‘Ghost’, a gay-friendly club in Dekwaneh, Matn, Lebanon, was raided by 12 policemen under the order of Antoine Chakhtoura, the municipality's head. Customers were reportedly bullied out of the club and four individuals were arrested in the incident which took place last month.
Later on, those four individuals were forced to undress and have their pictures taken. Among those was a transgender woman who was kept unnamed and was quoted by NOW Lebanon's Nadine Elali as saying:
They hit me and pushed me around and insulted me by using derogatory terms like ‘faggot’ and ‘half-a-man,’ then they asked demeaning questions such as how much do I make per hour and whether I enjoy ‘sucking on it,’ then asked me to strip naked and then took photographs of me.
Another one of the victims, a Syrian gay man, was interviewed by the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) in the following footage released by Raynbow Lebanon on YouTube.
They were still insulting and cursing them. And they said, ‘so what if you do that stuff in Syria’. Look at what Syria brings us’. Then they started filming us and hitting my friend and me. They were about 5 hitting us.
Lebanese and Arab netizens were quick to respond and condemn Chakhtoura's unlawful behavior.
Blogger ‘Aristophanes Jr’ wrote a satiric piece entitled “The Fortress” and published it on his blog:
The Mayor Knight had no shame in justifying his crime on national television. A clear violation of the constitution itself as many professionals in the field of law indicated. Will this crime pass unpunished ? Will the Knight be spared from the dungeons ?
Blogger and Women's Health advocate Dr. Hasan Abdessamad jokingly begged France to ‘re-colonize’ Lebanon, citing the contrast between the French mandate-era law condemning sexual relations that are “contradicting the laws of nature” (Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code) and France's recent legalization of Gay marriage:
The country that gave Lebanon’s Penal Code article 534 now gave all its citizens the right to marry.
He also released a video condemning the mayor's actions, calling them “a crime” and demanding legal repercussions. Furthermore, the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH), of which he is a member, released a statement condemning Mr Skakhtoura's raid.
The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) strongly condemns the acts undertaken, based on orders from Mr. Shakhtoura, the Mayor of Dekwaneh on April 21st 2013.
Beirut blogger Elie Wafi warns against similar incidents in the near future:
Shakhtoura and his minions aren't happy with what they saw. Gays all around. Kissing and holding hands. OMG! But above all what angered them is the sight of cross dressers, transsexuals and Syrians that walk on their two legs after 7 p.m. After 7 p.m., how could they?? Abomination!
Mr Shakhtoura almost fainted, he ordered his minions to arrest these creatures. But this isn't over, the sex of these transsexuals needs to be determined. Enno chou hawde? Rjel aw chou? [Translation: What is this? A man or what?] The case cannot wait, Lebanon's reputation is at risk, especially of its fortress: Dikwene.
This is not the first time something like that happens and I fear it won't be the last.
But why? Well the answer is simple, we are a marginalized minority. Though we might not consider our sexual orientation as an identity but when you are persecuted because of that, it suddenly becomes one.
Twitter users expressed their outrage as well:
@Egayptian: What “morality” and what “religion” gives you the right to forcibly strip people and take pictures without their consent?
@DannySeesIt: LGBT persons living in Lebanon face legal and social challenges. They deserve equal rights now! #LebLGBT #DekAbuse http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Gay_rights_in_Lebanon/?wWvCEeb …
Lebanese Human Rights NGO ‘Alef’ released a statement that was re-tweeted by Daemion El Hajj:
@DaemionElHajj: Alef (NGO) calls on the appropriate authorities to investigate what Shakhtoura and the municipality police did in Dekwaneh
Finally, on Facebook, activists have been posting on the page of the City Council of Parramatta, a sister city of Dekwaneh:
Dear Sir, Madam,
We would like to bring to your attention the violation of Basic Human Rights done by your sister city, Dekwane, Lebanon. The city mayor, Mr. Antoine Chakhtoura, has ordered, illegally, the closure of an LGBT-friendly club called Ghost. The closure came with the arrest of four individuals, among them a transgender person, who were taken to the police station in the police cars’ trucks, and subject to insulting and humiliating acts such as stripping them nude, taking pictures of them without their consent, and violate them verbally, physically, and even sexually.
Knowing that your city is one of the proud cities of Australia, a country known for its tolerance and respect for Human Rights; we call upon you to act publicly and show support to the LGBTQ community in Lebanon.
This is not the first time, and maybe won’t be the last time, such discriminating act might take place in Lebanon, where the road towards equal rights for the LGBT community is still ahead of us. Yet, we as a community would love to hear your support to our cause, and would appreciate any and all help you can give us.
Join us in our righteous fight, be there for us, now that no one else might help us.
A sit-in was organized by Helem, the Lebanese Gay Rights NGO for April 30.