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."

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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)

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