The Palace, a theatre hall in Hamra Beirut, was expected to host the Opening Night of the third edition of Beirut Pride, a platform that gathers people who denounce discrimination and reject hate speech. It calls on the authorities and the public opinion to be aware of the undignified practices exercised against many individuals, and to take the necessary measures to limit misconceptions, even when widespread.
Lawyers accompany the proceedings of the activities of Beirut Pride to ensure a complete understanding of the legal framework and of the laws in force. Since the first edition of 2017, organizers have been in contact with the official, administrative, security, and religious institutions, as well as with some diplomatic representations whose citizens have been participating in the activities of Beirut Pride. In preparation for this edition, they presented the above-mentioned institutions with an official notice letter, requesting that the protection to the participants in the activities of Beirut Pride be instructed and applied through political, institutional and security channels. Enclosed was a presentation of Beirut Pride in the form of questions and answers and a copy of the Code of Conduct that the participants in Beirut Pride activities are asked to observe to make everybody's participation enjoyable. The organizers contracted a private security company, an insurance policy and reached out to the Lebanese Red Cross to ensure the safety of the participants and that of the venue.
The organizers of Beirut Pride reached out to independent individuals who organize concerts, and convened to produce the opening of the third edition of Beirut Pride at The Palace, on 28 September. An artistic evening, free of charge, and open to people aged 18 and beyond. They gathered ten acts by artists, musicians, singers, dancers and comedians to celebrate diversity, denounce discrimination, and reject hate speech based on sexual orientation and sexual identity.
On Monday 23 September, Facebook page “Marriage Equality Lebanon حق الزواج المثلي في لبنان” posted about the concert and promoted it, which gave people the wrong impression that the concert was advocating for same-sex marriage. A social media frenzy followed and sensational conversations took place on WhatsApp which content and tone we reject. — Document No.1 below
On the night of Monday 23 September, at approximately 10pm, a sheikh, a muslim cleric, appealed to “the judicial and security apparatus to intervene quickly to prevent the celebration of the perverts in order to preserve the remaining values and morals of the society”. The organizer of Beirut Pride messaged him on his Facebook page, and when he received no reply despite the message being red, he contacted Dar al-Fatwa in the Lebanese Republic and asked for an appointment to explain what the concert was about. — Document No.2 below
On Tuesday 24 September, the theater owner received calls from two anonymous men who threatened her with violent action, unless the concert was cancelled.
On Tuesday 24 September, the Federation of the Beirut Families Associations declared that the concert promoted the right to gay marriage, and featured in their statement the words “perversion”, “obscenity”, “harming the humanity of humans”, “normalization of corruption in personal status” and “abhorrent sexual sorcery”. — Document No.3 below
A person who introduced himself as an officer from the General Security Forces contacted the theater owner to question her about the evening. She informed him that the concert was not taking place at The Palace anymore due to intemperate pressure and intimidation. Asked about the new location of the opening night, the theatre owner assured him she did not have the answer to the question.
Around 4pm, a person who introduced himself as an officer from the General Security Investigation Unit contacted the theater and informed its administration that the owners, organizers and participants would be arrested should the concert take place.
Around 8:30pm, an officer of the State Security Forces visited The Palace, inquiring if the concert were still ongoing. The theatrer manager replied that the concert would not take place at The Palace. The officer asked him twice whether the concert was canceled or moved to another venue, and every time the manager replied he did not know.
The Foutowa Islamic Association issued a statement featuring the expressions “dancing to the tune of their perversion” and the “repulsive and disgusting ceremony that calls for obscenity”, warning of “the reaction that may arise from many jealous young people if this unethical celebration takes place”. — Document No.4 below
People took these erroneous publications and statements to social media, and, fueled with incorrect information, multiplied posts and comments. Mr. Hilal Shoman wrote for example: “On Saturday, hell will break loose in Beirut because of the celebration of the perverts. They need someone like this hero, and I believe that will happen”. Mr. Hilal Shoman was commenting on a post related to the martyr Khaled Alwan, who "taught a lesson to the Zionists that they will not forget, killing four of their officers... and brought them out crushed and panicked, mending their wounds while crying with fear and terror: Do not shoot, we withdraw." — Document No.5 below
This commotion is incorrect. The concert is only musical, and does not promote gay marriage. It is not an erotic or a sexual party, but a concert that highlights discrimination and hate speech. False publications and statements have proved to be a call for violence and for illegal practices that the Lebanese Criminal Code explicitly mentions and punishes. We ask you to refrain from intimidation and to be careful not to engage in fabricated slander campaigns that invent crimes and practices that do not exist.