Beirut Pride suspends opening night until further notice

Beirut Pride announced the suspension of their opening night at The Palace following a crackdown from religious and security authorities, according to a statement released by its organizers.

“Multiple parties issued statements threatening with violence against the theater and against the participants in the concert, in addition to anonymous threats that targeted the theatre management,” read the statement. “Under pressure from the street, the management of The Palace is unable to produce the concert next Saturday.”

This isn’t the first time that Beirut Pride has been suspended. Last year’s installment was cancelled and suspended by the Lebanese Internal Security Forces. The event was considered a violation of “public morality” and its organizer, Hadi Damien, was called in for questioning 

Several other statements had also been made by both members of the LGBTQ+ community and religious authorities to boycott Beirut Pride 2019, which was set to take place between September 28 and October 6, but for vastly different reasons.

Drag queens, activists, and other members of the queer community in Lebanon circulated a statement that called for its boycott “due to severe concerns regarding the ethics, transparency, and leadership of its initiator.”

The statement by the queer community describes several incidents of “questionable leadership,” including unclear sources of funding despite calls for transparency, a centralization of decision-making that led to the cooperation with the authorities after the crackdown on Beirut Pride 2018, and the lack of a concrete safety plan for Beirut Pride 2019.

Those behind the boycott had previously and unsuccessfully attempted to reach out to the Beirut Pride organizer, according to the statement itself, so that “this supposedly community-led initiative could embrace a more horizontal structure.”

The statement opens an important discussion on the LGBTQ+ community in Lebanon, one that is only important because it stems from within it. It peacefully calls for better organization and for community-led, decentralized initiatives that advocate queer rights without discrimination.

Despite that, its cancellation because of threats and safety concerns brought about by religious and political figures, as opposed to a peaceful boycott called about from within the community, is a violation of the integral freedom of expression and the right to assemble. 

Multiple statements by religious and political authorities called for the cancellation of Beirut Pride. 

“Who is responsible for the protection of ‘the safety of public morality’ in Lebanon? Let us address him to prosecute the violators of public morals in the country and hold them accountable,” said Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, the former Grand Mufti of Lebanon, as reported by the National News Agency

The prominent religious leader continued by saying he hoped that Lebanese officials would “respond quickly to the demands of the Lebanese to protect their public morality in Lebanon and immediately ban and stop the ‘Beirut Pride’ celebrations that are defending what is called gay rights and their request to legalize gay marriage in Lebanon.”

Beirut Pride is organized to spread awareness about the realities of individuals who belong to the LGBTQ+ community, but does not necessarily promote same-sex marriage and immorality.

Another statement released by Mohammed Afif Yamout, the president of the Beirut Families Union, denounced Beirut Pride while also linking in to the promotion of same-sex marriage.

“Using the name ‘Beirut Pride’ for the event is the greatest insult to Beirut and its citizens. Beirut –the mother of law, the city of heritage, and the meeting point of religions, the one whose citizens hold values and high morals– did not and will not allow the spreading of indecency, homosexuality, and the insult to the humanity of humans within it,” read the statement.

Beirut Pride’s opening night is suspended until further notice.