Up to 28 people could face jail or expulsion from Lebanon after two raids on hammams believed by police to be meeting spaces for gay and bisexual men
Police have raided a second bathhouse in Beirut, believing it to be popular with gay people, and arrested all the staff.
The raid of the Shehrazad Hammam or ‘Turkish bath’ in Burj Hammoud, a Christian suburb of Beirut, took place around noon yesterday.
It comes after a raid on Saturday (9 August) on the Agha Hammam baths where 27 people were arrested. They have now been charged with homosexuality and could be jailed.
Bertho Makso of Proud Lebanon told Gay Star News: ‘The police went [to Shehrazad Hammam] in the morning around midday when there were no clients and they were cleaning the place.
‘They arrested all the Syrian staff and took them for investigations. They have released all but one of them.’
It is believed he has been taken to a Zahle prison near the country’s border. There he will be joining the Syrian and Iraqis from the previous raid.
The police have apparently sent them to Zahle claiming there was no space to jail them in Beirut. But LGBTI campaigners say it could be a ploy to deport them after local media shone a light on the case.
By contrast the Lebanese clients and owner of the Agha Hammam have been charged and released.
All the men are believed to have been charged under article 534 of the penal code, which criminalizes homosexuality, and could face jail.
They may also face charges under articles 527 and 531 which relate to prostitution and immoral activities in public spaces.
Meanwhile the Agha Hammam has been closed and cannot open without official permission. Shehrazad Hammam is refusing entry to people it believes are gay.
Makso said: ‘The way they [the authorities] did it, it is clearly targeting vulnerable groups when they should be concentrating on terrorism at the moment.’
He said LGBTI people in Lebanon were now afraid of raids against ‘bars, clubs and NGOs’ and was ‘asking the support of everyone to stop these kind of behaviors’.
He added: ‘People get scared and they go back in the closet so it is terrifying.’