INTERVIEW: Queer Arab Barty

Ahead of their second party at ACUD, we interviewed the amazing collective focusing on making space for queer Arabs in the Berlin nightlife and art scene.

After having thrown a successful first party at be’kech during the Pride week, Queer Arab Barty is ready for its second edition this Saturday, October 12, at ACUD MACHT NEU in Berlin. Scroll down to read more about the concept behind the new project!

QUEER ARAB BARTY with DJ FarFar, DJ Sherryaeri, DJ XANAX ATTAX, and DJ ADI – check the Facebook event here!

 

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What lead you to starting Queer Arab Barty?

Originally the members of our collective formed by brainstorming together on how to foster more accessibility and positive representation for queer Arabs during CSD in the summer, but we very quickly realised the importance of creating our own spaces rather than attempting to take up space in such a commercial and mainstream event. We noticed around us that a lot of social and public environments that claimed to offer representation to queer Arabs were organised by white Germans – with very little queer Arab involvement reflected in the organisational teams of these parties, spaces and actions – and so we felt the need to do it ourselves.

 

Do you feel like Arab voices get enough platform in QTBIPOC spaces?

This is a complex question, and the answer is yes and no. A lot of Arabs have issues with visibility and so it is not always about whether we are provided with space and whether we choose to take it, but more about how we as a community can take space. But of course the continued use of homogenising terms like ‘Middle Eastern’ shows that there’s an ongoing process of exclusion where people from diverse regions are mashed together in an individual chunk that erases the need for particular visibility. This applies generally to QTIBIPOC spaces, where anti-blackness and Islamophobia are rarely critically and effectively addressed.

Another thing is to consider is how we as QTIBIPOC communities speak on issues, which are usually not made easily accessible to Arab communities. It’s amazing to see such a driven constellation of movements, but the classism and eurocentrism of these spaces is an issue that’s rarely addressed – do Arabs that identify as LGBTQIA+ also know and identify with being ‘QTIBIPOC?’ Not always…

 

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Most bodies are subjected to sexualization on the dancefloor, and for non-white folks it often involves either fetishization or discrimination/violence. How can this be prevented? Your aim is to create a safer space at your parties – what is your vision of that?

It’s important to say here that fetishization is just another form of discrimination and violence and not separate to it. Sadly fetishization is a very core part of spaces, whether parties or non-parties, when it comes to Arabs because of the images that are created of us – as Arabs, our bodies are always highlighted and perceived in regard to their sexual capacity. This is how people envision us. These images are not made by us, however they are used to the benefit of people who occasionally tap into their stereotypes in without critically engaging with them. We have to educate ourselves and our communities on overcoming this, rather than fighting each other on this. Organising together as a way to provoke change and create discussion on a social and discursive level is very important, in all types of spaces. It doesn’t have to start with a lecture or a ceremonial display, but rather an intention to create safer and inclusive space.

It’s also important that the audience of our parties know that we are individuals with our own struggles and the level of expectations of us to realise our visions should reflect that. We are trying to create a safer space, but we also would not want to be considered a canon of the Arab queer discourse in Berlin – it is too much pressure and it objectifies what it is we are trying to do.

Finally, one of the important things about emphasising on the safer space aspect is that a space can never truly be safe, only aspire for better safety. A bigger part of our party is recognising this and not trying to reach for a perfected and marketized idea of what a ‘safe space’ is – not trying to tap into intersectionality as a commercial thing for our own advancement, but creating an environment where we are freer of the very oppressive mechanisms in society that make us as queer Arabs feel uncomfortable.

 

How can non-Arab people show support and be respectful – at your party and in everyday life?

[LAUGHTER]

By knowing the space and entering knowing who they are and the position in which they place themselves in relation to others. It’s about how our space is consumed. A lot of people who come to these spaces – as white people and specifically characteristic archetypes like ‘the Arab chaser’ – claim that they are enjoying our ‘culture’ and sharing whatever culture they bring, however they’re scanning the room thinking about who they’re going to sleep with. They’re not really thinking about how they are objectifying our bodies, sexualising us hegemonically etc.

There is of course an obvious difference between appropriation and appreciation and one of the ways of staying aware of this is by remembering that we are not your cultural adventure. We appreciate allyship and we understand that most people come with good intentions, but you should not expect a reward for this.

 

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Apart from your party at ACUD, what else are you planning?

We have a lot in the works that will be released in due time, focusing on drawing attention to the internal differences that are pertinent in our communities that can be resolved through conversation. We’ll be focusing on call-ins rather than call-outs, the latter of which can be such a toxic practice and definitely not our end goal. We want to cultivate knowledge and experience through each other, share information and awareness and ultimately recognise how to communicate in a way that does not subscribe to ‘cancel culture’ which, as communities of colour, can destroy us from within.

We intend to destroy hierarchies, not create and perpetuate them.

 

There is an ongoing uprise of islamophobia, especially in Germany, so starting a collective like this is a very brave and bold (and necessary) move. Do you have ways to check in with yourself and recover after putting your energy into such activism?

Ok, this question has some obvious merit and good intention, but its assumptious to think that there is no Islamophobia in our own community – there are queer Arab Muslims who are practicing, and there are queer Arabs who are atheists or whom belong to other religions. Islamophobia is not only an external force and there needs to be a more intersectional perspective of what we are doing here. At the end of the day, the Arab world is twenty-two countries with a different set of beliefs. Additionally, Islamophobia has always been present. There is not an ‘uprise’, people are just becoming more aware of the struggles facing Muslim communities.

But in regard to the latter, our recovery is our success. Our first party was great, this is why we are doing a second one. That is the extent of our experience.

 

Are there any other collectives whose work you would like to highlight?

Pride of Arabia – LDN
Yalla Party – NYC
House of Living Colors – BLN
CuTie BIPoC Festival
GLADT e.V
Decolonising Design – BLN

 

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Queer Arab Barty: Facebook, Instagram
Interview transcript: Erkan Affan
Text: Anna Wim

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