Lebanon’s first-ever Pride celebration is underway in Beirut, despite national laws that deem homosexual acts a crime and security threats at the start of the festivities.
Organizers planned to kick off Pride with an event run by Pride Lebanon, but they received threats from the Association of Muslim Scholars in Lebanon, a Salafist group.
‘On Saturday (13 May) we started getting information that some of the radical groups were not happy,’ Proud Lebanon’s Bertho Makso told Middle East Eye.
The hotel hosting the event later received ‘serious security threats’, which led them to cancel the entire event.
Fortunately, the scare hasn’t completely shut down Beirut Pride, which foregoes the traditional pride parade in favor of film exhibitions, storytelling and parties.
May our true colours shine and beam.
— Beirut Pride (@BeirutPride) May 17, 2017
LGBTI in Lebanon need visibility
Organizers of Beirut Pride said people around the world have failed to see the social schism between the socially conservative and the socially liberal in Lebanon.
They said in a statement: ‘The Lebanese Civil War might have ended in 1990. The social war, on the other hand, is wreaking havoc, and the speech that calls for hate and for the rejection of the other is still ongoing.’
The law works against them
The country’s penal law prohibits sexual activity under Article 534, which says sexual acts which ‘contradict the laws of nature’ are punishable by up to one year in jail.
This has been used to send same-sex couples to jail in the past, but recent judgments have shown the country veering toward a more open interpretation of the law: in 2014, a judge ruled that a man having sex with a transgender person could not be considered unnatural.
Still, Pride organizer Hadi Damien told CNN the events weren’t planned to fight the country’s anti-LGBTI laws, but rather make the community more visible to the rest of the country.
‘This is an initiative that is coming to denounce — and in very peaceful means — all kinds of hate and discrimination, but we specifically work with sexual identity,’ he said.
In a statement to GSN, he said that the purpose of Beirut Pride is to spread the message that it is never OK to ‘bully, harass, attack, aggress’ anyone because they are perceived as different … ‘a universal call that transcends labels.’
LGBTI community praises pride
The event also brings excitement and camaraderie to the LGBTI community in Lebanon, though it’s just the start of their fight for visibility and equality.
A gay man in Beirut, who wished to remain anonymous, told GSN he welcomed Pride: ‘For me of course I am happy with such a festival because it can highlight our fight for our right to live safe and with no discrimination in the Lebanese society. But there is still a huge work to do.’
Others took to social media to commend the event.
Twitter user Artur Wilczynski said: ‘Great to see #BeirutPride. So important to create safe spaces.’
Twitter user Robert Hannounch simply said: ‘This is my Lebanon. #BeirutPride’