Lebanon authorities block gay pride festival's organiser

Outlet: SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) / Editor: Unspecified / Language: English / Date of publication: 17 May 2018 / Estimated reading time: 1 minute 22 seconds.


 A gay pride flag is carried by human rights activists during an anti-homophobia rally in Beirut on April 30, 2013. Source: AFP

A gay pride flag is carried by human rights activists during an anti-homophobia rally in Beirut on April 30, 2013. Source: AFP

Lebanon's LGBT festival, the only event of its kind in the Arab world, was suspended after authorities interrogated its organiser and threatened him with prosecution, he said Wednesday.

The second edition of Beirut Pride had started Saturday with a concert starring "Alsarah and the Nubatones", a band fronted by a Brooklyn-based Sudanese singer.

The week-long event was to include cultural events, talks and readings aimed at raising awareness, minus the extravagant parades held at Pride events elsewhere.

 Alsarah and the Nubatones performed earlier in the week, as part of the festivities. Pictured: Alsarah performing in 2017. (Source: Archive Photos)

Alsarah and the Nubatones performed earlier in the week, as part of the festivities. Pictured: Alsarah performing in 2017. (Source: Archive Photos)

But Lebanon's General Security agency stopped a reading set for Monday evening and summoned festival organiser Hadi Damien for questioning, he said in a statement.

He was advised to "sign a pledge that assures the activities will not take place" in exchange for his release, he said.

The festival's remaining events, including poetry readings, a storytelling night and a talk on sexual health, were cancelled, the statement said.

Lebanon is generally more tolerant of its LGBT community than other Arab countries, but an event was also shut down during the first edition of Beirut Pride last year.

Activists in Beirut are at the forefront of efforts to tackle prejudice in the region, but continue to face discrimination both by state institutions and society.


BEIRUT PRIDE'S REMARK:

The events of Beirut Pride were suspended on the decision of the General Prosecutor of Beirut, independently of the agreement, consent or refusal of Hadi Damien. The decision to suspend the events was effective 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. He did not sign off on the shutdown. For a full account of the detention, refer to the Statement about the Suspension of Beirut Pride Events – 14 May 2018.