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Conferentie ASWAT en publicatie van eerste boek over lesbianisme in de Arabische taal

Rauda Morcos was van 1 tot 24 november voor een toer in de Lage Landen.
voor het foto-verslag !
en voor de persartikels: klik hier !
concert "stemmen-aswat-voices" met demo "harmony of questions" en tekst designs van Lieve Snellings

In november 2006 kwam Rauda Morcos op verschillende plaatsen in België en Nederland op een begeesterende wijze spreken over haar werk in Aswat, de eerste (en enige) vereniging voor lesbiennes in Palesina.   
Aswat organiseert op 28 maart, ter gelegenheid van haar vijfjarig bestaan,  haar eerste grote conferentie (uitnodiging zie bijlage) EN stellen zij het eerste boek dat er bestaat over lesbianisme in de Arabische taal voor.  Reden in overvloed om te feesten zou je denken...

MAAR helaas is er ook een keerzijde.  Islamietische leiders zijn een campagne tegen Aswat begonnen.  Via de media en intimidatie eisen zij dat de conferentie van de agenda geschrapt wordt.  Aswat noemen ze een terminale kanker die zich niet mag uitzaaien...
Aswat laat weten dat zij besloten hebben de conferentie ondanks alles toch te laten doorgaan !

Hieronder sturen wij jullie de vertaling van de brief die Aswat ons stuurde ivm de aanvallen die ze ondergaan en hun beslissing de conferentie toch te laten doorgaan.
Aswat smeekt ons om een solidariteitsactie te ondernemen, om hen te ondersteunen.
Wij roepen  jullie mee op om hen te steunen.  De vrouwen van Aswat zijn zeer moedige vrouwen, zij hebben onze steun echt nodig.  Schrijf hen, steun hen op welke wijze dan ook.
wij danken jullie voor alle steun die je Aswat kan en wil geven
veel liefs
Lieve Snellings
namens Vrouwen in 't Zwart / WiB Leuven


Nog twee weken scheiden ons van dé grote dag voor ASWAT: Conferentie ter gelegenheid van het vijfjarig bestaan van ASWAT.  Deze conferentie willen wij houden op 28 maart in Haifa om het vijfjarig bestaan van ASWAT en haar rol in de Palestijnse gemeenschap te vieren.  Tijdens deze viering stellen wij het eerste in het Arabisch gepubliceerd boek voor, over LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bi, transsexual, travestite, innersex, queer)-kwesties, getiteld “Aanvaarding en verwerping van queerervaringen”.Het boek is een verzameling artikels over lesbische en homoseksuele identiteit. Deze gebeurtenis geeft jullie de gelegenheid om als sympathisant en gast je bondgenoten te ontmoeten bij ASWAT. Voor ASWAT is dit een gelegenheid om de LGBTIQ aangelegenheden  ten berde te brengen en op de Palestijnse en Internationale sociale agenda te plaatsen. 

Na het bekend maken van het programma van de conferentie, haar doelen voor de plaatselijke bevolking binnen Israël, kregen we verschillende reacties. Sommige reacties betuigen steun andere verwerpen het initiatief als resultaat van de gevoeligheden waarmee dit onderwerp beladen is in de Arabische gemeenschap. 

Op vier maart deed de “Islamic movement” een publieke oproep, ondertekend door haar leiders, waarin ze ASWAT vragen de conferentie niet te laten doorgaan!! Daarnaast benaderen ze verschillende mediabronnen om de bekendmaking van de conferentie en zelfs het bestaan van ASWAT te verstoren.

Islamitische leiders schreven naar de kranten dat ze geschokt waren over het inrichten van de conferentie. Ze beweerden dat ASWAT een groepuscule  is die “afwijkingen van de norm aanmoedigt en al haar energie daarvoor gebruikt”.  Ze beschrijven ASWAT als een terminale kanker die vooral niet mag uitzaaien in de Arabische gemeenschap en zo de Arabische cultuur uithollen.Bovendien raadden ze alle deelnemende organisaties aan zich terug te trekken en er mee voor te zorgen dat de conferentie niet doorgaat. De media, in het bijzonder de Arabische pers maakt over deze zaak een enorme drukte en tracht de ganse zaak nog ingewikkelder te maken.

ASWAT en sympathisanten zullen de conferentie laten doorgaan, wij geloven in ons bestaan en het belang van de bekendmaking van onze werking binnen de Arabische gemeenschap die de LGBTQI-kwesties gedurende jaren hebben onderdrukt.

Met jullie steun hoopt ASWAT deze hindernissen en uitdagingen te kunnen overwinnen. Sommige groepen binnen de Arabische gemeenschap trachten die voor onze voeten te werpen. Ze eisen dat wij zouden stoppen met onze activiteiten voor gelijke rechten en vrije wil.

Vandaar dat alle vrouwen van ASWAT jullie, onze vrienden, smeken een solidariteitsactie te ondernemen om onze strijd en betrachtingen te steunen binnen jullie mogelijkheden naar de plaatselijke pers toe, organisaties, onze uitnodiging door te sturen naar jullie contacten en vertegenwoordigers te sturen om ons te steunen in deze levensbedreigende dagen.

Wees ervan overtuigd dat  je steun enorm gewaardeerd  wordt en erg belangrijk is voor ons.

In bijlage vind je de uitnodiging en het programma van de conferentie.

met vriendelijk groeten
Rauda Morcos, General Coordinator Aswat
Alhan Jeries, Resource Development Coordinator Aswat
vertaling: Mieke Coremans

Aswat – Palestinian Gay Women are Happy to Invite You to:
" Home and Exile in Queer Identity "
Conference
On the 28th of March 2007

 On this day Aswat celebrates five fruitful years of engaging in social change and raising awareness in the Palestinian Community 

Aswat also proudly launches the publication of our first book in Arabic:
Home and Exile in Queer Identity:
Collection of Articles about Lesbian and Homosexual Identity

Program:

10:00 – 10:30: Participants Registration

10:30 - 11:00: Opening of the event with presentations by: Rula Deeb - Kayan Director, Shahira Shalabi - Shatil Center, Aswat Board Coordinator

11:00 - 12:00: First panel: "Homosexuality and Lesbianism in the Arab community"

Participants: Aida Touma-Solaiman, Yousef Abu-Wardy, Ruti Gur, and Rauda Morcos

12:30 - 13:00: Musical Interval: The Palestinian Women Rappers Band "Arapiat" and a slide show by Aswat

13:00 - 14:00: Lunch break

14:00 - 14:30: In Solidarity: Terry Greenblatt – Feminist activist, Leslie Fienberg – Peace and Freedom of Speech activist, Brenda Funches - Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, Hanneke Kamphuis and Naima el Moussati - Mama Cash representatives, Global Fund for Women representative

And Open Society Institute representative

14:30 – 16:00: Second panel: "Home and Exile in Queer Identity"

Participants: Raafat Hattab, Nabila Espanioli, Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian and Haya Shalom

16:00 - 16:30: Musical Interval: "Arapiat" Returns

16:30 - 17:00: Conclusions and Closing Remarks

There will be simultaneous translation to three languages; Arabic, Hebrew and English
Cameras and Photographing are not permitted
Note: Registration Fees are 25 NIS. Entrance for pre-registered participants only

 For More information please write to: ipcoordinator@aswatgroup.org
 Call: +97248662357, or Fax +97248641072
You can also visit http://www.aswatgroup.org

Sponsored by: Fatoush, Douzan, Open Society Institute and Soros Foundation Network (FOSI) and Private Donors

**************************************************

Conferentie ASWAT en publicatie van eerste boek over lesbianisme in de Arabische taal

Rauda Morcos was van 1 tot 24 november voor een toer in de Lage Landen.
voor het foto-verslag !
en voor de persartikels: klik hier !
concert "stemmen-aswat-voices" met demo "harmony of questions" en tekst designs van Lieve Snellings

activiteiten kalender toer Rauda Morcos (samenstelling bezig)

11 oktober: interview Lieve Snellings en Marianne van de Goorberg met Lore Callens voor Steps Magazine
4 november: 20ste Lesbiennedag in Vooruit te Gent
4 november: persinterviews voor ZiZo, Kif Kif, Radio Air Libre, radio Kif Kif, Merhaba
8 november: stille wake WiB Leuven, 12.30-13.00 voor trappen stadhuis
8 november: 9.30 h. interview met Catherine Vuylsteke voor De Morgen
8 november: "Stemmen - Aswat - Voices", politiek-cultureel café in Oratorienhof teLeuven
11 november: hulde onbekende oorlogs-vrouw, 9.30 - 10.30 uur aan station Leuven
11 november: Vrouwendag in Berchem
11 november: interview met Denis Bouwen en Marianne Van Winkel van De Magneet
14 november: bezoek aan holebi boekhandel 't Verschil + interview door M.O.
14 november: Poppesnor in Antwerpen
15 november: 14.00 h meeting met Mama Cash in Amsterdam
15 november: namiddag meeting met IHLIA, Amsterdam
16 november: 13.00 h MSV Media (homo- en lesbische TV) interview door IHLIA aan Homomonument
16 november: namiddag Amnesty International,LGTB sectie
17 november: 14.00 uur Villa Lila, COC en boekhandel De Feeks, Nijmegen
17 november: Vrijdag namiddag borrel 17.00 - 20.00 uur, Villa Lila in Nijmegen
18 november: PARTY TIME, het Leuvens Lesbisch Basketbal Team "Goe Moe" organiseert een grote fuif - DJ Ria
21 november: interview Weekend Knack

"Stemmen - Aswat - Voices"

op woensdag 8 november 2006 om 20.00 uur
in het Oratorienhof, Mechelsestraat 111 te Leuven

Chris Mazarese en Veerle Pollet

brengen een nieuw concert met liederen die ze componeerden

op poëzie van Rauda Morcos en Dayna van Aswat

Ik ben vrouw
Ik ben lesbisch
Ik ben feministe
Ik ben tegen de bezetting
Ik ben tegen de Muur
Ik ben vóór geweldloos verzet

R. Morcos

 van de performance zal ook een CD ter voordele van ASWAT verkocht worden.


politiek Café met de Palestijnse
Rauda Morcos
mede oprichtster van ASWAT (Palestinian Gay Women)

verder is er een greep uit de fototentoonstelling
“hoe kun je dan zwijgen…” van Lieve Snellings

inkom 8 euro (werklozen 5 euro)
voorverkoop: marianne.vandegoorberg@pandora.be of lieve.snellings@pandora.be
of op onze woendagse WiB wakes

van de performance zal ook een CD ter voordele van ASWAT verkocht worden

Rauda Morcos is één van de oprichtsters van de eerste (en enige) Palestijnse lesbische organisatie (ASWAT).  Haar coming out heeft ginder héél wat teweeg gebracht.  Toch is haar inzet voor emancipatie van lesbiennes niet het enige dat haar drijft: "ik ben vrouw, ik ben lesbisch, ik ben feministe EN ik ben tegen de bezetting, tegen de Muur en voor geweldloos verzet" zegt ze.  "Om vrede te bewerkstelligen moeten we op alle vlakken tegelijkertijd actief zijn want alles houdt verband met mekaar" zegt Rauda nog.

In het eerste gedeelte brengen Chris Mazarese en Veerle Pollet een muzikale performance rond een aantal van Rauda's gedichten.  Daarna zal Rauda zelf een uiteenzetting geven over haar werk en is er mogelijkheid om vragen te stellen en met haar van gedachten te wisselen.

Organisatie Vrouwen in 't Zwart Leuven
met steun van het Labyrint en de stad Leuven

ook andere organisaties en/of individuen die willen steunen zijn van harte welkom dat te doen ! 
Vrouwen in 't Zwart Leuven, rek nr. 000-3252232–16 - vermelding Rauda in Leuven

activiteiten kalender toer Rauda Morcos (ASWAT)
uitnodiging "Stemmen - Aswat - Voices" in Leuven
Rauda en WiB Leuven plannen
ASWAT werd ook door Mama Cash genomineerd voor de She Changes the World Award
Felipa de Souza Award 2006 nominatie teksten

Rauda Morcos wint Felipa de Souza Award 2006 !

Wij zijn héél fier jullie te mogen aankondigen dat onze Palestijnse vriendin Rauda Morcos van ASWAT door de IGLHRC (International Gay Lesbian Human Rights Center) geselecteerd werd om de de Filipa de Souza Award 2006 te ontvangen. Wij wensen haar en ASWAT, de eerste Palestijnse lesbiennen groep die Rauda oprichtte een heel dikke proficiat !

Wij leerden Rauda Morcos en ASWAT kennen tijdens de tweejaarlijkse internationale conferentie van Women in Black in Jeruzalem, augustus 2005. Nadien besloten wij met WiB Leuven om Rauda en ASWAT verder te blijven steunen omdat zij een beetje stonden voor alles waar wij als Vrouwen in 't Zwart voor staan. Of om het met Rauda's woorden te zeggen: "ik ben vrouw, ik ben feministe, ik ben lesbienne EN ik ben tegen de bezetting en voor geweldloos verzet". Alle onderdrukkingen moeten gelijktijdig aangepakt worden, ook al zwijgen de bommen, er zal pas vrede zijn als onderdrukking stopt... M.a.w. voor ons staan Rauda en ASWAT een beetje symbool voor ons vredeswerk.

En zo werkten wij met WiB Leuven 2 ondersteunings acties uit:

Wij schrijven ook (naast onze vriendinnen in Servië en Israël) een nominatie tekst om de Filipa de Souza Award 2006 toe te kennen aan Rauda Morcos, en proberen een wijd net van ondersteuningsbrieven erbij te doen. Hieronder lees je het dossiers dat wij, en ook onze vriendinnen indienden, de ondersteuningsbrieven die we konden verzamelen.

Een tweede actie is: we nodigen Rauda uit om een toer in België en omgeving te maken. Het beetje geld dat we nog over hadden van onze sponseringsactie voor de WiB conferentie waarmee we Joana Bhalerao (Dalit vrouw uit India) naar de conferentie konden laten overkomen, is nog net genoeg om haar ticket te betalen. Rauda komt in november naar België. Zal deelnemen aan de feesteditie (20 jaar) van de Lesbiennedag op 4 november in Gent, een cultureel-politiek café op 8 november in Leuven, aan de Vrouwendag op 11 november in Antwerpen en nog veel meer activiteiten
Later meer uitgebreid over dit programma !

activiteiten kalender toer Rauda Morcos (ASWAT)
uitnodiging "Stemmen - Aswat - Voices" in Leuven
Rauda en WiB Leuven plannen
ASWAT werd ook door Mama Cash genomineerd voor de She Changes the World Award
Felipa de Souza Award 2006 nominatie teksten

Aswat was ook genomineerd voor de (she changes the world)-prijs van Mama Cash
dit is wat MamaCash over ASWAT zegt:


Aswat is in 2003 opgericht door een groep lesbische Palestijnse vrouwen die de stilte willen verbreken waarin zoveel Palestijnse lesbiennes leven.

Aswat betekent ‘stem’ in het Arabisch. Ze zijn een ‘minderheid binnen een minderheid binnen een minderheid’: vrouw, lesbisch en Palestijns.

Aswat is een moedige en dynamische groep vrouwen die besloten heeft het huidige klimaat te verbeteren. Ze hebben te maken met discriminatie omdat ze Palestijns zijn onder Israëlisch bestuur, vrouw in een door mannen gedomineerde samenleving en lesbisch in een Arabische gemeenschap waar niet eens een officieel woord is voor ‘lesbisch’.

Aswat biedt veilige, anonieme plekken waar vrouwen kracht verzamelen, elkaar hulp bieden en informatie uitwisselen. Door middel van een virtueel forum, bijeenkomsten en een telefonische hulplijn.

Leden van de Aswat groep treden ook naar ‘buiten’. Met lezingen, workshops en publicaties doorbreken ze de censuur en de onwetendheid over vrouwelijke seksualiteit. Voor het eerst wordt een openlijk debat gevoerd en worden woorden gebruikt als lesbisch, homo en transseksueel.

Aswat is tegen elke bezetting: ‘We willen niet bezet worden als Palestijn, niet als vrouw en niet als lesbienne!’. Mama Cash steunde deze moedige groep vrouwen bij de oprichting en steunde Aswat ook dit jaar zodat zij hun baanbrekende werk kunnen voortzetten. top

activiteiten kalender toer Rauda Morcos (ASWAT)
uitnodiging "Stemmen - Aswat - Voices" in Leuven
Rauda en WiB Leuven plannen
ASWAT werd ook door Mama Cash genomineerd voor de She Changes the World Award
Felipa de Souza Award 2006 nominatie teksten


NU VOLGEN DE INGEDIENDE NOMINATIE TEKSTEN SAMEN MET DE ONDERSTEUNINGSBRIEVEN
dit is wel jammer genoeg in het engels

 

1. nominatie tekst door Women in Black Leuven

door Women in Black Leuven
door ATC
door Haya Shalom and Hannah Safran, Israel
door Haifa Women's Coalition
top

September 29, 2006

Dear IGLHRC board members,
 I am very pleased to sent you, on behalf of Women in Black Leuven, Belgium, the nomination we wrote for RAUDA MORCOS for the Filipa de Souza Award.
I'll attach in Word documents the following letters :

  1. nomination text for Rauda Morcos from the first Palestinian lesbian group ASWAT, written by Women in Black Leuven (Lieve Snellings and Ria Convents)
  2. recommandation letter from Bernedette Muthien, Engender, Cape Town, South Africa
  3. recommandation letter from Anne Ganzevoort, Fond Suzan Daniel, Gent, Belgium
  4. recommandation letter from Sandra Butler, Bay Area Women in Black, Berkeley, California, USA
  5. recommandation letter from Tina Gianoulis, Dyke Community Activists, Seattle, USA
  6. recommandation letter from Diana Mines, visible lesbian and women's rights activist, Montivideo, Uruguay (member of SIEI-SU - Centro de Investigacion y Estudio Interdisciplinario en Sexualidad, Uruguay.  And also memeber of Amnesty International - Uruguayan Section)
  7. recommandation letter from Lynette Dumble, Global Sisterhood Network, Australia

Friendly greetings
for WiB Leuven, Lieve Snellings

Your name, address, phone, fax and email contact information:

Vrouwen in ’t Zwart / Women in Black Leuven, Belgium
Lieve.snellings@pandora.be
http://snellings.telenet.be/womeninblackleuven/index_english.htm
Contact persons:
Lieve Snellings , lesbian photographer and feminist peace activist
Ria Convents , feminist lesbian lawyer and peace activist

The candidates name, address, phone, fax and email contact information:

Rauda Morcos, Group Co-ordinator, ASWAT founder

ASWAT - Palestinian Gay Women
c/o Kayan-Feminist Organization
118 Arlozorov street, Haifa 33276
Israel
T el: +972 4 866 2357
Fax: +972 4 8641072
E-mail: rauda_morcos@yahoo.com ; palgaywomen@yahoo.com
http://www.aswatgroup.org/english

Please answer the following questions. You may use a separate sheet if there is not enough space. Please keep answers relatively brief, to 300 words per question

How has the candidate defended or promoted human rights, sexual rights and/or Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender rights?

Rauda Marcos is a strong Palestinian lesbian activist. She founded ASWAT (Voices in Arabic), which is generating tremendous energy as they literally “make history” as the first group of Palestinian lesbian, bisexual and intra-sexual women in the Middle East. Our mission is to challenge the status quo and to improve our lives - as woman, as Palestinians and as lesbians. And to hopefully secure equal rights for ourselves and for those who come after us.” They are legitimizing the expression of women’s sexuality and articulating a Palestinian feminism that encompasses gendered and national struggles against oppression.

In 2002 the group had formed as an e-list, a “virtual” forum. A year later the group held its first meeting in the home of Morcos and her partner. “We wanted to find a way to break the silence that so many Palestinian lesbians face,” she says. “For this reason, it was important to bring women together in a safe place where they could talk about their own issues. It was natural.”

Today, Aswat has grown to 14 women who regularly meet as a group. They don’t have an office of their own, so they borrow space from organizations throughout Israel and meet in different cities so people from across the country can take part. The group has also members from the West Bank who have to cross several checkpoints to reach the meeting place and who legally aren’t even allowed in Israel. Rauda Morcos and the women of Aswat have also worked to develop ties with Palestinian feminist organizations.

After being interviewed by one of the local newspapers about ASWAT Rauda Morcos publicly was outed as a lesbian and lost her job as a teacher and was exposed to harassment. She got harassed in her homeplace Kufer Yassis, a little village in the northern of Israel and got threatening phone calls at home. However she did not get discouraged for her “coming out” in public and this inspired many Palestinian lesbians to get in touch with ASWAT and ask for support. And so Rauda Morocs continued passionately to develop ASWAT as a place for herself and other women facing the same struggle to belong to Palestine. “ASWAT is a place where I can be a woman, and lesbian and Palestinian and against occupation all at the same time” she says

What are some of the candidates notable accomplishments locally, nationally and/or internationally? Please provide some specific examples, including from the candidates day-to-day work.

On the local level Rauda Morcos maintained the Palgay virual forum where they hosting 70 palgaywomen. Aswat has a hotline, website and newsletter to better help carry out its mission “to give a place to every lesbian, bisexual, trangender and unsure woman”.
Morcos organized about 30 workshops and gave lectures in the Arab and Jewish communities for NGO’s, academics and general public. About 300 participants came to the 40 workshops she held for counsellors, service providers, youth group leaders and educators in the Arab community.

Rauda Morcos also gave numerous interviews in Arabic, Hebrew and English about ASWAT. After every time she came in the media, many lesbians called ASWAT for support, and the number of ASWAT members inceased.

In 2004 Morcos was invited on a tour to several North American (US and Canada) cities to promote her work and raise funds for ASWAT, where she spoke about the work of ASWAT and the challenges of Palestinian lesbians in occupied Palestine and Israel. She also gave lectures about ASWAT in Berlin, Germany.

What obstacles has the candidate experienced in promoting human rights, sexual rights, and/or LGBT rights locally, nationally and/or internationally? How has the candidate surmounted them? Please provide some concrete examples.

Rauda Morcos lost her job. She regularly gets stared and pointed at while she walks the streets of her small village in northern Israel, Kufer Yassis. She has also received several harassing phone calls at home. A big challenge is working with ASWAT’s so-called allies. Many Israeli gay organisations, for example, are taken aback by ASWAT’s strong anti-occupation stance while many Palestinian feminist organisations are afraid to embrace the dyke movement. “Palestinians are not only discriminated against ” Morcos said. “we are walking in a journey of losing our identities. We must be aware of all these silences in a democracy.”

“We’re still speaking a language no one else is speaking,” says Morcos. “It was tough at the beginning, with people shutting doors in my face. But I’m now at a point where I’ve stopped caring,” she says. “Some doors will shut, but then other ones will open. You just have to remind yourself that it’s all worth it because you’re doing something for women.”

Rauda Morcos consequently identifies herself as ASWAT member in all her activities, she in fact is the only member of ASWAT that is “out” (some of the other ASWAT operate using nicknames, some others with reasonable degree of anonymity). In a homophobic and patriarchal society this is very courageous. This way Rauda Morcos is working on changing society values so women can feel safe and be empowered by her example.

Beside Palestinians living in Israel, ASWAT has also members from the occupied territories. This is a very big extra obstacle as these members need to cross several checkpoints to reach ASWAT meeting places and even legally are not allowed to be in Israel. Other women are facing the challenge to explain their family where they are going when they go to a meeting. In many Palestinian communities women are not allowed to go out alone at night, or travel alone to another city. For this reasons Rauda Morcos is securing funds so that they can organize a safe transportation for activists, they have places that are safe and easy accessible for their members to meet.

What links and lasting coalitions has the candidate established with others in the struggle for human rights, sexual rights, gender and racial equality, and/or social and economic justice? How?

To make links and coalitions with other groups is important for ASWAT because it is more than just a lesbian group at any place in the world. Or as Rauda Morcos says it herself “all of my identities couldn’t work together. I wanted to be a woman, and gay and Palestinian and against occupation all at the same time”. “We want to join an umbrella organization but still keep our independence” Morcos said. “You don’t have to be gay to work for raised awareness. It is everyone’s responsibility. But we don’t want to work with groups who support war or things that don’t support our agenda”. As we said above, Morcos is aware that ASWAT’s strong stance against the occupation, against the Apartheidswall, is reason that many Israeli gay organisations don’t like ASWAT, while at the same time many Palestinian feminist organisations are afraid to embrace the lesbian movement. So Morcos and ASWAT only choose to be partners with these organisations that share their values, who are aware of the connections between the oppression against lesbians and gays, oppression against women and oppression against Palestinians, and who are against war.

In 2003 ASWAT was granted organizational support from Kayan, the Arab Feminist Center in Haifa. As many women’s organizations still are not ready to take the issue of sexuality and feminism as an integral part of their organisation, this support of Kayan, being part of an Arabic organization that is giving ASWAT institutional support while they keep their independence, was a huge step forwards.

Morcos developed coalitions with the following groups: Coalition of Women for Peace, Community School for Women, Bat Shalom, Kayan-Feminist Organization, Women Against Violence - Nazareth, Al-Tufula Center, Jerusalem Link, Isha L’Isha: Haifa Feminist Center, Jerusalem Open House, Kesef-Feministy, Yafa Cafe, Black Laundry Mosawa - The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Isael and Women in Black International.

How would IGLHRCs Felipa Award support and strengthen the candidate's work in the future?

First and foremont, the IGLHRC Felipa Award would be international acclaim for Rauda Morcos and her fellow lesbians at ASWAT: a universally acknowledged step towards decreasing local and national hostility towards human rights and peace activities.

Sometimes Morcos is overwhelmed by the pace of change she’s faced since becoming part of ASWAT. “I know I’m leading this boat” she says, “and I’m afraid because it’s a huge responsibility. But I also try to remember that I’m not doing this alone.” This Award would be a great recognition of the very courageous work of Rauda Morcos.

Beside this personal support, this Filipa Award would strengthen her leadership role in demanding equality and justice for all women and lesbians and Palestinians within Occupied territories and Israel.

Organizing her human rights works with so limited finances exposed Rauda Morcos a lot of stress. She also is often in the face of danger for her own safety. So this Filipa Award could come at the right moment to make it possible for her to sustain her activism as an individual, as a member of ASWAT and as part of a larger solidarity movement.

One of the plans ASWAT is dreaming to realise is to build a center to house gay women in Palestine, a “safe house” for Palestinian lesbians whose lives are in danger, the first of its kind. She wants to teach the youth of Palestine about gay and lesbian awareness and hopes to find a way to approach young people. The Filipa Award could be so helpful to realize this dream.

Please include two letters of recommendation/support from individuals or organizational colleagues:


Registered non-profit # 031-555-NPO
Tel & Fax: +27-21-448 2112
Mobile : +27-83-345 0552
Email: bmuthien@icon.co.za or info@engender.org.za
Website: www.engender.org.za
PO Box 12992 , Mowbray, 7705, Cape Town , South Africa
Research, Publications & Facilitation in the areas of Gender, Human Rights & Conflict Resolution

10 September 2005
To IGLHRC
Re Felipa Awards

Engender wishes to emphatically endorse the nominations of RAUDA MORCOS from the Palestinian lesbian group, ASWAT. Their struggles are synchronous with South Africa ’s struggles for liberation, and they operate under worse conditions than the LGBTQI movements did in South Africa under apartheid.

We hope that as Palestine transitions into freedom and democracy, that their people will be as generous as South Africa ’s new democracy, regarding women’s rights generally, and LGBTQI rights specifically.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information. Thank you very much.

Bernedette Muthien
Executive Director

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nominatie tekst Haya Shalom en Hannah Safran, Israel
door Haifa Women's Coalition
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Fonds Suzan Daniel vzw
gay/lesbian/bisexual archives and documentation center
suzan.daniel@skynet.be
www.fondsuzandaniel.be

Gent, September 22, 2005
To IGLHRC
Regards: Felipa Awards

The fonds suzan Daniel vzw wishes to express her full support for the nomination of Rauda Morcos from the Palestinian lesbian group, ASWAT. Under the worst conceivable conditions as member of an occupied people Radua Morcos and her group fight continuously against sexual and gender discrimination, at the risk of her own safety. It takes tremendous energy and courage to continue this fight for human rights. We think the Award would be a necessary recognition of her work, and a mental and financial stimulant for ASWAT in their struggle to provide a “safe house” for Palestinian lesbian women, now and in the future.

We thank you for taking this into consideration.

Anne Ganzevoort
Co-founder of the fonds suzan Daniel vzw, gay/lesbian/bisexual archives and documentation centre, Belgium

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nominatietekst ATC
nominatie tekst Haya Shalom en Hannah Safran, Israel
door Haifa Women's Coalition
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Bay Area Women in Black
P.O. Box 7003
Berkeley, California 94707
http://www.bayareawomeninblack.org

September 22, 2005
Dear Women,

The extensive community of Bay Area Women in Black is proud to support the candidacy of Rauda Morcos for the IGHRC's Felipa de Sousa Award.

We were pleased to sponsor Rauda in 2004 when she came to Berkeley, California during her travels through the United States. She spoke to a packed house about her work in the Palestinian lesbian community, and the development of ASWAT. Her passion and patience are matched only by her dedication to bring liberation to all the women still closeted, still alone and still without the embrace of a welcoming community.

This award will give Rauda the international legitimacy she needs to strengthen her work, extend her reach into communities that need to hear her strong and powerful voice, and to honor her courageous activism. It will also facilitate her capacity to do more extensive fund-raising, thus increasing her ability to reach out to women in small communities and allow her to travel, to educate, and to organize. This award will bring her dream of a safe house for Palestinian lesbians, the first of such safe havens closer to fruition.

Morcos works collaboratively with existing organizations, is generous and skillful. She is gift to us in the movement of international feminist solidarity, and we are proud to urge you to honor her with the Felipa award.

Salaam/Shalom,

Bay Area Women in Black
Contact: Sandra Butler

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nominatietekst ATC
nominatie tekst Haya Shalom en Hannah Safran, Israel
door Haifa Women's Coalition
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Dyke Community Activists

September 23, 2005
To the IGHRC—

We members of the group Dyke Community Activists in Seattle, Washington, USA wish to strongly support Rauda Morcos as a most deserving recipient for your Felipa de Sousa Award. As an activist, Rauda has demonstrated courage and commitment to both the Palestinian cause and to the cause of Palestinian lesbians.

Three members of our group were fortunate to meet Rauda when we were in Israel and Palestine with the International Human Rights March of Women in January 2004. We were impressed by both her eloquence and her humility, and were warmed by the immediate sense of solidarity we found with each other.

The following fall, she came to Seattle to speak about ASWAT at an event that united the gay community and the progressive left community in a way that is too uncommon here. Rauda not only raised a large ammount of money for her group, but left us all feeling more hopeful and connected to the world of lesbians.

I write not only for my group but for many members of the progressive gay community of Seattle, when I ask you to honor Rauda’s courageous and groundbreaking work with this award.

Tina Gianoulis
For Dyke Community Activists

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nominatie tekst Haya Shalom en Hannah Safran, Israel
door Haifa Women's Coalition
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Diana Mines
visible lesbian and women's rights activist, Montivideo, Uruguay (member of SIEI-SU - Centro de Investigacion y Estudio Interdisciplinario en Sexualidad, Uruguay.  And also memeber of Amnesty International - Uruguayan Section)

September 25, 2005
To: Felipa Awards, IGLHRC, 350 5th Ave., 34th Floor NY, NY 10118, USA 
nlevitt@iglhrc.org

The life of Felipa de Souza -the lesbian woman who was tortured and executed by the Portuguese Inquisition in Brazil, in 1591- grimly illustrates the violence that an intolerant, sexist society can exert on an individual strong enough to inspire others in their struggle for freedom. Such violence still exists in many countries, but the increasing awareness of it has made it possible for activists around the world to work in solidarity, supporting each other, especially those who face the worst obstacles.

That is the case of Rauda Mourcos, a Palestine lesbian woman living in Israel , who became the first to speak out about herself and about those who remained closeted, - including those living in the occupied territories -, fearing the consequences of visibilization. She lost her job, but her courage has since then stimulated several other Palestine lesbian and transsexual women, who joined Rauda and her ASWAT group.

They have started a movement that will hopefully allow many more of their pairs to grow proud of themselves. They will also teach their families, their neighbours and their leaders that free sexual orientation is a human right and needs to be respected as such. To do that in the middle of a broader struggle for political and territorial rights, many times facing the incomprehension of both, Israeli and Palestine authorities, is a major challenge that deserves to be supported by activists from all over the world. The Felipa de Souza Award would give Rauda Morcos and ASWAT's enterprise a significant impulse to achieve their goals. That is why I strongly support her candidacy to the 2006 Award.

Diana Mines
mujerymujer91@yahoo.com.ar

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nominatie tekst Haya Shalom en Hannah Safran, Israel
door Haifa Women's Coalition
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GLOBAL SISTERHOOD NETWORK
4/7 Violen Street
Bayswater, Vic., 3153, Australia
http://www.global-sisterhood-network.org/

September 30, 2005

Felipa Nominations 2006
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
350 5th Avenue, 34th Floor
New York, NY 10118, USA.

Dear Commission Members,

On behalf of the Global Sisterhood Network, an international community of feminists working together to improve women’s lives, I strongly support the nomination of Rauda Morcos for the 2006 Felipa de Sousa Award.

Ms. Morcos’s personal courage and dedication to peace and human rights, most especially those of her lesbian sisters, are an inspiration to all who are involved in the global struggles against conflict, violence and prejudice. Without doubt, her bravery within a war zone, and in the face of extreme cultural discrimination, make her an immensely worthy candidate for the 2006 Sousa Award.

Rauda Morcos is an outstanding woman: A fearless leader, highly intelligent, and passionate to her own detriment. Her selection, in addition to honouring the memory of the Award’s namesake Felipa de Sousa, and reflecting admirably on the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, would significantly legitimise the just causes which she and her sisters within ASWAT pursue.

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Lynette J. Dumble
Feminist medical, political and environmental scientist
Founder and Director of the Global Sisterhood Network

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2. nominatie tekst door Anti Trafficking Center - ATC, Belgrado

by Women in Black Leuven
by Anti Trafficking Center - ATC Belgrade
door Haya Shalom en Hannah Saffran, Israel

door Haifa Women's Coalition

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To Whom It May Concern,

Please find enclosed nomination for Felipa de Souza award for Rauda Morcos submitted in front of Anti Trafficking Center from Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro. This nomination is supported with two recommendation letters written by:

1. Chris Corrin, Convenor at International Centre for Gender and Women's Studies, University of Glasgow and
lesbian activist

2. Stasa Zajovic, Coordinator of Women in Black - Belgrade, Nominee for the Nobel prize in the Project of 1000 women for Nobel Prize 2005. This recommendation letter is supported by the network of Women in Black in Serbia and Montenegro, including the following organizations:  
Bonafides, Pljevlja
Esperanca, Novi Sad
Novi Sad Lesbian Organization, Novi Sad
Queeria LGBT, Belgrade
SOS Hotline for women and child victims of violence, Vlasotince
The Open Club, Nis
Women's Center, Leskovac

For any further questions please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.
Sincerely,

Sandra Ljubinkovic and Jelena Djordjevic
Anti Trafficking Center

Your name, address, phone, fax and email contact information:

Anti Trafficking Center - ATC
Resavska 1/4
11 000 Belgrade Serbia and Montenegro
Tel/Fax: +381 11 3239-002
E-mail: atc@atc.org.yu
Contact persons: Sandra Ljubinkovic, Executive Director and Jelena Djordjevic, Steering committee member

The candidates name, address, phone, fax and email contact information:

Rauda Morcos, Group Co-ordinator, ASWAT founder
ASWAT - Palestinian Gay Women
c/o Kayan-Feminist Organization
118 Arlozorov street, Haifa 33276
Israel
T el: +972 4 866 2357
Fax: +972 4 8641072
E-mail: rauda_morcos@yahoo.com ; palgaywomen@yahoo.com
http://www.aswatgroup.org/english

Please answer the following questions. You may use a separate sheet if there is not enough space. Please keep answers relatively brief, to 300 words per question

How has the candidate defended or promoted human rights, sexual rights and/or Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender rights?

Rauda Morcos is a fearless Palestinian lesbian activist, and co -founder of the organization ASWAT, the first group for Palestinian lesbian, bisexual and inter-sexual women in the Israel and the Occupied Territories . ASWAT's activities have the overall objective of empowering Palestinian lesbians and raising the public’s consciousness regarding women’s sexuality in general and the specific condition faced by Palestinian women in the Palestinian and Israeli society. Morcos is one of very few open Palestinian lesbians working towards improving the lives of Palestinian lesbians and securing their rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories of Palestine .

In 2002, Morcos initiated a virtual forum for Palestinian lesbians (Palgaywomen), which was the first space for lesbians in the Palestinian community in Israel and the Occupied Territories . Out of the virtual forum, in January 2003 the first meeting of forum members took place. The meetings, together with the virtual forum, have become the cornerstone for the formation of the ASWAT group. After being interviewed by a widespread local newspaper about ASWAT, where she publicly said she is a lesbian, Morcos lost her job as a teacher and was exposed to harassment. She was harassed on the streets in her small village in northern Israel , Kufer Yassis, and started receiving threatening phone calls at home. However, she was not discouraged, for her “coming out” in public inspired many Palestinian lesbians to get in touch with ASWAT and ask for support. Despite all the pressures that came with her being “out” as Palestinian lesbian living in Israel , Morcos continued with developing ASWAT as a place for herself and other women facing the same struggle to belong in Palestine .

Passionately, she would say how ASWAT is the place where she can be a woman, and lesbian and Palestinian, and against occupation all at the same time.

What are some of the candidates notable accomplishments locally, nationally and/or internationally? Please provide some specific examples, including from the candidates day-to-day work.

On the local level, Morcos organized a number of empowerment meetings for Palgaywomen members. She maintained the Palgay virtual forum, hosting over 70 Palgaywomen; worked on developing the organizational capacity of ASWAT; and recruited its first staff and members. In terms of community work, she organized and implemented 30 workshops and gave lectures in the Jewish and Arab communities for NGO’s, academics and general public. Moreover, she held 40 workshops for service providers, counsellors, youth group leaders and educators in Arab community attended by over 300 participants.

She gave numerous interviews in the Arabic, Hebrew and English media through which she was raising awareness on Palestinian lesbians living in the Occupied Territories and Israel . Her interviews contributed to raising the profile of ASWAT and served as a means for reaching out to Palestinian lesbians (after each interview the number of ASWAT members increased as well as the number of calls that ASWAT received from lesbians who needed support).  

Morcos stood on the forefront opposing an attempt to hold the international Pride Parade, which was suppose to take place in Israel and Jerusalem in August 2005 organized by the World Pride. Rauda Morcos was suggesting that while Israel would show how open and tolerant it was towards gays and lesbians, it would still continue to commit crimes and occupation against Palestinians. Together with other ASWAT members, Morcos was calling for an alternative Parade to the Wall, inviting everyone coming for the World Pride to visit unrecognised and demolished Palestininan villages in Israel , to meet with Israeli and Palestinian activists and to take part in the alternative Pride. World Pride is rescheduled from August 2005 to August 2006 and the initiative of Morcos and ASWAT for the alternative Pride will be repeated.  

In 2004, Morcos was invited on a tour to various states in the US where she spoke about the work of ASWAT and the challenges of Palestinian lesbians in Occupied Palestine and Israel .

What obstacles has the candidate experienced in promoting human rights, sexual rights, and/or LGBT rights locally, nationally and/or internationally? How has the candidate surmounted them? Please provide some concrete examples.

Many women in the Palestinian society are living their identities and sexualities in secret. Palestinian patriarchal society does not accept and often aggressively rejects and punishes every expression of "otherness". Morcos stepped outside of the prescriptive traditional gender role and identity and because of that, she is exposed to various forms of pressure and harassment. She is a politically active, visible lesbian who works to end oppression of women, lesbians and Palestinians. She is the only ASWAT member that is “out”. Consequently, she is the only one that goes and identifies herself as ASWAT member in all activities involving certain amount of exposure. This situation is the outcome of life in homophobic and patriarchal society, which had strong impact on ASWAT’s activities. Through her work, Morcos is finding ways to support other ASWAT members in developing their own ways to reach out to communities (some ASWAT members decided to promote activities which allow a reasonable degree of anonymity, others are using nicknames), while at the same time she is working on changing society values so that women would feel safe to step out in public.

As for her personal safety, which is jeopardized due to her public work and exposure, Morcos is only now developing plans to enhance her own safety.  

Another obstacle for Morcos' work is in connection to restriction of movement of some ASWAT members coming from the Occupied Territories . These are the lesbians who need to cross several checkpoints to reach the ASWAT meeting place and who are legally not allowed to be in Israel . Other women from inside Israel face the challenge of explaining to their families where they’re going when they come to a meeting. In many Palestinian communities, women aren’t allowed out alone at night, let alone to travel to another city. In order to overcome this, Morcos was securing funds that could help in organizing safe transport for activists and she was also reaching out to places that are safe and easy accessible for the activists to meet.

What links and lasting coalitions has the candidate established with others in the struggle for human rights, sexual rights, gender and racial equality, and/or social and economic justice? How?

In September 2003, as a new organization, ASWAT was granted the organizational support and platform from Kayan - the Arab Feminist Center in Haifa . For Morcos and other ASWAT members, this support enabled them to develop ASWAT's activities and gain public visibility while protecting the anonymity of its members. As Morcos would say, being part of an Arabic organization that is giving ASWAT institutional support is a big step for the movement where many women’s organizations are still not ready to take the issue of sexuality and feminism as integral part of their organizational status or agenda. Morcos is aware that many Israeli gay organizations are taken back by ASWAT’s strong anti-occupation stance while many Palestinian feminist organizations are afraid to embrace the dyke movement. That meant that Morcos with ASWAT developed clear standards with whom they are becoming allied. Their partners are organizations that share their values, who are aware of the connections between the oppression against gays, oppression against women and oppression against Palestinians, and who are against the war.

Morcos developed coalitions with following groups: Coalition of Women for Peace; Community School for Women; Bat Shalom; Kayan-Feminist Organization; Women Against Violence - Nazareth; Al-Tufula Center; Jerusalem Link; Isha L’Isha- Haifa Feminist Center; Jerusalem Open House; Kesef- Feministy; Yafa Cafe; Black Laundry; Mosawa - The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel; Women in Black International; and Claf – Community for Lesbian Feminists.

How would IGLHRCs Felipa Award support and strengthen the candidate's work in the future?

This award would be an important recognition of the fearless work of Rauda Morcos as she stands for furthering the rights of Palestinian lesbians in Occupied territories and Israel . It would acknowledge Morcos courage and effectiveness in reaching out to lesbians in a culture where homophobia and patriarchy are endemic and where as Palestinian citizen of Israel she experience a lot of discrimination and was treated as 2d class citizen).

Also, a Felipa Award would strengthen Morcos' leadership role in demanding equality and justice for all women, lesbians and Palestinians within the Occupied Territories and Israel . As she was over time exposed to high level of stress due to organizing vital human rights work with limited financial and human resources, often in face of danger for her own safety, this award would come at the right moment to insure sustainability of her activism as an individual, as member of ASWAT, and as a part of a larger movement. Lastly, but not less significant, this award would make it possible for Morcos and ASWAT to set up a support hotline and form a network of first "safe houses" for Palestinian lesbians whose lives are endangered.

Please include two letters of recommendation/support from individuals or organizational colleagues:

 

Chris Corrin
International Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies, University of Glasgow and lesbian activist

The 2006 Felipa Award
Letter of recommendation/support for Rauda Morcos
Group Co-ordinator and founder of ASWAT - Palestinian Gay Women
c/o Kayan-Feminist Organization
118 Arlozorov street, Haifa 33276, Israel

Rauda Morcos has both defended and promoted the human rights and sexual rights of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender people in Palestine and Israel. This is an amazing feat given the various political, cultural and legal battles raging across each territory and as an open Palestinian lesbian working towards improving the lives of Palestinian lesbians this work has been at great personal cost to herself and family. Overcoming all of the pressures that came with her being ‘out’ as a Palestinian lesbian living in a small community, Rauda continued to extend ASWAT activities as a place where she can be ‘woman, lesbian, Palestinian, and against violence and occupation all at the same time’. As the founder of ASWAT, the first group of Palestinian lesbian, bisexual and intra-sexual women in either Israel or Palestine Rauda’s inspirational leadership is apparent and a point around which women can coalesce.

The activities of ASWAT have not only empowered individual Palestinian lesbians but have raised public awareness on issues of women's sexuality, particularly regarding specific conditions faced by Palestinian women in Palestinian and Israeli society. Their activities range from giving support and solidarity help to individuals and groups wishing to meet and promote their rights to holding seminars and educational meetings. In more than 40 workshops for a range of youth leaders and educators in the Arab community attended by over 300 participants Rauda has been a central and pivotal figure. In workshops with interested women there are many, varied opportunities to explore issues central to their lives, such as the recent ‘sexuality and spirituality’ workshop (September 2005) at which women could discuss their sexuality and their religious beliefs, to see intersections between their different beliefs and the propaganda promoted against lesbians. From the 2002 virtual forum for Palestinian lesbians (Palgaywomen) - the first space for lesbians in the Palestinian community in Israel and the Occupied Territories – the first face-to-face meeting of forum members took place in 2003. These meetings and the virtual forum have become the central points around which the ASWAT group generates its considerable activities.

The courage to give numerous interviews in the Arabic, Hebrew and English media as an ‘out’ lesbian has marked Rauda’s political belief that through raising awareness of Palestinian lesbians living in the Occupied Territories and Israel, lesbian throughout these regions can gain strength in the recognition that they are not alone and are not doomed to isolation and revulsion if they seek support. Rauda’s activism to oppose the attempt to hold the World Pride March in Jerusalem in August 2005 illustrates her politically grounded belief that while at an international level Israel would illustrate an open and tolerant attitude to lesbians, gay and transgendered people, it will continue to pursue inhumane crimes against Palestinian lesbians and gays, coupled with the occupation activities against Palestinians. ASWAT members called for an alternative Parade to the Wall, for all to visit and acknowledge the ‘invisible’ and demolished Palestininan villages, to meet with Israeli and Palestinian activists and to take part in the alternative Pride. While World Pride is rescheduled to August 2006, the work of Rauda and the initiative of an alternative Pride will be repeated.

Clearly in such work Rauda endangers her personal safety and although she is aware of the risks and difficulties her work makes for her personal life, Rauda does need international support to gain that wider recognition that brings with it a measure of security. If Rauda were attacked, criminalized or imprisoned it would be beyond the resources of ASWAT and other human rights groups within Palestine and Israel to push the authorities for release. Only with international recognition can some measure of crisis intervention be assured in cases where lesbian activism jeopardises life and liberty. The physical space in which ASWAT operate creates dangerous barriers, with lesbians needing to cross several checkpoints to reach meetings, raising questions of who is legally allowed to be in Israel. As elsewhere, women face the challenge of explaining to their families what they are doing and in many Palestinian communities, women cannot travel alone at night, particularly to another city. To assist women, Rauda secured some funding for safe transport for activists and to assure places of safety and easy access. Overall, having been exposed to high levels of strain and anxiety working on human rights work in difficult circumstance, with limited financial and human resources, this award is at a time that would enable Rauda a measure of sustainability in her activism as an individual, a member of ASWAT and as a part of larger movements. This award would also help to establish a support hotline and form a network of first "safe houses" for Palestinian lesbians whose lives are endangered. This is the root of much awareness raising work – when women decide to move forward in their sexuality they do need some assurance of support and safety that willingness alone cannot provide. Recognition of Rauda’s work through this award would enable ASWAT to move forward to actually provide some measure of physical connection and security currently absent from Palestinian lesbian lives.

Given that many Palestinian feminist organizations fear the consequences of including lesbian issues in their work, while Israeli gay organizations often do not share ASWAT's strong anti-occupation stance, Rauda in ASWAT has developed clear standards regarding coalitions and alliances so that only partnerships with organisations that share their values, awareness of the connections between oppression - against gays, women and against Palestinians - and resist violence and war. While ASWAT have developed strong links within various communities and they currently have space at the organisation Isha L'Isha: Haifa Feminist Center, this remains temporary as their agreement was a finite one. In discussions with staff at Isha L’Isha in August 2005 there is a recognition that ASWAT have not been accorded the rights of space that others have and it is hoped that Ruada and colleagues can actually gain a permanent space in which to undertake their various activities. This award would be an important recognition of the courageous and visionary activism of Rauda Morcos and would enable some measure of security for ASWAT to continue their work for the rights of Palestinian lesbians in the Occupied Territories and Israel. The Felipa Award would also broaden Rauda’s ability to continue her dangerous work speaking up for equality and justice for all women, lesbians and Palestinians within the Occupied Territories and Israel. On a final note, Rauda’s deep humanity and sense of humour is something that shines through, particularly working in such dire circumstances. To be able to laugh rather than cry, to smile rather than be sad is something that lifts the spirits of those working with Rauda and all of those who have been touched by her are aware of having made a deep connection that they wish to sustain.

Chris Corrin
September 2005

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door Haifa Women's Coalition
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WiB Belgrade / Zene u Crnom

The 2006 Felipa Award
Letter of Recommendation for Rauda Morcos

October 8, 2005
To Whom It May Concern:

As a long-time peace activist in the Balkan region and co-founder of Women in Black – Belgrade, as well as someone who is well-acquainted with the history and the current challenges of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it gives me great pleasure to whole-heartedly support the nomination of Rauda Morcos for the 2006 Felipa Award.

Since making her acquaintance, I have become extremely impressed with the extent of what Rauda has been able to achieve in her daunting environment, and at such a young age. I firmly believe that the values of anti-militarism, anti-discrimination, tolerance, and respect for all human rights that this nominee embodies and actively promotes through her tireless political engagement form an absolutely crucial ideological basis and prerequisite for the establishment of a lasting and just peace in her own region and worldwide. Through the foundation of ASWAT, Rauda has taken a definitive step in institutionalizing these values.

On the organizational level, there is much in the work of ASWAT to remind me of what we, Women in Black – Belgrade, are striving for and struggling against.

In 1991, Women in Black was formed in Belgrade as a permanent, public protest against war, militarism, nationalism, and all forms of discrimination, and our aims include the creation of space for voices of women and other marginalized groups against war and all kinds of violence, encouraging and organizing nonviolent resistance to patriarchy, all forms of militarism, ethnic homogenization, and fundamentalism, and denouncing the ties between local and global militarization and the militarization of our everyday lives. Our long experience has made it clear that the ideologies behind the politics of exclusion and the permanent militarization of society that produces war are one in the same. Therefore, in order to maintain an anti-war and anti-militaristic stance, the unconditional acceptance of all who are considered to be Others and different is an absolute imperative. Thanks to Rauda's activist engagement, a space has been created in an imposing conflict environment not unlike our own, in which LGBT persons can opening show their diversity, be free, and be enabled to speak about their specific needs at the same time as being active participants in the building of peace.

During our past 14 years of activism, Women in Black – Belgrade has always supported women and men with different and diverse identities; particularly those who support the same values of feminism: solidarity, equality, human rights, freedom, antimilitarism, antinationalism, anti-homophobia etc. Since the very beginning Women in Black has also supported conscientious objectors, war deserters, and any other men opposed to the traditional patriarchal masculine role. Many of the same individuals who were active in the formation of the gay movement in the region of ex-Yugoslavia were also activists of the anti-war movement that was gaining strength at the same time, 15 years ago. This activistic development strongly reminds me of what I have witnessed in Israel/Palestine, and it is important to emphasize that Rauda, through her engagement in promoting the ideas of peace and nonviolence, is stimulating the development of democratic civil society, not only on the territory of Israel and Palestine, but on the global level.

In the values and activities realized through ASWAT, it is clear that Rauda shares this realization of the direct link between exclusion and militarism – between the high level of violence against the LGBT population and the prominent place in society afforded to militaristic values. It is clear to me that Women in Black and ASWAT share the same fundamental vision – to reduce the level of hatred, discrimination, and inequality in society, and to create the necessary conditions for the respect of all human rights. The creation of these conditions demands the wider vision of a culture which provides a safe, inclusive, and supportive environment where diversity is valued and citizens are empowered to be authentic about themselves without fear of loss of opportunity, thus allowing them full realization of their potential and equal participation in all aspects of political life, and it is clear to me that this difficult task is exactly what Rauda and ASWAT are working towards.

The mission and aims of Women in Black and ASWAT are one and the same: to deconstruct the militaristic mentality that sustains the traditional gender and sexual roles dictated by patriarchy and leads to various forms of discrimination against all who are Other or Different. The most basic aim of both groups is to contribute to the building of a functioning civil society consisting of individuals and groups who recognize the necessary linkages between antimilitarism, antinationalism, and the protection of human rights, with the acknowledgment that the right to various sexual identities is not a special privilege but a fundamental human right, inseparable from all others.

Rauda’s personal activism has done much to increase the visibility of the LGBT population, and she has also shown that persons exposed to patriarchal repression can actively stand up against even when the time and environment is not conducive to such resistance. In an extremely militarized and fundamentalistic environment, the activism of Rauda Morcos was formed under great patriarchal repression, and it is clear that in spite of, or precisely because of these testing conditions, Rauda has developed and maintained political peace values that she absolutely refuses to compromise. For her courage and relentless energy in the struggle against oppression, I give my heartfelt recommendation for the selection of Rauda Marcos for the 2006 Felipa Award, and feel confident that such recognition will be followed with a continuing record of impressive accomplishments.

Sincerely,
Stasa Zajovic
Coordinator Women in Black – Belgrade

This letter of recommendation is supported by the network of Women in Black in Serbia and Montenegro, including the following organizations:

Bonafides, Pljevlja

SOS Hotline for women and child victims of violence, Vlasotince

Esperanca, Novi Sad

The Open Club, Nis

Novi Sad Lesbian Organization, Novi Sad

Women's Center, Leskovac

Queeria LGBT, Belgrade

 

nominatie tekst WiB Leuven
nominatietekst ATC
nominatie tekst Haya Shalom en Hannah Safran, Israel
door Haifa Women's Coalition
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3.nominatie tekst van Haya Shalom en Hannah Safran, Israel

door Women in Black Leuven
door ATC
door Haya Shalom and Hannah Safran, Israel
door Haifa Women's Coalition
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This nomination is supported with two recommendation letters written by:

Terry Greenblatt
Terry Greenblatt is a feminist Israeli peace and justice activist. Co-Found and director of “women`s Voice” Feminist Center in Jerusalem. Director of Bat Shalom, Women Peace Center in Jerusalem . Currently in the U.S. consulting to women’s foundations and NGO’s on women’s global strategies of resistance

Nabila Espanioly
Founded the Pedagogical Center and Multipurpose Women’s Center in Nazareth (Al-Tufula), in conjunction with a group of women. Have been the Director of the Centre since 1989
Active in various women’s organizations and peace organizations, such as; the Feminist Center in Haifa , Women in Black, The Coalition of Women and Peace etc.
Nominee for the Nobel prize in the Project of 1000 women for Nobel Prize 2005
2003 Aachen Peace Price - Germany
1997 Women’s Leadership award of The NIF on the Name of Alis Schalwi, Boston .
1995 Women’s Leadership award of the Israeli Women Network

Your name, address, phone, fax and email contact information:

The nomination submitted by: Haya Shalom and Dr. Hannah Safran:

1. Haya Shalom
Jerusalem 96586 , Israel
-Member of International Board Advisory IGLHRC;
-Founder of Claf (community for Lesbian Feminists) ;
-Co-founder of the Women Peace Movement and Women in Black
-Awarded the Community Prize of the GLBT Community;
-Nominee for the Nobel prize in the Project of 1000 women for Nobel Prize 2005

2. Dr. Hannah Safran
Haifa 34466 , Israel
- Recipient of the 2005 Israeli Human Rights Award
- Founder member of the Israeli Association for Gender and Feminist Studies
- Collective member and volunteer at Isha L'Isha the Haifa Feminist Center
- Founder member of Women in Black

CONTACT PERSON : HAYA SHALOM

The candidates name, address, phone, fax and email contact information:

Rauda Morcos, Group Co-ordinator, ASWAT founder
ASWAT - Palestinian Gay Women
c/o Kayan-Feminist Organization
118 Arlozorov street, Haifa 33276
Israel
T el: +972 4 866 2357
Fax: +972 4 8641072
E-mail: rauda_morcos@yahoo.com ; palgaywomen@yahoo.com
http://www.aswatgroup.org/english

Please answer the following questions. You may use a separate sheet if there is not enough space. Please keep answers relatively brief, to 300 words per question

How has the candidate defended or promoted human rights, sexual rights and/or Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender rights?

Rauda Morcos is a passionate and articulate political activist and a gifted poet from the village of Kufar Yassif in the north of Israel . She is a courageous Palestinian lesbian woman who is the co-founder of Aswat (Voices). Aswat is a pioneer group of young Palestinian gay women that is legitimizing expression of women’s sexuality and articulating a Palestinian feminism that encompasses gendered and national struggles against oppression.

She speaks out publicly and challenges religious bigotry, violence and occupation in Palestinian and Israeli societies. She supports and empowers gay Palestinians to improve their lives and secure equal rights. Her goal is to change society's values so that other women may feel safe in the public sphere. She is the first, and one of few Palestinian lesbians, who dare to come out, thus risking their lives. She believes that a change is necessary both within patriarchal and conservative societies and with Palestinian lesbian and gays themselves. Moreover, her activities have introduced the ethnic/national perspective into the Israeli-Jewish gay politics, a dimension which was ignored in the long struggle for gay rights. Ms. Morcos has elaborated the connection between different kinds of discrimination and oppression and challenged traditional perspectives regarding gay rights by introducing multiple perspectives of gender, nationality and sexuality to gay rights activism.

In 2002 she created the first virtual forum for Palestinian lesbian from Israel and Occupied Palestine. Than she organized a meeting of the forum participants that created ASWAT - the first Palestinian gay group to exist in the borderland of both Israel and occupied Palestine . Acting as its only public spoke person she was chosen as the first coordinator of the group. She continues her struggle in recruiting women to the group and serving as a contact person; act in the political and community level and promotes Aswat's visibility.

What are some of the candidates notable accomplishments locally, nationally and/or internationally? Please provide some specific examples, including from the candidates day-to-day work.

Rauda Morcos had accomplished a great deal in her social activism. Her foremost achievement is giving visibility to Palestinian lesbian women. There is no way to describe the enormity of this achievement in a war zone and in between two conservative and oppressive societies. By providing an address to women who otherwise would never dare to talk to anyone about their sexuality, she and her friends changed the lives of Palestinian women in Palestine and Israel .

She has recruited lesbians through the internet, virtual forum and meetings, in spite of the risks of crossing check-points and risking her own life. She created support and discussion groups, empowering women to speak up for their right. She had carried out the administrative work of the group, fund-raising and developing resources. Most of the work has been done with little or no financial rewards.

She has initiated workshops and discussions within the Jewish community, as well as the Palestinian Society. She is thus far, the only Palestinian lesbian who has exposed herself publicly to interviews on television, radio and newspapers. She has appeared before numerous teachers and educators within Palestinian society in Israel . She participated in panel discussions at conferences both academic and social and human rights.

In 2004, she went on a fund raising and advocacy tour to the USA and Europe . Here is a quote illustrating the impact of her tour: "… I am an Arab American lesbian and I had the pleasure of meeting Rauda when she came to NYC… giving a voice to Palestinian queer women.  Her work is awe inspiring and she serves as a trailblazer for Arab and queer communities.  Two minority groups that need people like Rauda to lead the way.” She has constantly created a sense of pride and hope in many people especially amongst Palestinians and Jewish activists for peace and lesbian freedom.

What obstacles has the candidate experienced in promoting human rights, sexual rights, and/or LGBT rights locally, nationally and/or internationally? How has the candidate surmounted them? Please provide some concrete examples.

The obstacles in Morcos' struggle for freedom and liberation are enormous. Arab society, her own village and even some women's organization are oftentimes posing a threat or unwillingness to share in the struggle. The Palestinian community where Rauda grow up has been caught between its own traditions and the attempt of the Israeli state to squash any national inspirations. Fundamentalism is on the raise both among Palestinians Muslim and Israeli Jews. Palestinian lesbians suffer both as women and as lesbians. Many women have to live with their families, and therefore have no privacy and are forced to lead a secret lives and constantly afraid from being discovered.

Thus being outspoken and public, as Morcos has been, attracted violent reactions against her from different directions. After an interview with her was published in one of the major daily newspapers, everyone in her village felt the right to say something to that matter. Some became violent against her; she was attacked physically, received innumerable threatening letters and phone calls and her car was badly smashed. She was unable to continue her job as a teacher and her dedication to her cause began to consume all her time and energies.

The way for Morcos to overcome these obstacles was to dedicate her time to the creation of ASWAT, enlarge and empower the group of Palestinian lesbians and make alliances with other Feminist and peace organizations. An unexpected reaction came from some Palestinian women's organizations that refuse to support and participate in events where Palestinian women would discuss lesbianism openly. Only last month this issue came to the fore during the conference of Women in Black in Jerusalem . The vision of Morcos that connects different oppressions enables her and our communities of lesbians, peace activists and feminists to continue our struggle against homophobia, war and oppression in spite of these difficulties.

What links and lasting coalitions has the candidate established with others in the struggle for human rights, sexual rights, gender and racial equality, and/or social and economic justice? How?

Morcos has been an activist in several organizations for social change and gay rights and peace for a long time. Thus when Aswat was formed she drew on her long standing activism to create and support coalition work between feminist, lesbian and peace organizations as well as other organizations working for social and economic justice. As the only openly lesbian member of Aswat, she had participated and spoke publicly in various occasions such as International Women's day, the International day for the struggle against violence against women, the pride day parade and other protest vigils and rallies on social and peace issues.

In the very complicated militarized middle-east, her ability to make alliances with other organizations and activists working on issues of social justice, sexual freedom and peace make her a leader in our communities. She has made a concrete contribution to the necessary understanding of the connection between oppressions against gay and lesbians, against women and oppression against her own people the Palestinians. Her motto is: ”I am a woman, a lesbian and a Palestinian, and I cannot separate my identities.”

Aswat was adopted from its very first day by Kayan – feminist organization of Palestinian women, and became part of the community of women working together under the Haifa women`s coalition that includes also the Haifa rape crisis center, a hot-line for battered women and the Haifa feminist center- Isha L'Isha. Kayan solidarity was expressed by sharing their space and facilities with Morcos and Aswat. It was not without problems to include a new group of women and to give lesbian visibility within the community of activists. However, this move opened up the place for new members and at same time provided safety and anonymity when necessary. Morcos continues her connections and co-operation with other organization such as Claf – lesbian feminist community, the Open House in Jerusalem , Black Laundry and others.

How would IGLHRCs Felipa Award support and strengthen the candidate's work in the future?

The work carried out by Rauda Morcos puts her on the front line of the struggle for freedom in the Middle East . Thus her life is under constant threat and her work has to be carried out with wisdom and caution. Recently, in the last gay pride day, in Jerusalem , a fundamentalist Jew tried to kill 3 participants with a knife. This illustrates the precarious life of gay people in Israel and in occupied Palestine . Her activism has an enormous effect on both Jewish and Palestinian societies and she has to maneuver carefully between conservative Arab society, and Jewish militarism and nationalism that oppress her people and her life.

Giving her international recognition might help prevent an assortment of fanatics and misogynists from threatening her and obstructing her work Therefore it is so important that Morcos will got this recognition for her work and achievements. It will not only encourage Aswat members, but will also give the protection that Rauda needs to continue her fearless work in Israel and Occupied Palestine. This recognition could be a start of the process of change of people prejudices about lesbianism and sexual rights within the society. This recognition might bring more resources to maintain and develop Morcos work in Aswat, and Aswat members.

She needs any support and recognition from those organizations that are able to recognize and appreciate her unique contribution. Moreover, such recognition will bring a renewed sense of proud. Making visible one of the most taboo subjects in Palestinian society, where gay men are still under death threat, a small group of lesbian with an amazing leadership can indeed make a difference. International recognition and support to Morcos who represents initially small and isolated group in society may strengthen their feeling that they are part of a larger and global supportive movement.

Please include two letters of recommendation/support from individuals or organizational colleagues:

We are mailing via Air-Mail some material such as: DVDs, newspaper clippings, a list of Website links.

Nabila Espanioly / Al-Tufula
Pedagogical & Multipurpose Women’s Center
Nazareth Nurseries Institute
P.O.Box 2404

26 September 2005
Felipa Nominations 2006 – IGLHRC
350 5th Ave., 34th Floor
NY , NY 10118
USA

Dear Board of Directors,

My name is Nabila Espanioly and I am a feminist and women’s human rights activist. I am a Palestinian citizen of Israel and I have been working for years for women’s rights and peace in our region.

I am writing to you today regarding Ms. Rauda Morcous’s nomination for the 2006 Felipa Award.

I met Rauda after she and her colleagues established Aswat. I believe that Rauda was the moving force behind the establishment of the organization. She was the first Palestinian women and Arab women that opened the closet door and not only for herself but for all other women who are not yet able to take control of their life.

Within our community this is not only a brave action but it is a revolutionary one. Rauda has demonstrated an outstanding leadership and opened the doors not only of the closet but doors for “heaven” for all other members of the community.

I firmly believe in the importance of her work and in the need for such an organization. In my many years of activism as a feminist, I was always puzzled with the issue of sexuality in our community. And I was dealing with related subjects at a personal and organizational level which makes the existence of Aswat as a support system for homosexuals a great accomplishment.

Speaking about the issue of sexual choices in our community was a theoretical discourse. The establishment of Aswat made it a reality and gives the legitimization not only to speak about it but also to live it. Only those who know our community as I do could appreciate what Rauda through Aswat is doing.

I would like to highly recommend the Rauda receive the award. This award could open the doors for further development of the issue of sexuality in our community.

If you have any questions or require further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely ,
Nabila Espanioly
Center Director

nomination text WiB Leuven
nomination text ATC
nomination text Haya Shalom and Hannah Safran

door Haifa Women's Coalition
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Terry Greenblatt

The 2006 Felipa Award Letter of Recommendation
September 19, 2005

To Whom It May Concern:
Rauda Morcos

Rauda Morcos is a young Palestinian-Israeli lesbian woman who identified a critical need for a framework in which lesbian/bi/intrasex Palestinian women could both provide each other with the support and community they needed, as well as establish a way in which they could promote, educate and raise consciousness about the intersection of the oppressions they are living with and resisting – as women, as gays and as Palestinians.

The fact that this woman came out of the closet (as the first Palestinian woman to do so in Israel) is a stunning accomplishment in itself. Her willingness to share her story, expose herself in a threatening culture, convene and educate social workers, healthcare providers, teachers, etc. on the issues that concern her and Aswat, deserves recognition and commendation. I have seen her hold space in situations in which she had no allies, neither among Palestinian straight women or among Jewish Israeli lesbians – and her insistence on recognition for the constituency she represents and the complexity of the issues she advocates for, wherever she is, is stunning. She has presented in print and radio interviews, on university campuses, at conferences and homes around the U.S., Europe and Israel – with pride, intelligence and sensitivity.

It would probably be helpful if you knew just a bit about me and how Rauda and I first crossed paths. I have lived for the past 33 year in Israel, and am the former director of the Jerusalem women’s center, Bat Shalom (Israel’s women’s peace and justice organization partnering with a sister organization in Palestine), and have been a founding board member of Kol Ha-Isha Feminist Center, Israeli Women Against Occupation, and the Community School for Women’s Studies and Economic Development. I have been involved in international, regional, bi-national and local peace and justice initiatives for many years.

About 3 years ago a mutual friend introduced me to Rauda and the first five minutes I understood that she was asking me for something – for me to share my experience, contacts, and perspectives so that she would be able to provide responsible and sustainable leadership to a small group of women who were thinking about institutionalizing and expanding the scope of their empowerment group. We spent many many hours together, talking and writing, laughing and crying, and many more hours and days on the phone and email. And eventually, Aswat was born. And I learned as much as I gave – possibly more.

I continue to watch Aswat thrive under Rauda’s leadership. She is a courageous woman, whether she is putting herself out in a world that would prefer she stay inside, or whether she is challenging those who believe themselves to be her ally, yet still need to learn how the world looks from her location. She is a talented poet, moving speaker, and has a sharp and wild sense of humor.

Acknowledgement and appreciation from an international gay and lesbian organization could be awarded to no candidate more deserving than Rauda Morcos.

Terry Greenblatt

nomination text WiB Leuven
nomination text ATC
nomination text Haya Shalom and Hannah Safran

door Haifa Women's Coalition
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4. nominatie tekst door Haifa Women’s Coalition

door Women in Black Leuven
door ATC
door Haya Shalom and Hannah Safran, Israel
door Haifa Women's Coalition
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Rauda Morcos is a remarkable young feminist activist who has succeeded in a short time to bring up the curtains and bring to the stage the Agenda of Palestinian Lesbians. With her charisma, strength and vision she has managed to build a path and create a structure to an active movement that has many supporters and participants. Rauda’s roots are from the traditional Palestinian Society in Israel , yet at the same time her spirit and inspiration are open to voices of women that approach her from everywhere.

She is a reliable woman that has the ability to make real changes in society.

Haifa Women’s Coalition: Ariela Mayer Goldman- General Coordinator
Ruth Gur – Isha Le’Isha
Rulla Deb- Kayan
Ora Adam- Battered Women’s Hotline
Shirly Shoer- Haifa Rape Crisis Center .

Your name, address, phone, fax and email contact information:

Haifa Women’s Coalition :
Isha Le’Isha- Feminist Organization,
Kayan- Feminist Center ,
Haifa Battered Women’s Hotline,
Haifa Rape Crisis Center

118 Arlozorov Street , Haifa ,
Israel 33276
Telephone +972-4-866-9988 Fax +972-4-864-1072
E-mail arimg@bezeqint.net and coalition@haifa-womenscoalition.org
www.haifa-womenscoalition.org

The candidates name, address, phone, fax and email contact information:

Rauda Morcos, Group Co-ordinator, ASWAT co-founder  
ASWAT - Palestinian Gay Women
c/o Kayan-Feminist Organization
118 Arlozorov street
Haifa 33276 Israel
T el: +972 4 866 2357 Fax: +972 4 8641072
E-mail: rauda_morcos@yahoo.com and palgaywomen@yahoo.com

Please answer the following questions. You may use a separate sheet if there is not enough space. Please keep answers relatively brief, to 300 words per question

How has the candidate defended or promoted human rights, sexual rights and/or Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender rights?

Rauda Morcos is a woman who came forward to celebrate her identity as a Palestinian Lesbian. She declared that the Lesbian is an important part of the mosaic of Palestinian culture – a part to be recognized and to be honoured. In her work, Rauda has raised a red flag to 3 important humanist issues – the repression of Palestinians in the Israeli society, the repression of women in the Arabic culture, and the repression of women who identify themselves as Lesbians in Palestinian society. No matter what issue Morcos addresses, she is constantly aware of these three dimensions.  

In 2002 Morcos founded a virtual forum for Palestinian lesbians. This was the first opportunity for Lesbian women to communicate openly with each other in Israel and in the occupied territories. With the success of this virtual forum, Morcos chose to come forward and identify herself publicly to the media.

Morcos founded Aswat, Palestinian Gay Women in January 2003. Aswat offers Palestinian Lesbian women a place to meet, to relate, to communicate, to discuss and share ideas.

What are some of the candidates notable accomplishments locally, nationally and/or internationally? Please provide some specific examples, including from the candidates day-to-day work.

  • Support group meetings - The meetings were held in rotation in Haifa , Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, in order to ease access for women from different parts of the country. One of the striking features of the meetings were the possibility to express one owns thoughts and feelings in Arabic. This allowed us to start developing an alternative, material and symbolic, 'mother tongue', allowing us to express our gender, sexual identity and nationality in a language that usually does not tolerate nor does it consist of positive expressions for female sexuality or lesbianism. The topics discussed in the meetings included: women's sexuality, intimacy (alternative perspectives), identity, lesbian bed death, border lands (metaphorical borders we live in and also the real borders and walls), traumas, abuse, living/wearing many identities and many other issues.
  • Virtual forum – Yahoo groups hosts ASWAT's virtual forum Palgaywomen that consist of over 70 participants.
  • Crisis situations assistance – due to past hate crimes, offensive employing and the potential threat on lives of group members from their community
  • International exposure - ASWAT has gained international exposure as Rauda Morcos participated in conferences, panels and group meetings in the U.S.A, Canada , Spain , Germany and Bulgaria .
  • Educational Project for Service Providers - who work with youth. This activity's target group consists of teachers, counselors, youth group leaders, community centers workers and many others.
  • Media Outreaching - so far, Rauda Morcos in the name of ASWAT gave over interviews in the international and local Media agencies (TV, Radio stations and Newspapers) both in Arabic, English and Hebrew.
  • Establishing ASWAT's Collective and developing group's vision and organizational tools – the collective is a like minded group of people who meet monthly to discuss ideological and pragmatic issues to establish a mandate for their future and their activities.
  • Rauda Morcos was invited to present ASWAT’s unique perspective in six academic conferences in Israeli universities, covering various disciplines and fields of knowledge.

What obstacles has the candidate experienced in promoting human rights, sexual rights, and/or LGBT rights locally, nationally and/or internationally? How has the candidate surmounted them? Please provide some concrete examples.

The big secret of 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 men in her society. Many women in Palestinian society are living their identities and their sexualityin secret. This is a result of the silencing that comes from a patriarchal ociety whose power is dependent upon, in part, the oppression of women and and sexual violence.

Palestinian patriarchal society does not accept, and often aggressively distances itself, from every expression of ‘otherness’. When women dare to identify themselves outside of the traditional and acceptable roles and identities that were have been assigned, they become threatening, and the distancing from the norm and mainstream becomes aggressive, and often violent. Many Palestinian women are survivors of sexual violence which they were first encountered as children. Not only is Palestinian women’s sexuality not acknowledged, it is also erased by the tools that are considered legitimate to use against her – physical, emotional or sexual violence and abuse, incest, and societal norms that restrict exploration and expression of her sexuality. In order for a Palestinian woman to survive in her society, she is forced to collaborate with her oppressor, either by remaining silent and invisible, or by acquiescing to those who are stronger.

Rauda Morcos is the only woman who has gone public and identified herself as an ASWAT member in any activity involving a certain amount of exposure i.e., advocacy & outreach, education etc. The 'closet' is an outcome of a homophobic and patriarchal society. ASWAT is dealing with strong taboos regarding women sexuality and sexual orientation; it was difficult at the beginning to reach out to groups within the Arab community. ASWAT group and members are still facing rejection and silencing of lesbians and lesbianism within the feminist community, the Palestinian community and the Israeli society in general. Homophobic expressions and fear or unwillingness to cooperate with us emphasize the true need for ASWAT both for Palestinian Gay Women and for the purpose of raising awareness and generating social change, slow as it might come. At this time it is still not safe for Aswat members to have an open and public office. They are housed within the Haifa Feminist Coalition. To date they are still receiving threatening phone calls after any media attention.

What links and lasting coalitions has the candidate established with others in the struggle for human rights, sexual rights, gender and racial equality, and/or social and economic justice? How?

Kayan, the Arab Feminist Center , The support of Kayan enabled Aswat to develop its activities and gain public visibility while protecting the anonymity of its members. It was very important to be part of a grassroots Arab Feminist organization. Morcos also established coalitions with the following groups/organizations: Isha L’Isha, Haifa - Feminist Organization, Bat Shalom, Coalition of Women for Peace, Mosawa, Women Against Violence - Nazareth, Al-Tufula Center, Women in Black, Black Laundry, Jerusalem Link, Claf- Community for Lesbian Feminist in Israel , Haifa Women’s Coalition .

How would IGLHRCs Felipa Award support and strengthen the candidate's work in the future?

From a financial perspective, the award would make it possible for Morcos to establish a support hotline and to form a network of first “safe houses” for Palestinian lesbians whose lives are endangered. As well the award would ensure sustainability of her activism as an individual, as a member of Aswat and as a part of a larger movement. The award would provide more of the important recognition to the outstanding work of Morcos to further the rights of Palestinian lesbians in Israel and the Occupied Territories . This award would also strengthen her role as a leader in demanding equality and justice for all women and lesbians and Palestinians.

 
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