Lebanon Is Known as Gay Friendly. But Pride Week Was Shut Down.

BEIRUT, Lebanon — For members of Lebanon’s homosexual neighborhood, Beirut Pride week was meant as a method to have a good time range, combat discrimination and push for extra rights and recognition. But that dream got here crashing down this week when the Lebanese authorities detained the celebration’s organizer, releasing him solely after he promised to cancel the remaining occasions.

The cancellation was a blow to homosexual males, lesbians and transgender folks in Lebanon, who say they face authorized and social discrimination regardless of dwelling in one of the socially liberal international locations within the Arab world.

“Beirut Pride made a lot of people proud of Lebanon,” the organizer, Hadi Damien, stated by telephone on Wednesday, a day after his launch. “And this cancellation made a lot of people sad and disappointed.”

Homosexuality is criminalized throughout the Arab world, though some international locations look the opposite method so long as it stays non-public.

Lebanese legislation stipulates that “any sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature” is punishable by as much as one yr in jail, nevertheless it doesn’t specify which sexual practices are unlawful.

The legislation is enforced irregularly, so Lebanon has developed into one of many Arab world’s most open and lively homosexual communities. Night-life actions pleasant to lesbian, homosexual, bisexual and transgender individuals are simple to seek out, and several other organizations present well being and different companies. The lead singer of the Lebanese rock band Mashrou’ Leila is among the area’s most well-known overtly homosexual entertainers.

But Lebanon can be residence to 18 formally acknowledged non secular sects, lots of which oppose homosexuality on non secular grounds and have associations that marketing campaign towards gay-friendly occasions.

Beirut Pride was meant to be a nine-day sequence of occasions in Beirut, Lebanon’s capital. Among the deliberate occasions had been a storytelling evening, a night of drag performances, a authorized panel and a workshop about sexual well being.

The occasions kicked off on Sunday, however on Monday evening, officers with the safety companies confirmed up on the public studying of a play and advised Mr. Damien to cancel it as a result of he didn’t have “prior censorship approval,” based on a statement posted on the Beirut Pride web site.

Mr. Damien stated in a telephone interview on Wednesday that he had sought the approval, however had been advised it was pointless because the play was “not being performed or staged and no tickets were being sold.”

He agreed to cease the studying however was nonetheless detained in a single day, he stated.

At the police station, Mr. Damien stated, he was proven an inaccurate model of the occasion’s program that advised it included what the authorities thought-about immoral and pornographic content material.

“It wasn’t our program,” he stated. “It was totally incorrect.”

He supplied an correct description of the deliberate occasions, he stated, however was advised that he may both signal a pledge to cancel the remainder of the week’s actions and be launched or refuse to signal, be arrested and have the occasions canceled.

After consulting his lawyer, he stated, he signed the pledge in order to not endanger different members.

“If I did not collaborate then other people would have been arrested instead of me,” he stated.

The Lebanese authorities didn’t remark formally on Mr. Damien’s detention. An official with the nation’s General Security Directorate confirmed that Mr. Damien had been detained in a single day after a grievance was filed with the general public prosecutor’s workplace that the occasions harmed “public morals.”

The official, who spoke on the situation of anonymity as a result of he was not approved to talk to the information media, didn’t say who had filed the grievance apart from referring to “religious figures and associations.”

Mr. Damien’s lawyer, Layal Saqr, stated Mr. Damien had not damaged any legal guidelines by organizing Beirut Pride.

“The kinds of events organized were events that occur regularly in Beirut, and the venues in Beirut are accustomed to hosting them,” Ms. Saqr stated.

Other homosexual activists anxious that Mr. Damien’s arrest would hamper plans for different occasions for the homosexual neighborhood.

“In the future, all the venues that were supposed to welcome these types of events are going to be under scrutiny by authorities,” stated Edwin Nasser, who was current when Mr. Damien was arrested.

This was the second consecutive yr that efforts to arrange homosexual pleasure occasions in Lebanon faltered. In 2017, the opening occasion of homosexual pleasure week was canceled after threats by Islamist teams.

Ben Hubbard contributed reporting from Larnaka, Cyprus.

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