Today, we’re featuring a young French organization, Sawti
(“my voice”), that was founded on December 30th, 2016. It aims to
give visibility to Mediterranean and/or Arab lesbian/bi/queer women, and is dedicated
to inclusivity, featuring cis, trans, and GNC women. Every day or so, they
showcase a new person or organization on their Instagram feed, as
well as on their Facebook page,
and they’re planning on releasing a few interviews soon, so make sure you
follow them on social media! In the meantime, here’s our interview with Eliz,
the founder of Sawti.
Can you introduce
yourselves? Who are you, how do you define yourselves?
Sawti was founded by Eliz
M. She was then joined by Rim,
a Moroccan journalist, and Alicia, a visual artist.
The three of us are lesbian and bi women based in Paris; we all come from
Mediterranean and/or Arab countries.
Why found Sawti? How did
you get the idea?
Sawti was the result of a long interior thought process. I’d
been feeling frustrated and misunderstood for a long time because the feminist
groups I knew about didn’t suit me, they didn’t understand my own questions and
my personal experience that’s been marked by intolerance and incomprehension.
To have to put up with your family, all the people around you, to be unable to
emancipate yourself like you’d want to – those things can happen in France, but
they happen almost systematically when you’re of Arab/Mediterranean origin or
when you’re Muslim today. The lack of visibility, the fact that I was told one
day that homosexuality didn’t exist in the East the way it did in the West
because the West was evil… – those were the things that drove me to start Sawti.
When Rim and Alicia joined me, I didn’t even have to explain the project to
them. Goes to show how our experiences are both shared and singular.
In the imagination of
the people who live all around this sea, the Mediterranean is a space of
exchanges and sharing, but also of divisions and conflicts. What does
“Mediterranean” mean for you?
The Mediterranean sea gave us Greek and Latin, math,
science, and monotheist religions. It gave us Europeans the foundational myths
of our modern societies. It has inspired the entire world. The Roman Empire and
Alexander the Great conquered Europe and the East; they’ve inspired future
emperors and despots in this world. World peace hangs by a thread, and this
thread goes all the way back to the Mediterranean. If tolerance and peace
reigned there today, can you imagine how it would resonate around the world?
According to you,
what are the challenges that Mediterranean/Arab lesbian, bi, and queer women
are currently facing?
Being a woman is difficult enough already – to have to affirm
your rights, your name, your body, you owning yourself – and on that level, all
borders are porous. Arab and Mediterranean countries are definitely not the
most sexist in the world, but they are among some of the most unstable nations.
Human rights are violated on a daily basis there, and the first targets are the
most vulnerable, among which are women. To be a woman and something else – be
it queer or a religious minority or disabled or poor – means you’re an obvious
target for the steamroller of our patriarchal, heteronormative, white
Do you have projects
in parallel of Sawti?
Sawti was conceived by artists, so we all have our artistic
jobs and careers, with Sawti on the side.
What are the queer
organizations, people, or events that you’d like our readers to know about?
In France, the
Lesbotruck organization needs your support: these young women are doing
everything to maintain the only lesbian+ truck in the Paris Gay Pride. You’ve
also got the FièrEs organization, a
feminist and lesbian organization – it’s French, but it was founded by women
who are very open, dynamic, and educated. There’s also the SHAMS organization, that’s dedicated
to the rights of LGBT+ people from the Maghreb area. More generally, give your
support to all the organizations that give a voice and visibility to those who
have neither of these things, who are erased, made invisible or transparent.