First Beirut gay pride downsized after Islamist group's threats
Inti Ocon (AFP/File)
The first-ever gay pride week in Beirut was partially canceled after organizers received threats from an Islamist religious group, Middle East Eye reported.
Some of anti-homophobia events in Lebanon were pulled on Saturday after a Muslim Salafist group appealed to authorities and then directly threatened the hotel hosting the LGBT group.
Lebanon's pride week was to be a more low-key affair, offering a drag workshop and a communal storytelling session where participants could 'come out' of the closet, CNN reported. A gay-friendly party was planned in one of Lebanon's hottest nightclubs, before being canceled this weekend.
A few of the scheduled pride events are still being held, including private movie screenings and a self-defense tutorial.
Same-sex sexual activity remains criminalized in the predominantly Muslim country under Article 534 of the penal code, which prohibits "sexual intercourse against nature." Earlier this year, a Lebanese judge ruled that the statute does not include homosexuality.
While smaller anti-homophobia protests have been held in Beirut, this would have been the first public pride event. Prior LGBT events in Lebanon were met with a religious backlash, and many venues are reluctant to host them.
The event was posed to break significant ground in pushing for greater acceptance of gays and lesbians in the Middle Eastern country.
Organizers for Beirut Pride say the event was years in the making, after much planning in low-profile meetings and in internet chatrooms.
Hadi Damien, a planner with Beirut Pride, told CNN that the first week-long pride campaign came about after close collaboration with a number of NGOs and nightclubs. They are working to increase visibility of gay men and lesbians in Lebanon.
At the same time, security forces have cracked down on gay-friendly nightclubs and venues, measures that have provoked a public debate over homosexuality, CNN reported.
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A couple of thinks people who are Straight (i.e. heterosexual) will never understand: 1: "Coming out." There is nothing in heterosexual experience that is analogous to this. 2: "Courage." And by this I mean the courage of LGBT people to live their lives openly, honestly, and with integrity, despite the risks. Our community never would have made the progress it has, had it not been for the courage of the early pioneers.