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The Queer Arabs

Author: Alia, Ellie, Ahmed, Nadia and Adam

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Some queer Arabs run a podcast together!
146 Episodes
Amrou Al-Kadhi is an Iraqi-British writer, performer and filmmaker based in the UK who is redefining what it means to create mainstream entertainment.  In this episode, we talk about drag as an expression of culture and gateway into writing, navigating the US and UK entertainment industries, their book Life as a Unicorn, writing the finale of Little America, and more! Insta: @glamrou Twitter: @glamrou
We had a wonderful conversation with Amuna, an activist and entrepreneur in the UAE.  Amuna is a Queer Black Arab woman who founded the Black Arabs Collective, a space for sharing stories and amplifying voices of Black Arabs.  We discussed how racism in the SWANA region is pervasive and underacknowledged.  We also talked about Amuna’s experience as a queer woman in Dubai who grew up in a religious family.  You’ll catch a bit of the call to prayer from the mosque next door to Amuna as we have a beautiful, gay conversation on this episode. (We also chatted about Tinder,…Continue ReadingEpisode 123 [in English]: Amuna
Hosted by National Queer Theater & Dixon Place, and moderated by Sivan Battat, a panel with activists from across the Middle East and North Africa region discussed Transgender and Transnational Activism. What does queer and transgender activism look like in this region? In conversation around Amahl Khouri’s documentary play She He Me, following the true stories of three Arab characters who challenge gender norms, the panel explored queer experience in the region, activism on the ground, and how the Middle Eastern and North African Diaspora can support this work. The panel features Amahl Khouri, Hashem Hashem, and Pooya Mohseni.  Please…Continue ReadingEpisode 122 [in English]: Creative Conversations: Queer transnational activism in the Middle East
On June 13, 2020, Dixon Place & National Queer Theater presented, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and NYC Pride: Creative Conversations: The Syrian Civil War and LGBTQ Communities The panel featured Omer Abbas Salem, Bitta Mostofi, Danny Ramadan, and Noor Hamdi. This panel, moderated by Festival Dramaturg Adam Ashraf Elsayigh, explored the experiences of LGBTQ people and trends in LGBTQ rights in Syria, before and during the country’s unrest. Featuring playwright Omar Abbas Salem and actor Noor Hamdi, as well as activists from Syria and the MENA region, some of the themes discussed included queer and…Continue ReadingEpisode 121 [in English]: Creative Conversations: The Syrian Civil War and LGBTQ Communities
NYC-based dancer Mark Balahadia joins us to talk about his study of various SWANA dance styles and what led him to become well known particularly among Iraqi and Saudi crowds.  He also explains how he ended up learning khaleeji Arabic, his experience performing for royalty, and more.  Check out his YouTube channel here! Follow Mark on IG @balahadiamark
NYC-based playwright and theater maker Daaimah Mubashshir joined us to talk about her new play “Room Enough (For Us All),” writing at the intersection of queer, Black, and Muslim identities, confronting racism both within theater and US Muslim spaces, and more. Daaimah brought up her personal experience of reconciling queer and Muslim identities, as well the many ways that connection to religion can look like. We further discussed how Arab and SWANA anti-blackness manifests in Muslim spaces, including queer-centric ones.  Our conversation also included the impact of racial discrimination and abuse in theater increasingly coming to the surface, and Daaimah’s…Continue ReadingEpisode 119 [in English]: Daaimah Mubashshir
We were thrilled to talk with Laith Nakli, who you might know as Uncle Naseem on the show Ramy on Hulu!  He discussed the challenges breaking into the industry, pushing beyond “terrorist” typecast roles, and using his position to shift representations of Arabs and Muslims on screen. Laith also recounted his pre-acting pursuits as a bodybuilder (winning the title of Mr. Syria) and running a candle shop. [Spoiler alert] The episode also includes discussion of Ramy Season 2, the issues of race, gender, and sexuality addressed within it, and the range of audience reactions–so we strongly recommend watching that first!…Continue ReadingEpisode 118 [in English]: Laith Nakli
CW: Suicide, self harm, queer killing, queer death, honor killing, sexual abuse, rape, firearms. On the June 14, 2020, LGBTQ and human rights advocate Sarah Hegazi took her own life. Sarah first came under the public eye following the notorious September 2017 Mashrou’ Leila concert where Sarah, alongside two friends, waved a rainbow flag. Despite the shadow of a state that actively quelled all sexual freedom, for that moment Sarah was unabashed in her identity as a queer woman. In the months following, the Egyptian state executed a mass witch-hunt of hundreds of queer youth with the aid of the…Continue ReadingEpisode 117 [in English]: R.I.P. Sarah Hegazi
Zaina Arafat is a journalist, fiction writer and teacher based in New York City.  We talked to Zaina about her new novel You Exist Too Much, which was released on June 9!  The novel centers a queer Palestinian American character who grapples with the effects of inherited trauma, her position within in-between spaces that come with being part of the diaspora, and her sexual identity. Our conversation touches on the importance of the “messy” character (versus unrealistically aspirational) when bringing representation to any form of media.  We also discuss Zaina’s teaching and other writing she has done. You can order…Continue ReadingEpisode 116 [in English]: You Exist Too Much
[Content warning: Instances of state violence in Egypt; general references to familial violence/abuse; general references to instances of suicide] —- Tarek Mohamed is an Egyptian feminist and queer activist, scholar and writer.  He is working on his PhD in Anthropology, and is based between Egypt and the United States.  During this episode, Tarek discussed how his activism grew from personal to public, highlighting 2010 as a year when many people in Egypt started to feel safe mobilizing visibly. He also highlighted how leftist spaces, when led by cis herero men, are wrought with homophobia and misogyny. Tarek explores intersectionalities that…Continue ReadingEpisode 115 [in English]: Tarek Mohamed
This is part 2 of a 2-part episode; check out part 1 also released on June 5. Composer Nebal Maysaud discussed the ingrained racism within the classical and new music world.  We also continued our conversation about artists’ panels that just so happen to be all, or mostly, white, even when the topic is literally about diversity and inclusion. Subscribe to Nebal’s Patreon: Visit Nebal’s website here: Read Nebal’s article: Listen to Nebal’s piece: Decolonized Arabesques Follow them at:
Composer Nebal Maysaud joined us to talk about the ingrained racism within the classical and new music world.  We also talked about (white) panels that profess to be about diversity and inclusion.  Maybe that should be demonstrated by being inclusive and diverse within the panel itself, but what do we know? Subscribe to Nebal’s Patreon: Visit Nebal’s website here: Read Nebal’s article: Listen to Nebal’s piece: Decolonized Arabesques Follow them at: —- As referenced in the intro of this episode in light of what is happening this week:
We spoke to Karam, communication officer of Mawjoudin.  We talked about the work the organization does in Tunisia, the increased visibility of Tunisia in recent years surrounding queer activism, the importance of not relying solely on western media to gain understanding of in-country issues faced by the LGBTQI+ community, and more. From Karam: “WHO ARE WE? MAWJOUDIN WE EXIST is an officially registered not-for-profit NGO that is based in Tunisia, and works towards achieving equality, human rights, bodily rights and sexual rights for the LGBTQI+ community and other marginalized groups and individuals through advocacy, documentation, capacity building, awareness-raising, safe spaces and…Continue ReadingEpisode 113 [in English]: Mawjoudin (We Exist)
Bita Bell is an international multimedia artist-activist working in contemporary dance, music, and film. Born in Iran and educated in Hong Kong and the United States, she creates audio-visual performative experiences that question contemporary issues. Just prior to the current lockdown, she was choreographing for the Russian feminist punk band PussyRiot’s US tour. Bita joined us for a wonderful conversation on engaging audiences through interactive performance, maintaining mental health and creativity in quarantine, and what it means to belong to many places and none. Check out more of her work at
Lisa Luxx is a queer poet, essayist and activist of mixed British Syrian heritage. Published in journals, newspapers and anthologies internationally including with publishers such as Hatchette and SAQI. Her work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4, VICE TV and TEDx. Luxx was winner of Out-Spoken Prize for Performance Poetry and nominee for the Arts Foundation Fellowship in Poetry. Founder and host of The Sisterhood Salons, a feminist literary gathering. She splits her time between the English countryside and the city of Beirut. We were so excited to have her on the podcast to discuss and read some of…Continue ReadingEpisode 111 [in English]: Lisa Luxx!
Wake Island duo Phil Manasseh and Nadim Maghzal joined The Queer Arabs to discuss the new music video for their track “Last Ruins,” featured exclusively on Cold Cuts Magazine! We talked about the significance of pop music and the ability of artists to use the genre to push boundaries, the thought processes that led to the making of this music video, Wake Island’s original development of the track, and more. Video produced by Cold Cuts Magazine Directed by Mohamad Abdouni Art Direction by Roula Salibi Edited by Krystel AK SFX: Jad Taleb Starring Anya Kneez and George Torbey Special thanks…Continue ReadingEpisode 110 [in English]: Last Ruins
Episode 27 in Arabic: Haneen Maikey and Omar Al Khatib from AlQaws! الحلقة 27 بالعربية: حنين معيكي وعمر الخطيب من القوس! Photos from the last Hawamesh events in Jerusalem and Haifa This week, Adam had a conversation with Haneen Maikey and Omar Al Khatib from AlQaws for Sexual and Gender Diversity within Palestinian Society. We talked about the history of Al-Qaws as an organization, the unique challenges of working in the Palestinian context under occupation, the phenomenon of pinkwashing, and the recent governmental backlash against LGBTQ communities in Palestine. You can learn more about Al-Qaws or seek their services through…Continue ReadingEpisode 27 [in Arabic]: AlQaws!
We talked to Rainbow Street Co-Founder & Executive Director Kevin Steen! Rainbow Street is an international protection organization for LGBTQ people in the Middle East and North Africa.  It partners with local organizers to provide shelter and other resources for queer people in need.  During this episode, we discussed what led to the founding of this organization, the roles of Rainbow Street in its various locations, what the word “activist” can mean, and more.  Check out the website here!
We were thrilled to be joined by Haneen Maikey and Izzy Mustafa from alQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society! We discussed building a politically queer grassroots movement in Palestine, connecting to queer Palestinians in diaspora, confronting Pinkwashing (a tactic of normalizing Israeli hegemony through images of queer-friendliness) both internationally and within Palestinian society, and the place of artistic expression in this movement. Be sure to check out alQaws’s website to learn more about their history and ongoing projects. Stay tuned for another episode with alQaws in Arabic, coming soon!
Rolla Selbak is a Palestinian-American filmmaker, writer, and director whose work has pushed boundaries of representation for Arab, Muslim, and queer characters. Our delightful discussion included the unexpected beginnings of her film career, navigating pushback and censorship, building empathy through storytelling, and the importance of trash TV.  Heads Up: Her latest project, CHOKE–about a rising MMA star hiding her refugee status and sexuality in a South Carolina town–is available for free streaming online! Also stay tuned for her upcoming film Finjan!  Content Warning: discussion of film plots includes suicide
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