Religious Crackdown in Lebanon Hits LGBT Community

Ungodly and not in line with Lebanese customs – these are some of the reasons why security forces have cracked down on various LGBTQ community groups and the events they hold.

LGBTQ-friendly events, according to the Interior Ministry in its statement on June 24, “violate our society’s customs and traditions, and contradict with the principles of the Abrahamic religions.”

In the Christian Achrafieh district, supporters named the “Soldiers of God'', removed a billboard that supports and promotes activities and events along with the Pride Month celebration. Sunni Tarik Jdideh residents also converged and condemned activities of the LGBTQ, dubbing these as an “infiltration” of the community.

These actions, among others, have instilled fear in the members of the LGBTQ community. Many activities such as meet-ups and performing in drag shows have been put on hold.

Supposedly, Lebanon’s LBTQ community is the most open group in the Arab community and has been significantly existing in the past few years. Helem is an LGBTQ advocacy group founded in 2001. Since its creation, more active LGBTQ groups have formed.

They were empowered despite the fact that homosexuality is against the law. Law 534 criminalizes homosexuality as an “act against nature.” In fact, in 2016, at least 76 individuals were arrested for it.

Like any other LGBTQ member, Elias or Melanie Coxxx has faced many rejections from her family and friends. However, due to the support she received from her parents, she became openly gay in the last few years and even participated in a drag show.

Twenty-five-year-old Nour, a pseudonym, now prefers to stay at home after the Lebanese Interior Ministry has said that these activities promote “sexual perversion,” causing several anti-LGBTQ hate speeches.

Security forces visited the offices of Helem and sought registration papers and other necessary documents. Some organizers of other existing LGBTQ groups were also asked to shut down. Despite the disempowerment, the LGBTQ continue to meet, but not in their usual spots.

However, groups claimed that the setback allegedly serves as the government’s way to distract the public from the existing and more critical issues in Lebanon. This particularly concerns the spiraling economic and financial crisis that the country is experiencing. 

“It really felt like they wanted to just distract the masses from everything going on and focus on this hot topic,” Nour told The Associated Press.

The latest World Bank Lebanon Economic Monitor in 2021 noted that Lebanon’s economic and financial crisis is “likely to rank in the top 10, possibly top 3, most severe crises episodes globally since the mid-nineteenth century”.

“Lebanon faces a dangerous depletion of resources, including human capital, and high skilled labor is increasingly likely to take up potential opportunities abroad, constituting a permanent social and economic loss for the country,” Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director, said.

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