Thursday, April 05, 2007

ASWAT: Lesbian Palestinians Break Social Taboos

Lesbian Palestinians Break Social Taboos
By Brenda Gazzar
WeNews correspondent
HAIFA, Israel (WOMENSENEWS)

R. didn't intend to reveal her sexual preference but she acknowledged she was lesbian to a newspaper reporter writing about her poetry. Although R., a Palestinian Arab in Israel, lost her job working with at-risk youth shortly afterward, she has no regrets. "When I came out in 2003, I thought I might be killed or displaced from the community," she says, acknowledging she received anonymous telephone threats and that her car was damaged after word got out. "I'm still alive and I'm not displaced."

R. is the general coordinator and a co-founder of Aswat: Palestinian Gay Women. Aswat means "voices" in Arabic, and is the first and only group of Palestinian lesbians in the region. On March 28, it held in Haifa its first public conference. The meeting, which R. said was attended by as many as 350 people, marked five years of the organization's existence and the publication of a new book in Arabic about lesbian and gay identity. "It was empowering. It was exciting," said S., who heads the Aswat board and asked that her last name not be used. "It was a big opportunity for us to estimate and value the things we have done in the last five years."

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