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:

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  • Tallskin

    Good for them!

    I wish them well.

    This is the sort of gay liberation in the muslim world I can identify with rather than that appalling “Jihad for Love” rubbish where muslim gays whine & moan about being oppressed yet choose to wriggle up more snugly into the islamic blanket that causes their oppression in the first place!

  • raphael

    This is terrific news, and I’d like to hear more about what’s going on across the world.

    I have no idea what gay muslims Tallskin is hanging out with, however.

  • John

    I’m so worried for all of them but so excited as well. We in the west have NO idea what it must be like to live with that much oppression. I wish them strength and courage.

  • Bill Perdue

    This is very good news although like ourselves they have centuries of bigotry to overcome.

    The presence of large shia and catholic influences is a double whammy that makes life for GLBT folk there even more difficult.

    In Lebanon bigotry derives from both christer and islamic sources. In places like Iraq and Egypt it was imported by English colonialists and has a more distinctly European origin.

  • Dan

    That’s some brave protesting. Good for them!

  • Scott in NYC,

    This is true bravery…GOOD FOR THEM!

  • Scott in NYC,

    I just realized my comment was almost verbatim the same as Dan’s. Well, it’s true! So there!

  • sal

    proud yet fearful ,hope they will get the results they,we all, want

  • getreal

    I hope they are aware that people all over the world are pulling for them and are so proud of their bravery.

  • kevin (not that one)

    Seriously, I wonder how many of them are Christian.

    Beirut has a sizable Lebanese Christian community that isn’t as foaming at the mouth with hate as the large swaths of the southern part of the city that are controlled by Hezbollah. In fact, I haven’t looked at a map but I’m willing to bet this demonstration happened in the small northern part of the city that is more cosmopolitan.

    While Christian fundamentalists in the Western world are the number one offenders of queerbashing, in the Middle East it actually helps to be near a Christian community if you are a woman or gay.

    And sadly enough, it is safer to be a queer, Arab second-class citizen in Tel Aviv than it is to live as a queer Palestinian in Ramallah – even with all of the anti-Arab sentiment that permeates Israeli society.

    Nevertheless, Arab men are hot – especially Lebanese men.

  • getreal

    @kevin (not that one): I had a lebanese boyfriend once they are sooo hot!

  • Pink

    Queer Jihad!!!!

  • JJJJ

    Those protestors are very brave. God protect them.

  • rogue dandelion

    the only protests i have been to are in SF and Berkeley, I can’t imagine the bravery required for these men and women.

  • Sebbe

    Wasn’t Lebanon the only other country besides Israel to play Brokeback mountain in the middle east. I wonder if MILK is going to play there as well.

  • getreal

    @JJJJ: Amen!

  • Bill Perdue

    @kevin (not that one): I think the only solution is political and involves demanding the immediate and total withdrawal of all US and allied troops from the region. Secondly the US should end all support for zionist apartheid and ethnic cleansing. And third we should support the creation of a federal, secular, socialist regional state including that includes all of Palestine.

    I think GLBT folks will find it hard to make progress while the region is up in arms over being attacked by US oil pirates and at the same time dominated by the three worst enemies we have, christers, islamists and judaic fundamentalists. I don’t agree that one set of cults is better or worse than the other, the only difference is in their ability to harm us, not their intent.

    Given all that that I hope these people keep trying. It wasn’t easy when Barbara Gittings and Frank Kameny helped organize picket lines the White House in the 1950’s. More than once there were more FBI agents standing around with cameras than actual demonstrators.

    In the meantime our brothers and sisters are still be murdered by US armed sunni and shia thugs and need our help to provide safe houses:

  • lyes

    i wish this event happenes in algeria, i know there is a lot of gays in algria , specially in chritian town like tizi ouzou, but they don t have the courage to step up and ask for their right!. i am one of them ; chritian , so i hope the best to gays all over the world.

  • Andrew

    That’s wonderful.

Comments are closed.