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Lebanon authorities block gay pride festival

A gay pride flag bearing Lebanon's cedar tree is carried by human rights activists during a rally in Beirut on April 30, 2013
Joseph EID (AFP)

Lebanon's LGBT festival, the only event of its kind in the Arab world, was suspended after authorities interrogated its organizer and threatened to lay charges on him, he said Wednesday.

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

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.

But Lebanon's General Security agency stopped a reading set for Monday evening and summoned festival organizer 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.

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.

Turkey also hosts a pride event in Istanbul, although last year authorities canceled the event over 'security fears.' 

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