The Arab world's only gay pride event has been forced to shut down

Lowenna Waters
Friday 18 May 2018 11:30
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Picture:(Joseph Eid / Getty Images)

The only gay pride event in Beirut, Lebanon, has been cancelled.

Beirut Pride Week opened on 12 May with a brunch to honour families that support LGBT+ children, and had nine days of events planned to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

It had also been organised to coincide with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, which occurred on 17 May.

However, on the night of 14 May, the event's organiser Hadi Damien was arrested during an LGBT+ themed theatre reading in Beirut. He was then taken to a police station, where he was held overnight.

According to Damien, the security forces interrogated him, and pressured him to sign a statement calling off further Beirut Pride events or face charges of 'incitement to immorality' and 'breach of public morality'.

Despite being one of the most liberal countries in the Arab world when it comes to LGBT+ rights, people do still face sporadic police action.

Lebanese law stipulates that “any sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature” is punishable by up to one year in prison, however it doesn't explicitly state what that entails.

In light of the cancellation, Fatima Fakih, of Human Rights Watch commented:

Official interference with Beirut Pride is an outrageous step backward in a country where the judiciary and some politicians seem to be moving forward on LGBT+ rights. There’s no justification for shutting down cultural events and health and legal workshops in the name of morality.

Since then, Beirut Pride has issued a statement suspending all of the planned events. However, according to Human Rights Watch, some have said they will reschedule events, while some events are continuing as planned.

In a statement, the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality said:

These violations against freedoms [give] us the energy to further advocate for freedoms.

This is the second year running that LGBT+ events have been interfered with in Lebanon. In 2017, the opening event of gay pride week was cancelled after it was threatened by Islamist groups.

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