Beirut) – The Lebanese Internal Security Forces arrested a prominent LGBT rights activist and pressured him to cancel Beirut Pride events, Human Rights Watch said today. The crackdown violates freedom of assembly and association and is a step backward in a country that has made progress toward respecting the rights of LGBT people.
Beirut Pride, nine days of activities aimed at celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender identities, kicked off on May 12, 2018, with a brunch to honor families who support their LGBT children, and was scheduled to coincide with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) on May 17. Scheduled events included a queer poetry reading, a karaoke night, a discussion of sexual health and HIV, and a legal literacy workshop. However, on May 14, Internal Security Forces raided an LGBT-themed theater reading and summoned Beirut Pride organizer Hadi Damien to the Hobeich police station, where he was held overnight.
“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,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “There’s no justification for shutting down cultural events and health and legal workshops in the name of morality.”
Damien said the Vice Squad interrogated him, told him that the public prosecutor had banned Pride week, and pressured him to sign a statement calling off all further Beirut Pride events or face charges of “incitement to immorality” and “breach of public morality.” Beirut Pride subsequently issued a statement suspending the events. The Internal Security Forces did not respond to a Human Rights Watch request for comment and it is not clear if the public prosecutor has issued a ban. Read more via HRW