We started as an e-mail list group in 2002/03. The safety of the internet where we were just nicknames, provided a secured space where we were able to express our sexuality with no fear of being recognized or outed. And since we speak the same language, and we share the same societal traditions it wasn’t hard for us to open up to each other.
However, as time passed by, our needs grew bigger, and it was time for us to meet the women we have been talking to and sharing with; our thoughts, dreams, fears and experiences. Our first meeting took place at Rauda Morcos’s apartment, and from the first hand shake the ice between us was broken and the rest of the evening was like magic. From that day, we started to get more organized as a group in order to provide support for one another, and to put the issue of sexual preference on the Palestinian societal agenda.
In September 2003 ASWAT has joined Kayan, Feminist Organization in Haifa, but still we are an independent group. At the same time Kayan is giving all the support to the group especially organizational and institutional. Still, to be part of an Arabic organization is a challenge and not taken for granted, while many other women’s organizations still not ready to take the issue of sexuality and feminism as a full representation in their organizational status or agenda, Kayan decided to take that risk and take us under their wings.
Aswat’s women come from different cities and so different backgrounds, whether from Palestine (The Occupied Territories) or Israel, and this is where the name Aswat (voices) comes from.
Since our society has no mercy for sexual diversity and/or any expression of ’otherness’ away from the societal norms and the assigned roles that were formed for women, we decided to organize to raise awareness and to provide a safe place for every Palestinian woman who identifies herself as lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, inter-sexual.
The big secret of the Palestinian society is the secret of women’s sexuality. The Palestinian woman has no right to choose an identity other than the one enforced on her by the male figures in her family and surroundings. However, the time has come for women’s voices to rise and be heard, and for the society to recognize women’s rights to choose and live.