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The New Arab

Palestinian Authority bans events by local LGBTQ+ organisation

Al-Qaws is a Palestinian LGBTQ+ organisation [Facebook]

Date of publication: 19 August, 2019

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The Palestinian Authority says events held by local LGBTQ+ organisation Al-Qaws go against Palestinian values.

The Palestinian Authority has reportedly banned a Palestinian LGBTQ+ organisation from organising events in the West Bank, saying that such events are contrary to the "values of Palestinian society", local media reported.

Al-Qaws, a Palestinian civil society that works to support the local LGBTQ+ community, hit back at the ban, and urged the PA police to familiarise themselves with the work of the association, which has offices in Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa and Ramallah. 

The organisation also said they had faced a high number of threats online after the ban was unveiled by the PA police.

The ban came on Saturday, just after Al-Qaws said on its Facebook page that it had hosted an event in the northern West Bank city of Nablus earlier this month.

The event on 4 August had discussed gender pluralism in the city, according to the organisation.

Al-Qaws also said it was planning to host a "queer camp" in late August, which would provide "a place for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth from Palestine to meet, learn about the basic concepts of gender pluralism and explore the different sides of our human sexuality".

PA police spokesman Louay Arzeikat claimed on Saturday that events held by Al-Qaws "go against and infringe upon the higher principles and values of Palestinian society", accusing the group of attempting to "sow discord and undermine Palestinian society’s peaceful state of affairs".

He also urged Palestinians to report on any activity by the group and threatened members of the organisation with arrest if they were to follow through by organising any events in PA jurisdictions.

While the Palestinian Authority does not explicity ban homosexuality, members of the LGBTQ+ community general keep their sexual or gender identities secret due to societal and religious taboos surrounding the community.

Al-Qaws will "continue its work in different parts of Palestine, while taking into account the generally loaded atmosphere because of media outlets and the police’s incitement, so that we do not put any of our activists or friends at risk," the organisation's director Haneen Maiki told Ultra Palestine.

"The Palestinian police's statement regarding the barring of the gathering of 'gays' and activists from the al-Qaws organization and threatening to pursue them and asking citizens to secretly inform on 'suspects' is very bad," Ahmed Harb, commissioner-general of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, said on Facebook. 

"It rises to the level of calling for 'community violence and inciting a crime.' Many understood this statement as a call to wastefully spill blood and take the law into one's hands by implementing killing operations."

Al-Qaws said in a statement it had faced a "wave of unprecedented attacks" since holding the event in Nablus, "considered a sacred 'traditional' Palestinian city". 

"We have always been public and accessible about our work, through maintaining an active website, social media presence, and engagement in civil society. However, we have never received threats to this extent before," the organisation said.

"This recent backlash is in direct response to the dismantling of societal denial regarding the existence of LGBTQ Palestinians!"

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