Beirut gay pride week canceled after organizer detained

The organizer says authorities would only release him once he signed a pledge to call off the rest of the week's events. Lebanon last year became the first Arab country to hold a gay pride week.

Lebanon's gay pride week was canceled a couple of days into the event after its organizer was detained by the authorities, he and his lawyer said.

Society | 05.04.2018

Hadi Damien, the organizer of Beirut Pride week, said security services picked him up late on Tuesday from a public reading of a theater play and took him to a police station for interrogation.

Damien was released only after he signed a pledge to cancel the festival's remaining events.

Read more: Going naked against homophobia

There was no immediate comment from the police or the Interior Ministry.

Lebanon last year became the first Arab country to hold a gay pride week despite threats of violence from Islamist groups. Homosexuality is illegal in most countries in the region and punishable under a number of laws.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Lebanon have enjoyed a margin of freedom but they are still discriminated against by the state and society.

Read more: A gay imam, fighting for tolerance

Breaking gender stereotypes

This year's pride week began on May 12 and was due to run until May 20. The events included a street party, a drag show, legal workshops, concerts and poetry readings — all aimed at breaking gender stereotypes. The celebrations opened with an event for parents who openly support their children's sexual orientation.

Damien's lawyer Layal Saqr said her client was interrogated over allegedly "encouraging debauchery and offending public decency."

Related Subjects

Damien was told if he refused to call off the event, he would face misdemeanor charges or a criminal case punishable by up to two years in prison.

"I advised him to sign. We want him outside not behind bars," Saqr said.

Lebanon's laws prohibit "unnatural" sex, without giving further definition, which has been used to criminalize gay sex.

Damien said the authorities had received an Arabic-language translation of the Beirut Pride program that was "completely distorted." The Arabic version likened the event as an event of debauchery and used derogatory terms to refer to LGBT individuals.

ap/msh (Reuters, AP)


Fight for equality

Cologne Pride is the largest annual LGBT demonstration in Europe in which around 85 floats, and many groups on foot, take part. Participants demonstrate for social acceptance and equal rights for LGBT people.


An annual event in Cologne

Since 1991, the Gay Pride parade has been held in Cologne every year on the first weekend in July. It starts at the Deutz Suspension Bridge and then passes through the center of North Rhine-Westphalia's largest city.


More than just a parade

Cologne Pride is more than just a parade; it is officially a demonstration in series of events that include concerts, parties and rallies. The British group Erasure is slated to play on Sunday night.


Have a beer against discrimination

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas officially opened the event in Cologne. His message was, "No more discrimination." It was not until 1994 that the German law that made homosexuality punishable - paragraph 175 - was abolished. In March, the Bundestag decided to nullify all court rulings based on paragraph 175 since 1945


"Never again"

Cologne Pride's motto this year is "Never again.". This year's parade commemorates the LGBT victims of National Socialism. Lesbians in concentration camps had to wear a black triangle badge and the men, a pink triangle badge.


Marriage for all

This is clearly an occasion to celebrate the new "marriage for all" legislation passed by the Bundestag on June 30, 2017. Parade organizers, however, feel that more needs to be done. There are still no guidelines for same-sex parents, for example, the allocation of mother and father roles.


Businesses at the parade

Many companies also sponsor a float at the parade, for example, the low-cost airline Eurowings. This way, businesses show that they stand for values such as tolerance – and can also advertise to an audience of about one million people. This Eurowings banner says "With us, you can get closer to the rainbow."


Origins in New York City

The parade commemorates the Stonewall Riots in New York in 1969 when LGBT people protested against police assaults at Stonewall Inn, a bar on Christopher Street. In the 1960s there were often raids on places that were considered to be home to what was seen as offensive behavior at that time.

Related content