The LGBTQ Project at Za’atar is a social initiative that takes steps to extend supportive provisions to the LGBTQ refugee population. Most LGBTQ refugees come from countries where being gay is considered a crime. Upon reaching Europe these refugees are forced to live in overcrowded camps and shelters with fellow nationals where harassment and bullying is common.
Za’atar’s mission is to provide this vulnerable group with much needed support.
A mentoring program facilitated by volunteers who speak Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Kurdish, French and English, and identify as LGBTQ themselves, guide and teach refugees and vulnerable individuals about LGBTQ rights, and connect them with appropriate resources. It is important that the broader refugee community is educated on LGBTQ rights to establish long-term cultural integration for all of its members.
Za’atar additionally seeks to help LGBTQ refugees establish community groups so that they can meet others facing the same issues and form friendships. A dedicated effort is made to reach out to refugees in camps and informal settlements, making sure our services, contact number and Facebook group is known and accessible. Za’atar is a declared LGBTQ friendly non-profit organization, only accepting volunteers that are also LGBTQ friendly. These initiatives offer the education and resources to encourage and support the cultural integration of vulnerable refugees.
an in depth look: our priorities at the orange house
As proud LGBTQIA + allies, we make sure to inform refugees and migrants coming to access our services that this is legal to be LGBTQI in Europe, that they should not be bullied and that laws exist to protect them. We moreover work with our non-LGBTQIA beneficiaries so that they respect them as well.
Our lawyer and psychologist are also present to accompany and guide LGBTQ+ refugees and migrants. The ATLAS phone line and Facebook group keep attracting more and more people seeking a safe place to be heard and supported.
Twice a year, Za’atar organizes workshops directed to humanitarian workers on LGBTQIA+ issues. Those consist in explaining what it means to be LGBTQIA+, the vocabulary to use for interpreters as well as presenting concrete cases to practice those newly acquired advice and knowledge.
What are the unconscious biases we might have as volunteers towards LGBTQ+ asylum-seekers? What is at stake — psychologically, politically, sociologically — when we want to support queer refugees? How can we provide assistance to LGBTQ+ refugees without causing further damage, shame, or ignorance?
Those are all the questions addressed by Tony Haouam, ATLAS facilitator, during the workshops, which aim at reflecting on the ways of creating an LGBTQI+-friendly team and space within organizations.