There have been many attempts to address gender and sexual rights in the MENA region, a majority of which have focused on women’s empowerment and gender equality. More recently the rights of LGBTQI people have taken centre stage in development efforts and in the agendas of policy makers. This report highlights some major problems in the frameworks underpinning these efforts, despite their well-meant intentions. In this report, we shed light on the implications of adopting universalist LGBTQI identity categories within international humanitarian and development programming. Furthermore, this report highlights how LGBTQI identity categories often encourage tensions within and between communities, and even within communities of non-normative people, often undermining the space for change and collaboration on the one hand, and inclusivity on the other. This report also highlights the failure of international protection mechanisms to offer adequate support to those displaced due to non-normative sexual practices. The LGBTQI categories in case of applications for asylum is also problematized in this paper, as it has proven to be exclusionary to those at risk of SPGP violence but who do not necessarily identify as LGBTQI. Current international protection mechanisms have also to a great extent contributed to an image of a uniform LGBTQI identity, an identity that fits within stereotypes of non-normative people. Within these identities, there is a lack of tolerance for difference and an implication of uniformity that does not apply to all of the letters of the LGBTQI. Within this report there is also a country overview of the legal situation affecting LGBTQI people across the region. Click Here for the Full Report.
Breaking Taboo through Grassroots Advocacy: Inclusive HIV/AIDS Programming in the MENA Region
The MENA region receives only a fraction of the total global funds directed toward HIV/AIDS projects. This is despite evidence that HIV/AIDS prevalence is rising in the region at much faster rates than anywhere else in the world, particularly among MSM, LGBT and other vulnerable groups such as women and children. This policy brief presents recommendations for HIV/AIDS prevention strategies in the MENA region to be more effective. The full policy brief can be accessed via this link: Inclusive HIV/AIDS Programming in the MENA Region: Policy Brief.
CTDC is delighted to publish the call for papers for its second annual conference, under the title of ‘Politicised Sexualities, Marginalised Histories: A Conference on Sexuality in Southwest Asia and North Africa (SWANA)’. This conference is being collaboratively organised by the Centre for Transnational Development and Collaboration- CTDC and the Centre for Gender Studies at SOAS University of London. The conference will take place on March 25th, 2017 at Khalili Lecture Theatre at SOAS.
The conference will aim to address problems and challenges in relation to sexual rights in the SWANA region in particular, and the Global South in general, through scrutinising sexual identity politics and the historical development of sexual rights discourses. This one-day conference hopes to re-centre histories and presents in relation to sexuality and gender, exploring the transnational and trans-historical politics of sexual identity in the SWANA region, in an attempt to subvert the omnipresent narratives about LGBTQI people and marginalised groups from the SWANA seeking ‘safe havens’ in the Global North. Click here for the full call for papers.
CTDC welcomes submissions by activists, academics and practitioners in the field, individuals belonging to marginalised groups are especially encouraged to submit abstracts. We invite contributors to submit abstracts of no more than 300 words by January 29th 2017. Please send your abstract and your short biography to firstname.lastname@example.org. Following the conference we hope to publish a selection of conference papers in an edited volume.
This conference is being collaboratively organised by the Centre for Transnational Development and Collaboration- CTDC and the Centre for Gender Studies at SOAS.
CTDC, in collaboration with Mawjoudin, has carried out a series of successful workshops on organisational development and strategic thinking. The workshops also focused on sexuality and gender, enabling a lively discussion that was representative of different segments of Tunisian society.
The training offered by CTDC focused in particular on improving strategic thinking and planning. Topics included thinking effectively about long term organisational planning, rethinking sexual rights movements or organisations, working efficiently with one another in an often challenging setting. CTDC also discussed the need to use appropriate terminology when addressing sexual rights given the often-sensitive nature of such an issue.
The workshops were all extremely well received by participants. Attendance was high and the level of engagement was excellent. One of the attendees said that: “This training course has exceeded my expectations in terms of strategic thinking and planning”. Another participant said that: “The trainers were very friendly and capable. They were equipped with the skills to deliver the training in a coherent manner.” We also learnt so much from those who participated, and were grateful for the egalitarian and professional nature of the discussions. This enabled an extremely successful set of workshops for both trainers and trainees.
As such, CTDC would like to express our sincere thanks to all those who attended. We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with such an inspiring group of activists. The atmosphere was collaborative, providing a safe space for everyone involved. Following the workshops, CTDC will continue to support the activists as they work on taking their training forward. We will also be providing mentorship and support for this group in the coming months in order to meet our project objectives. We are particularly pleased with how well the workshops went given the nature of a number of our project goals. Firstly, the workshops embodied a democratic and non-discriminatory quality that we believe ought to enhance the democratic space available to Tunisian activists. The workshops also expanded the capacity of such activists to come together to support one another in their work. The collaboration that was witnessed during the course of the workshops also helps to ensure the likelihood that activist organisations will develop sustainably from the grass roots.
CTDC is incredibly excited to be taking this work forward by fostering a long-term partnership with activists in Tunisia. It is hoped that our collaborative work here will enable long-term improvements in the conditions facing marginalised communities.
Last month, CTDC had the pleasure of working with a number of UCL Global Citizenship Programme Interns. During their time at our offices, they put together a brilliant video outlining the situation facing marginalised sexual communities in the Greater Maghreb. The video also highlights the legal challenges confronting marginalised asylum seekers.
They also supported CTDC’s Regional Advocacy Action Plan (RAP) by putting together a research led funding application that, if successful, ought to significantly support our operational capacity.
Research completed by the UCL Interns unravelled a number of major legal barriers and challenges to sexual rights in the MENA region. In applying this research, they were able to develop a workable advocacy plan that focused on marginalised sexual group rights in the region. Their research considered the important need for grassroots change, adopting key CTDC methodologies.
Antonia Lee commented that her time with CTDC had been an “invaluable opportunity. The fact that CTDC as an organisation exists is amazing, and your approach to advocacy really has allowed me to see beyond the disillusionment surrounding academia and NGOs. There is hope.”
Statement on the Mass Shooting of LGBTQ Persons in Orlando
We are all incredibly shocked and saddened by the recent death of 49 LGBTQ people at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. We would like to extend our grief to all those affected. We stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community, as well as the friends and families of those killed and injured.
At CTDC, we would also like to stand in solidarity with LGBTQ Persons of Colour who were overwhelmingly the victims of Saturday night’s massacre. When responding to this tragedy we must remember the diverse and intersecting qualities of the queer community both in Orlando and around the world. This event is a reminder of the major challenges that still exist, from gender binaries to racism – and these should not be ignored.
The challenge for all of us then is to respond to this event in a way that emboldens the shared values and beliefs of the LGBTQ movement around the world. We believe that we should not give in to hate or prejudice when apportioning blame. Doing so undermines the values of non-discrimination and peace, which sit at the foundations of the LGBTQ movement. We believe that criminalising the Muslim community is not the appropriate response to this incident. It is not only destructive, but also undermines the daily struggle of LGBTQ people due to homophobia. We should not single out a whole nation or community and/or hold them accountable for this incident.
As such, CTDC denounces attempts in the press and online media to co-opt this tragedy into a narrative of war, conflict and terror. The systems of prejudice and oppression that shape the lives of LGBTQ people around the world are complex and intersecting, and should not be simplified into narratives of ‘us versus them’. We call for a more nuanced discussion in the media’s response to this tragedy that reflects the alterity of different communities and faiths in positive and progressive ways. We are concerned that a more simplified debate may sustain a process of ‘othering’ – this can be seen in certain responses that have sought to frame Saturday’s shooting as an ‘attack on Western values’. This does a disservice to the millions of queer peoples who are bravely fighting for their rights around the world, and ignores the still deep-rooted systems of oppression and prejudice that find a home ‘in the West’. More significantly, we are concerned by certain attempts in the media to overlook the anti-LGBTQ sentiments that motivated this attack. Certain reports have instead framed the shootings as the product of an East-West culture clash, resulting in a universalising narrative that does little to help challenge the diverse motivations behind anti-LGBTQ sentiments. Moreover, we believe that such a narrative will inevitably inspire further anti-Islamic sentiments, and justify a false perception that it is impossible to be Queer in ‘the Muslim world’. Our work with queer rights groups in the MENA region has revealed how problematic such universalised narratives can be, and we will continue to challenge them now and well into the future.
The shooting is a stark reminder that homophobia and hate have not vanished from queer lives around the world. Attempts to ignore this point in the press do harm to the politics of the LGBTQ movement. In order for a truly diverse and inclusive world to exist, we must look to the root cause of hate. Systems of oppression, like those that rely on anti-Islamic as well as anti-LGBTQ sentiments, are interrelated. They generate systems of violent patriarchy, gender binaries and religious extremism that are not unique to any one part of the world but are indeed global in their reach. The struggle for greater equality, non-discrimination and non-violence is a struggle to break down these structures. This cannot be imposed, but through collaboration and conversation can we begin to imagine a world where such violence is non-existent.
The CTDC Team
CTDC is delighted to announce the launch of its Gender and Sexuality program in the MENA region, with its first project under the title of LGBTQ Regional Advocacy Action Plan (RAP) in the MENA Region. In partnership with Cecilia Karlstedt Consulting, CTDC is organising two workshops in Turkey for LGBTQ rights activists to come together and discuss a way forward for advocacy. The project is being carried out with financial support from the Swedish Institute. The project will take place over a period of 18 months, during which there will be an initial workshop to come up with a regional action plan, followed by a period of remote consulting advice to participating LGBTQ rights activists and organisations in their advocacy work provided by CTDC, and finally there will be a final workshop to discuss advocacy work following a year of implementation of the joint regional advocacy plan (RAP).
The first workshop is intended to take place between 17 and 21 November 2016 in Turkey.
The second workshop is intended to take place between 16 and 20 November 2017 in Turkey. The same persons will be selected for both workshops.
CTDC is currently seeking statements of interest from LGBTQ activists, individuals and organisations from Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Tunisia, Lebanon and Syria. We are disheartened that we cannot include more countries in this call for participation, as places are limited to twenty participants, but we are hoping that this will be a pilot project that will lead to a larger MENA-region wide program. If you are interested, please submit a statement of interest to email@example.com. The deadline for applications is August 1, 2016.
On March 8, 2016, CTDC directors, Dr Nof Nasser Eddin and Dr Nour Abu Assab, will be speaking at Warwick University Community Speakers Series about Women and the Global Refugee Crisis, focusing on refugee women’s experiences in transit countries and in the UK following their resettlement. The talk will draw from CTDC research findings on the refugees and will attempt to shift the attention from the so-called refugee crisis to women’s experiences of refuge.
By Sulaiman Osman
Hikayetna, meaning ‘our story’ in Arabic, is a new art project that brings people together to talk about the human side of Syrian society. For decades, freedom of expression has been absent from our society, but with our words and our stories we can become united, and feel our humanity, to turn fear into hope.
Hikayetna is a non-political and independent initiative that encourages, develops and aids communities in need while promoting tolerance, love, humanity and cultural values. This initiative is about finding common grounds and interests between people, it neither promotes political agendas nor religious ones. Our aim is to put forward personal stories and life experiences to build a bridge of love and humanity.
Through this blog, we hope to spread Syrians’ thoughts, words, and feelings, especially Syrians living in refugee camps. We aim to make their voice heard by different audiences around the world, who would have never had the chance to hear those stories otherwise. All of our stories will encourage building bridges from one heart to another, in order to deliver our voice to the world. We would like to help young people express themselves through poetry, photographs, stories and music. We see writing as great means for people to express their emotions and feelings through storytelling.
The goal of this project is to motivate young people to write and create stories by equipping them with practical trainings. We are therefore inviting young Syrians to help us create and share their stories, focusing on culture, arts, and music. Moreover, this project is a way to encourage young people to learn, socialise, and participate in building civil life and be active actors in it.
All of us share common hopes, fears and feelings, and we live by dreaming and hoping for a better tomorrow. As humanity in our country is destroyed, we are constantly looking for stories of hope to give us optimism, and looking to work together to build our country, promote dialogue and discussion, uphold community values and support community groups and young people through partnership and outreach. In addition, Hikayetna aims to be a hub for stories about the real Syrian lives. Finally, we strive to continually grow and attract diverse audience using different media platforms, including organising events and online workshops.
We hope this project will be a voice for all Syrians, regardless of their views, religion or background. We aim to break the media’s negative images about Syria and to show a beautiful picture of Syria and Syrians.
Following the conference held on December 11, 2015, in collaboration with the Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance at the Open University, CTDC has made sessions from the conference available to the public via its YouTube Channel. The videos can be used as open source references, and as educational material accessible to those interested in the topic. In addition to the videos of the conference sessions, Dr Nof Nasser-Eddin and Dr Nour Abu-Assab have answered questions during an interview about CTDC’s research findings on the Syrian Refugees in Turkey, and their conceptualisation of gender and sexuality.
The videos are available below and via our YouTube Channel.