whether the internal relations among our local and national leadership, our visibility in the media, or our engagement with Palestinian society at large.

As for alQaws’ activists and Palestinian queers in general, we felt the need to be together during the more intense weeks of the uprising. Our local activists and community groups met more frequently in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Haifa, and Jaffa, especially in April and May.

These meetings started to build momentum for our third annual protest in Haifa, one of alQaws’ biggest events in scale and impact. This latest demonstration was deeply inspired by the Palestinian uprising, calling on all Palestinians to confront the exclusion and marginalization of our queer cause, as our experiences continue to be exploited by colonial and imperial pinkwashing tactics.

As for engaging with our society, the events on the ground steered most of our activities towards building on the evolving societal discourse around the uprising. This included operating our hotline daily for a full week, and opening it up to all Palestinians wishing to share and talk about the uprising; organizing an online queer support workshop around “Our Experiences during the Uprising”; and intensifying our local and international advocacy work to confront colonial pinkwashing policies, such as in our online seminar “Feminist and Queer Reflections on the Latest Palestinian Uprising,” which reached about 10,000 viewers on social media.

Our Achievements in 2021

Despite all the organizational changes in alQaws, the political changes around us, the psychological and physical impact of the uprising and the pandemic, and the violence we had to confront against alQaws and Palestinian queers in general this year; we continued our political work of visibility, confrontation, social engagement, knowledge production, political advocacy, and confronting pinkwashing tactics.

We were also able to keep prioritizing Palestinian queers through these community projects: online support workshops in response to the pandemic and political changes (the interactive Instagram space “Our Queer Life”, the online support workshops “On the Question of”); political education material; queer youth groups; the first queer activism school exploring liberatory knowledge in queer activism and confrontation within a colonial context; and the continued operation and growing of our national hotline.

This report explores these achievements in more detail, and provides an overview of alQaws’ new strategic plan.

alQaws’ New Strategic Plan 2022-2026

The process of strategic planning for the years 2022 - 2026 comes amidst an unstable and changing landscape. Several recent shifts have taught us many lessons and helped us to formulate our strategic goals, by living and understanding this changing reality.

This new strategic plan focuses most of its attention on expanding “life possibilities for queer people” in Palestine; meaning expanding the horizons of individual and collective interaction with our lived reality under the existing political, economic, and social systems. By understanding our reality we can: connect and break our isolation by thinking and working as a collective, engage with different ideologies, and find new ways of confrontation.

alQaws has been working towards this goal since its inception, but in this new plan our vision of ‘expanding life possibilities’ takes on a deeper resonance in the Palestinian context, where intersecting systems of oppression limit our possibilities for a dignified life. This is why our struggle and our work need to exist in all parts of our lives, including our social relations, our romantic and sexual lives, and our ideologies, among other material expressions of our struggle for liberation.


Our strategic goals

First, strengthening alQaws leadership groups, their grassroots bases, and their engagement in political and social organizing in Palestine. We aim to build wide grassroots bases that are engaged in their local communities and involved on a national level

Second, expanding and diversifying the Palestinian queer scene. We hope to see a vibrant queer Palestinian scene involving different groups, initiatives, and organizations working with and responding to the increasing needs created by the complex reality of violence in Palestine.

Third, creating new relationships with our society and its social and political institutions across Palestine. We aspire to transition from discrete joint ventures with other organizations, to building deep mutual relationships rooted in political commitment and genuine dialogue. We seek to build these relations despite the limitations of civil society institutions caused by the complex political context where we work.


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