Beirut Pride ends abruptly after authorities detain organiser

Outlet: The Region / Editor: Unspecified / Language: English / Date of publication: 18 May 2018 / Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 5 seconds.


The organiser of Beirut Pride week, Hadi Damien, remains optimistic despite having been detained overnight and signing a pledge to cancel the rest of the week's events.

Lebanon last year became the first Arab country to hold a gay pride week, though the opening event was cancelled because of safety concerns after threats of violence.

This year's pride week began on May 12 and was due to run until May 20.

In a statement on the Beirut Pride website, Damien said that security services turned up late on Tuesday (May 15) at a public reading of a theatre play.

Damien said he was taken to a police station overnight and questioned.

He added that he was asked to sign a pledge promising to cancel upcoming events and in return, he would be released.

But his detention and subsequent cancellation of the rest of the week's activities have not discouraged him.

"No matter how much repression, pressure and threats happen, you can't keep blocking and repressing forever. And this is why, we should always look at these things in a very positive way," he said.

Lebanon is widely seen as more socially liberal than most other Arab countries, but lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people say they are still discriminated against by state and society.

LGBT rights organisations in Lebanon gathered on Thursday (May 17) for a conference marking the annual International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.

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

Last year a Lebanese judge said that same-sex relations do not contradict laws of nature, a move welcomed by rights activists.

Damien and his lawyer said public prosecution had received an Arabic version of the Beirut Pride programme that was distorted, making Beirut Pride appear like events of debauchery and disrespect of general law, while using derogatory terms to refer to LGBT individuals.


BEIRUT PRIDE'S REMARK:

The events were cancelled on the decision of the General Prosecutor of Beirut, without asking the agreement, consent or refusal of Hadi Damien. The decision to suspend the events was effective even if Hadi was to be kept in detention. The events were suspended whether Hadi Damien was detained or release. The pledge he was asked to sign was for him to acknowledge the decision of the General Prosecutor, and not to "cancel the week’s remaining events". For a full account of the detention, refer to the Statement about the Suspension of Beirut Pride Events – 14 May 2018.