Freedom of Expression

Ahwaa

Ahwaa

Serving the Arab LGBT community.

A unique discussion tool

Launched in 2011, Ahwaa is an open discussion platform for Arab LGBT individuals that uses game mechanics to protect and engage its community.

Ahwaa is very tight community where users create a pseudonym and a custom cartoon avatar upon signup to participate in the platform. They unlock features of the site by making contributions to the platform that are judged positive and helpful by their peers.

Trustworthy users are rewarded with the ability to create chatrooms, send private messages, and more. This functionality likewise insulates Ahwaa’s inner sanctum from those who’d seek to harm its users, creating a community-powered defense system.

Our Purpose

In the Arab world, we live in countries where LGBT individuals are severely underrepresented as a community and face not only systematic oppression, but also discrimination, marginalization, and persecution. The region lacked a common platform through which LGBT youth could connect in a highly engaging environment to share their thoughts, fears, and concerns regarding their sexuality and identity.

LGBT youth felt increasingly isolated, distant, and depressed. To escape this loneliness, we placed ourselves at risk by resorting to unsecure tools to communicate with each other. With so many young LGBT people across the Middle East and North Africa region embracing the web, we saw an opportunity to create an interactive platform that connected this community in an anonymous and supportive space.

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Gamification

Each user is associated with a number of points that indicate their level of participation and supportiveness. By earning more points with their helpful comments, they get more perks in Ahwaa, this include being able to create their own chatrooms and accessing different parts of the website reserved for trusted members of the community who have been voted as most supportive by other users.

Safety First

Trustworthiness lies at the heart of Ahwaa and its relationship with users. In order to build a safe space for the LGBT communities served by the platform, Ahwaa implements data encryption, filters users by helpfulness, and stresses the importance of security guidelines regarding the sharing of personal information that could compromise the safety of its users.

Ahwaa is now the largest LGBT community site in the Arab world with

registered users, and growing every day...

Expansion

Ahwaa is in the process of being localized to serve other LGBT communities worldwide. It has launched in Bulgaria with the support of a local LGBT organization.

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Impact

As a result of discussions on the platform, dozens of meetups and in-person support groups formed across the region, anywhere from Egypt to Bahrain.

Weekly testimonials from users express their appreciation for this space. The following is a recent example of one such message:

Ahwaa introduced me to a community I thought didn’t exist. It helped me recognize my internalized homophobia and then helped me overcome it. Never have I spoken there and not been understood. In our conservative society it’s nice to know that we’re not alone and Ahwaa’s supportive community has helped me more than I ever thought.

— Edel, an Ahwaa user in the UAE.

LGBTQ organizations across the region use Ahwaa in order to reach their target audiences more securely and efficiently. In turn, users have access to comprehensive educational resources regarding health, social, and legal issues from a regional perspective.

Local movements that began on Ahwaa have enabled users to connect for protests, media campaigns against homophobia, strategies on how to communicate with religious leaders, and much more.

Journalists have used the site to find local LGBTQ individuals to interview and share their stories.

Non-members of the community, often siblings of LGBTQ individuals, come to the site to learn about other people’s similar situations and identities.

Many have said the site helped them better understand the experiences of their loved ones, which challenges homophobic propaganda that has become prevalent in local media.

Support Ahwaa!

Help us sustain the largest LGBT community site in the Arab world.

Visit ahwaa.org