For the First Time, A Gay Rights Protest in the Arab World

beirutproLebanon enjoys a relative degree of sexual tolerance and freedom compared to the rest of the Middle East, but when two gay men were beaten up by police in broad daylight and nobody said or did anything to stop it, Beirut’s gays and lesbians decided to stand up. Last week, more than 200 gay and lesbian Lebanese gathered in peaceful protest of the police beating, as well as protesting Article 534 of the Penal Code, which condemns “unnatural sexual intercourse”, marking the first ever gay protest in the Arab world, according to organizers.

Now Lebanon reports (via Lebanese gay rights organizers Helem):

“Hundreds of people armed with rainbow flags and signs denouncing violence and discrimination against homosexuals and other minority groups in Lebanon gathered at Beirut’s Sodeco square amid pouring rain on Sunday afternoon for a demonstration.

The event, the first of its kind in the Arab world according to the organizers, was staged by the Beirut-based Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer (LGBTIQ) support organization Helem, and also featured representatives from Lebanese rights groups Kafa, KAFA, TYMAT and SIDC.

Twenty-six year old Maya, holding a sign reading, “Feminists Against Violence” told NOW Lebanon she had come to the demonstration to give a “statement.”

“I want to say that I denounce violence on all levels, against homosexuals and disadvantaged groups in my country,” she said.

Next to Maya stood a protestor waving a sign in front of curious photographers saying, “I don’t believe in a country where it’s more acceptable for two men to hold guns than two men to hold hands.”

The demonstration was a direct response to a recent incident of anti-gay violence in Achrafieh, in which two men allegedly engaging in sexual conduct in the entrance of a building were dragged out onto nearby Sassine Square and severely beaten.”

Watch video of the demonstrators:

As well as this news report: