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Beirut Pride suspended after leader detained by police

Josh Jackman May 15, 2018
A gay pride flag bearing the cedar tree in the middle of it is carried by human rights activists during an anti-homophobia rally in Beirut on April 30, 2013. Lebanese homosexuals, human rights activists and members from the NGO Helem (the Arabic acronym of "Lebanese Protection for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders") rallied to condemn the arrest on the weekend of three gay men and one transgender civilian in the town of Dekwaneh east of Beirut at a nightclub who were allegedly verbally and sexually harassed at the municipality headquarters. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID / AFP PHOTO / Joseph EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

Judges ruled earlier this month that "legislators had not intended to criminalise homosexuality but rather offence to public morals" (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty)

Beirut Pride events have been suspended after its founder was detained by police.

Hadi Damien, who created the festival, has now been released by authorities after being taken in yesterday for questioning in the Lebanese capital.

It is still not clear why he was detained.

(hadi damien/facebook)

A source close to Hadi told PinkNews: “There’s lots of speculation so I don’t know what’s true and what’s not.

“The police closed down one of the two events last night and took Hadi in for questioning. He was released about an hour and a half ago and now the rest of pride is suspended.

“Everyone here is waiting on the full explanation to be published.”

(hadi damien/facebook)

Beirut Pride’s Facebook page confirmed what Damien himself has told his followers, writing that he had been released and that “Beirut Pride is safe.

“The events scheduled under the label of Beirut Pride until May 20, 2018 are suspended for the time being,” the message continued.

“We thank you for your concern and empathy, and kindly ask you to refrain from speculating. We will issue a detailed statement by 9pm to explain [what is] happening. #alwaysproud #foreverstrong”

(beirut pride/facebook)

Beirut Pride was held for the first time last year, as Islamist threats failed to stop the festival – which was said to be the first in the Arab world.

More than 4,000 people attended parties, workshops, and conferences as part of the week-long event.

Damien said last year that attendance at the week-long event had “surpassed all initial expectations” despite it also suffering a forced cancellation.

(beirut pride/facebook)

The first event was cancelled due to safety concerns, after the League of Muslim Scholars condemned the event on social media.

Homosexuality is still against the law in Lebanon, and punishable by up to one year in prison.

However, a top judge said last year that homosexuality should not be illegal, a landmark decision which raised hopes that the country is moving toward decriminalisation.

Members of Lebanon's LGBTQ community attend a picnic the coastal city of Batroun, north of Beirut, on May 21, 2017, as part of the Beirut Pride week aimed at raising awarness about the rights of the community. / AFP PHOTO / IBRAHIM CHALHOUB        (Photo credit should read IBRAHIM CHALHOUB/AFP/Getty Images)
(IBRAHIM CHALHOUB/AFP/Getty)

Judge Rabih Maalouf declared that “homosexuality is a personal choice, and not a punishable offence”.

And in March this year, politicians called on authorities to decriminalise gay sex.

Right-wing Christian Democrat party Kataeb announced plans to scrap the law, placing pressure on the government.

Lebanese demonstrators shout slogans during the Laique Pride III march, calling for equality amongst all Lebanese citizens in Beirut on May 6, 2012. The Laique Pride encourages and supports every movement and organization working towards a more egalitarian society and seeks to inspire new citizen initiatives in Lebanon. AFP PHOTO / ANWAR AMRO        (Photo credit should read ANWAR AMRO/AFP/GettyImages)
(ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty)

Currently, article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code prohibits sexual relations that are “contradicting the laws of nature”.

Related: Lebanon allows trans man to legally change his gender

Activists have said that if article 534 is scrapped, it will bring dramatic improvement to LGBTQ equality in the middle eastern country.

Members of Lebanon's LGBTQ community attend a picnic the coastal city of Batroun, north of Beirut, on May 21, 2017, as part of the Beirut Pride week aimed at raising awarness about the rights of the community. / AFP PHOTO / IBRAHIM CHALHOUB        (Photo credit should read IBRAHIM CHALHOUB/AFP/Getty Images)
(IBRAHIM CHALHOUB/AFP/Getty)

The executive director of Arab Foundation for Freedom and Equality, Georges Azzi, said at the time: “We have been pushing for parties to publicly support the LGBTI community for a long time.

“We have had closed door promises but this is the first time politicians have publicly supported us.”

More: Beirut Pride, Gay, Law, Lebanon, Lebanon, Middle East, Middle East, police, Pride

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