The Palestinian Authority has banned all LGBT activities in PA-controlled areas of the West Bank. The decision came after al-Qaws, a group that supports LGBTQ Palestinians, planned a “queer camp” for members at the end of August.
Al-Qaws’ event was supposed to 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,” the Times of Israel reports.
However, PA spokesperson Louay Arzeikat told the Jerusalem Post that al-Qaws’ activities “go against and infringe upon the higher principles and values of Palestinian society.” While there is no PA law against homosexuality, Palestinian LGBT people exist under cultural, familial and governmental repression.
The PA has banned al-Qaws and other LGBT groups from organizing any activities in the West Bank and threatened to arrest anyone caught violating the ban. They also urged citizens to secretly inform on “suspects.”
Al-Qaws is an NGO that was founded in 2001. The group’s mission is to be “at the forefront of vibrant Palestinian cultural and social change, building LGBTQ communities and promoting new ideas about the role of gender and sexual diversity in political activism, civil society institutions, media, and everyday life.” Al-Qaws has offices in East Jerusalem and Haifa, both of which are off-limits to PA security forces.
Haneen Maiki, the director of al-Qaws, told a Palestinian news site that the group will continue its work in different parts of Palestine. They will, however, take the police’s statement into account to avoid putting anyone at risk.
“The Palestinian police announcement about our activities is very unfortunate,” the group said.
The group has received hundreds of hate messages on their Facebook page since the announcement, prompting some human rights advocates to condemn the PA’s ban as an incitement of community violence.
“The attack on us is unprecedented,” al-Qaws wrote. “We are afraid for our lives.”
They added that they “totally reject the attempt to create an atmosphere of prosecution and intimidation, as well threats of arrest.”