A long-established group for gay, lesbian, trans and bisexual Palestinians in Jerusalem has decided to become independent.

Al-Qaws began life six years ago as a project of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH).

In branching out on its own it becomes the first-ever official Palestinian gay organisation. In November Al-Qaws received nonprofit organisation status and was renamed Al-Qaws – for Sexual Gender Diversity in the Palestinian Society.

“During the six years of its existence, Al-Qaws has undergone an all-embracing organisational process of development,” said a spokesperson.

“What started as a local professional-oriented project has grown into a national community and grassroots organisation, with activist leadership.

“This major development has been made possible thanks to the leadership group’s determined investment, the deep commitment of Al-Qaws activists and the autonomous space provided to Al-Qaws within the JOH, enabling Al-Qaws to address the needs of the Palestinian LGBTQ community.”

Haneen Maikey, Al-Qaws director, said:

“This change is incredibly exciting. This new phase presents new opportunities with promises of growth through self-definition for Palestinian LGBTQs.”

The JOH will continue to host Al-Qaws in its new community centre in downtown Jerusalem.

The two organisations said they are committed to exploring wider fields of cooperation in the future towards the advancement of common goals.

Noa Sattath, JOH executive director, said: “The Palestinian LGBTQ community is fortunate to have such strong and capable leaders.

“We look forward to working together with the leadership of Al-Qaws for a better future for all our community members.”