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December 12, 2005

GAY PALESTINIAN WOMEN APPEAL FOR HELP

Aswat_logo_1  I have received an e-mail appeal for help from a fledgling association of gay Palestinian women, ASWAT. Founded at the beginning of this year, the core group of 20 activist lesbians -- with a bit of seed money from the Heinrich Böll Foundation, a non-profit associated with the German Green Party and named after the famous writer, who was a Green supporter -- established a website in English and Arabic.

The group's mission statement says that "the ASWAT initiative is to serve as a Palestinian gay women’s group where we may express ourselves, discuss gender and sexuality, define our feminism, and address the conflict experienced by us between our national and gendered identities. The ASWAT group provides a safe space for any Palestinian woman who identifies as lesbian, bi-sexual, transsexual, transgender or inter-sexual, where we can break our individual silence through dialogue, self-education, healing and activism. In addition, we strive to generate social change in order to meet the needs of one of the most silenced and oppressed communities in Israel. We work to reach out to Palestinian and Jewish communities in Israel, and also to collaborate with other like minded institutes, groups and individuals in order to combat the multilayered discrimination we face and to promote women rights." The group organizes both in the lands controlled by the Palestinian Authority (where open meetings are very difficult) and in Israel. Some 80 meetings have been held so far, seminars and a lecture series are ongoing, and a chat room for queer women is breaking the isolation of Palestinian lesbians, who are often abused by their families.

The e-mail from ASWAT says, "ASWAT has grown significantly in terms of activities
and members...Unfortunately, the funds needed for our activities exceeded our actual income, as some tentativesupporters changed their priorities. Thus, we appeal to
you to support our work and our ongoing struggle before 2005 ends." ASWAT's website has an English-language page on how to donate, which you can access by clicking here. Questions about how to help may be directed to donate@aswatgroup.org. A little money will go a long way toward helping ASWAT -- so I urge you to send what you can today.

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