The Palestinian Authority (PA) has prohibited all meetings of the LGBTQ organization Al-Qaws on the West Bank. This was reported by The Jerusalem Post.
The ban came after Al-Qaws announced a meeting in Nablus at the end of this month. Al-Qaws says it will continue its work, despite the threat by police and has received support from various Palestinian human rights organizations.
Earlier this month, Al-Qaws held a meeting in Nablus on sexual and gender diversity in Palestinian society. This only came to the notice of the police a few days after the gathering had taken place.
PA police spokesperson Luay Zreikat referred to Al-Qaws as a 'foreign agent' and called the organization's activities in the areas controlled by the PA harmful to the higher values and ideals of Palestinian society'. According to Zreikat, Al Qaws activities are contrary to religion and Palestinian traditions and customs.
Zreikat warned that The PA police will prosecute those involved with Al-Qaws and ensure that they are brought to justice as soon as they are arrested. He also called on Palestinians to report anyone connected with the organization to the police.
Al-Qaws (The Rainbow), is a non-governmental organization established in 2001 with the aim of 'fighting for Palestinian cultural and social changes, the establishment of LGBTQ communities and the promotion of new ideas regarding the role of sexual and gender diversity in political activism, civil society organizations, the media and daily life'. The organization has offices in Haifa, Jaffa, East Jerusalem and Ramallah.
In a statement on Twitter Al-Qaws condemned the threat by the police, whose task it is to protect all civilians. According to Al-Qaws, tough action against sexual liberation is nothing new, and is continually used by 'oppressive regimes and governments' for political gains and to deflect attention from other matters.
Al-Qaws says it will continue to fight tirelessly to prevent violence by the Israeli occupation and social violence against LGBTQ Palestinians. This is part of our vision for a liberated Palestine". Al-Qaws warned against pink-washing by Israel and calls for support for the BDS campaign, including a boycott of Israeli products. The organization says "despite colonial barriers and threats of persecution" they will continue to promote the debate on sexual and gender diversity.
"It is very strange that they accuse us of being a suspect organisation dedicated to disrupting Palestinian society. We reject their attempt to ??create an atmosphere of persecution and harassment, as well as the threat of arrests."
"The LGBTQ movement will continue to grow and our community in Palestine and elsewhere will not go away. An Al-Qaws spokesman said in the London-based magazine Middle East Eye that “Greater visibility, always leads to more resistance - that is part of our struggle for a just and dignified society".
A member of Al-Qaws told us that, since the announcement by the police, he and his friends have received hundreds of threats and hate messages from Palestinians, especially on Facebook. "The attack on us is unprecedented", he told The Jerusalem Post. "They call us corrupt and traitors and many people have demanded that we be executed. We feel our lives are in danger."
In a press statement, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) declared solidarity with Al-Qaws and called on the PA to protect all Palestinians against discrimination and violence, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This is something the PA is obliged to do, bases on its own constitution and the many international treaties it has endorsed.
Since 1951, homosexual acts are no longer punishable by law in the West Bank based on Jordanian law. In the Gaza Strip however, homosexual acts are still punishable based on a Sodomy Law which was introduced when the area was under the British rule. On the basis of this law, men can be sentenced to up to ten years in prison, but the law is rarely applied. Palestinian LGBTQ's however are faced with stigmatization and marginalization as well as violence from family members and acquaintances and discrimination in the workplace. There have also been reports of extortion by civil servants and police.