Lebanon presses on with its crackdown on LGBTQ community

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7/22/22

Nour never felt entirely safe as a queer person in Lebanon. But in the past few years, the 25-year-old pharmacist had begun letting his guard down, meeting with friends in LGBTQ-friendly spaces in Beirut and even performing in drag shows. He now opts to stay at home, fearing for his safety more than ever after a wave of anti-LGBTQ hate speech that followed last month’s decision by the Lebanese Interior Ministry to shut down any events aimed at promoting “sexual perversion.” The setback is part of a broader clampdown on marginalized groups and freedoms that activists say aims to distract the public from Lebanon’s spiraling economic and financial crisis, which has pulled over three-quarters of the population into poverty. Millions in the once middle-income country continue to struggle with soaring inflation, rampant power cuts, and medicine shortages, while tens of thousands have left the country in search of opportunities abroad. “It really felt like they wanted to just distract the masses from everything going on and focus on this hot topic,” Nour, who asked to use a pseudonym because he has not come out to family, told The Associated Press. Security forces have since cracked down on several events catered to the LGBTQ community, forcing their organizers to eventually shut them down. They also visited the offices of Helem, the country’s first registered LGBTQ advocacy group, asking for their registration papers and other documents. The move followed loud complaints from religious officials who publicly described them as ungodly and said they were not in line with Lebanese customs.

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