Anti-gay Lebanon: 27 arrests in raid on Turkish bath

Logo of Helem

Logo of Helem

Lebanon’s national police and security force raided a Turkish bath in the Hamra-Concord section of Beirut on Aug. 9 and arrested 27 men.

The men were questioned about their sexual orientation and held for at least three days without being told the charges against them, a group of human rights and LGBT rights organizations said.

The organizations have protested the actions and demanded the men’s immediate release.

The raid and arrests by the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) occurred when “no public sexual act was taking place at Agha Hammam, and the investigation at the police station revolved mainly around the detainees’ alleged homosexuality,” the protesters stated.

The following press release about the incident is the collaborative work of the Lebanese LGBT organization Helem, the Arab Foundation for Freedom and Equality (AFE), the regional HIV/AIDS advocacy network M-Coalition, the Marsa Sexual Health Clinic, and the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health LebMASH:

Map of Lebanon

Map of Lebanon

On Saturday night the 9th of August 2014, the ISF raided the Agha Hammam [Turkish bath] that is located in the area of Hamra-Concord. According to Col. Tony Haddad from the Hbeish police station, the raid followed the arrest of an individual who pointed to the Agha Hammam as a gathering place for men who are seeking sexual encounters with other men.

The incident came to our attention on Monday night 11th of August and we initiated an investigation of the reasons behind the raid and the status of the detained. We were able to confirm the arrest of 27 men who were present at the venue. Among the arrested men were the owner of the Hammam, the employees and several clients. All the men were still held in custody at Hbeish police station at the time this press release was written; four days following their arrest.

According to the information that Col. Haddad provided us with and which we cannot confirm beyond his words, Hbeish personnel investigated the detainees and their files have been transferred to the General Prosecutor awaiting charges.

When asked, Col. Haddad denied that any of the detainees were subjected to any physical or verbal violence or abuse – nor to the anal probe test – throughout the investigation.

Col. Haddad also informed us that the investigators were able to obtain confirmations from some of the detainees concerning their sexual orientation.

Based on this information, we contacted the General Prosecutor Bilal Dinnawi to follow up on the charges. Mr. Dinnawi told us that overall the General Prosecution is not interested in charging the detainees with article 534 [which provides for up to one year in prison for "any sexual intercourse against nature."]

However, in this particular case Mr. Dinawi confirmed that he might charge the detainees under public indecency article 521.

We made contact with the detainees who expressed their discomfort and confusion regarding the process of the investigation and the charges.

It has also come to our attention that at the time of the raid no public sexual act was taking place at Agha Hammam, and the investigation at the police station revolved mainly around the detainees’ alleged homosexuality.

We denounce this incident as a case of homophobic practice that aims to police the sexual rights and liberties of the individuals involved and we call on the General Prosecutor and Hbeish police station to respect the dignity of the detainees and their rights to their sexual bodies.

We also specifically denounce the use or the implication of use of anal tests and we want to stress the physical and mental harm that such treatment could cause.

We call for the immediate release of all the detainees from under charges which violate their sexual and bodily rights and integrity. We will follow up on the cases as needed.

For more info please contact helem: director@helem.net

 

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Iran’s top judge denies executions for being gay

Sadeq Ardeshir Amoli Larijani (Photo courtesy of Dadiran.ir)

Sadeq Ardeshir Amoli Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary. (Photo courtesy of Dadiran.ir)

The head of Iran’s judiciary, Sadeq Amoli Larijani, has disputed the accuracy of frequent reports that Iran executes people for being gay.

That accusation by Western human rights activists “is no more than a lie,” Larijani told a convention of Iran’s diplomatic corps in Tehran on Aug. 12, according to The Iran Project, a pro-Iran news website.

Regarding LGBT people, Larijani said, “We do not provide these people with opportunity, but what they say — that we hang them — is a lie that they have fabricated.”

He did not deny that LGBT people are executed for same-sex intercourse.

He criticized “so-called supporters of human rights” who defend homosexuals, but did not protest Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip.

In an alternative translation of his remarks, Larijani stated:

“They keep raising concerns about faggots. Based on our religious beliefs, these people are not tolerated, but saying that we kill homosexuals is a lie. In the Islamic Republic no one sticks their nose into the private lives of individuals to find out what kind of private violations are being committed. Islam believes in the inherent dignity and innocence of all humans, and therefore does not tolerate this filth [ i.e. homosexuality]. But [the Western countries] use this as an excuse to attack our human rights records.

Ayyatollah Larijani added,”They keep talking about human rights violations for a bunch of faggots, but when a thousand kids are murdered in Gaza, Mr. Obama justifies it by talking about Israel’s right to self defense.”

Larijani has been sanctioned by the European Union for human rights abuses, according the Official Journal of the European Union.   He was cited as judiciary head for approving harsh punishments for “crimes against God” and “crimes against the state,” including the death penalty, floggings and amputation and for extreme punishments such as “stoning (16 people are currently under stoning sentence [in 2012]), executions by suspension strangulation, execution of juveniles, and public executions such as those where prisoners have been hung from bridges in front of crowds of thousands. He has also permitted corporal punishment sentences such as amputations and the dripping of acid into the eyes of the convicted.”

In the most recent report from the organization Iran Human Rights, two prisoners were hanged in public on Aug. 6 in southern Iran on charges of sodomy, Iran Human Rights reports.

Amnesty International reported that three people were executed in Iran in 2011 for sodomy.

 

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Human rights complaint: Russia ignores anti-gay attacks

The Russian LGBT rights group Coming Out has filed a complaint at the European Court of Human Rights yesterday, accusing the Russian government of routinely ignoring homophobic attacks on LGBT rights protesters. This is the group’s press release:

LGBT rights marchers in St. Petersburg, Russia, on May 1, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Coming Out)

LGBT rights marchers in St. Petersburg, Russia, on May 1, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Coming Out)

“Coming Out” Files Complaint to ECHR against Homohobic Hate Crime

On August 11, “Coming Out” lawyers filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights against the homophobic attack on an activist during the International Day against Homophobia “Rainbow Flashmob” rally of May 2012.

On May 17, 2012, Gleb Likhotkin, a “Christian orthodox activist”, shot Boris Romanov with a gas gun. The latter was holding a balloon saying “Jesus loves men and women equally” during “Coming Out”s annual LGBT rally, “Rainbow Flashmob.” The attack resulted in chemical injuries to Boris’ face and eyes. The offender faced trial and was found guilty of hooliganism with the use of a weapon; the victim was awarded moral compensation. The motive of homophobic hatred, i.e. hatred towards a social group LGBT, was not taken into account either by the court or by the investigators. In 2014, the lawsuit was dismissed due to amnesty.

The complaint states that the Russian government violated three articles of the European Convention. First, the police and the judges did not consider seriously the homophobic motive of the attack, violating the ban on humiliating treatment (Article 3). Secondly, the right to freedom of assembly was violated, because the shot was fired during the public event, and the police should have provided the participants with enough security (Article 11). Finally, the applicant and his lawyer point at discrimination based on sexual orientation (Article 14).

“Coming Out” lawyers emphasize that the police regularly refuses to investigate crimes against LGBT which occur during peaceful meetings. In 2013 there were several similar attacks, including the beating of four participants of the St. Petersburg pride event on June 29th; the attack on the office of “LaSky” organization in November, resulting in one activist losing sight in one eye, and another hit on the back. None of these crimes was qualified as a hate crime, which normally implies a more serious punishment.

European Court of Human Rights has never passed a judgment on complaints from victims of homophobic or transphobic hate crimes, and this precedent would protect LGBT communities in the future in many countries, not the least in Russia, where a positive decision would help to ensure proper investigations and stop impunity for homophobic perpetrators.

This was the report on the St. Petersburg’s celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in 2012:

Russia IDAHO Report 2012

May 17 celebration in St. Petersburg, Russia, marking the day in 1990 when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. (Photo courtesy of Queer Russia)

May 17 celebration in St. Petersburg, Russia, marking the day in 1990 when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. (Photo courtesy of Queer Russia)

Activists in St Petersburg commemorated IDAHO 2012 with an officially authorized mass rally involving more than 300 people. The rally was not without incident, with 100-150 members of nationalist groups, soccer fans and aggressive clerical groups on the scene to chant extremist homophobic slogans and prepared to charge at the protestors.

A line of police acted as a buffer and were able to hold them at bay. More than 500 rainbow balloons were launched into the skies to symbolize activists’ dream of a world free from homophobia and hate.

Representatives from democratic political parties and human rights organizations spoke of the importance of joining forces against the growing tide of intolerance in society.

Despite both the rally organizers and police provided buses to take the participants to safety, violence could not be avoided and two activists were attacked.

In addition to the rally, about 100 people gathered in Khabarovsk to release balloons as part of the global RainbowFlash mobilization against homophobia. RainbowFlash was also held in Tyumen, Tomsk, Omsk, Perm, Novosibirsk, Moscow, Arkhangelsk, Astrakhan, Vladivostok, Samara, Syktyvkar, Ufa, Pskov and Voronezh.

The US Embassy in Russia marked the Day with a Roundtable in Defense of LGBT Rights, which hosted a dialog between the Embassy and Civil Rights activists.

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Uganda’s anti-gay bill will return: Soon or pretty soon?

The harsh Anti-Homosexuality Act of Uganda, overturned by Uganda’s Constitutional Court, is likely to return to parliament for a new vote by that overwhelmingly anti-gay assembly.

How soon?

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

After a month of analysis, says the ruling NRM (National Resistance Movement) party, led by President Yoweri Museveni.  In a statement, the party caucus today said they would form a committee of nine members who will analyze constitutional issues related to the bill and report back after a month.

Very soon, says parliament speaker Rebecca Kadaga. More than 200 legislators have signed a petition seeking a quick vote on the bill rather than the typical 45-day delay required by standard parliamentary procedures.

David Bahati, the original author of the bill, is a member of the new NRM study committee.

David Bahati (Photo courtesy of NTV)

Ugandan member of parliament David Bahati, who first proposed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009. (Photo courtesy of NTV)

In its statement, the NRM caucus said it accepted the Constitutional Court ruling. That admission was seen as a sign that the government would not appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, as had been proposed.

One member of the NRM, quoted in a Reuters article, said that Museveni proposed a weakened version of the bill that would remove penalties for consensual sex.

“He said he wants the law back in [parliament] but now says if two consenting adults go into their room and decide to be stupid, let them be,”  said member of parliament Medard Bitekyerezo.

However, the existing Ugandan Penal Code already provides for life imprisonment for same-sex intimacy, or any “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature.”

 

 

Bitekyerezo said Museveni wants a bill that would outlaw “promotion of homosexuality” and the alleged practice of LGBT people “recruiting” children.

The impact of Western aid cutbacks was one issue in the discussion, according to Bitekyerezo’s account.

“We agreed to come up with a new version that doesn’t hurt our Western friends but also protects Ugandans,”  he said.

 

 

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Tiny Kenyan party seeks stoning, life in prison for gay sex

Logo of Kenya's tiny Republican Liberty Party.

Logo of Kenya’s tiny Republican Liberty Party.

A tiny political party in Kenya is seeking a law that would impose death by stoning as a punishment for same-sex relations between non-Kenyans, with a life sentence as the punishment for Kenyans.

The Daily Nation newspaper reported yesterday that the Republican Liberty Party submitted that proposal to the National Assembly, where no members of the Republican Liberty Party are currently serving.

According to the Political Handbook of the World 2014, the Republican Liberty Party is one of dozens of “minor groups that put forward candidates” in recent elections.

The National Assembly does have an anti-gay caucus, formed in February, that consists of several legislators who hope to “rally their colleagues in Parliament to fully enforce current relevant parts of the law that prohibit gay practices,” the Daily Nation reported.

A Kenyan law, rarely enforced, provides for up to 14 years in prison for same-sex intimacy.

 

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Series of public hangings in Iran, including 2 for sodomy

This photo accompanied the Iran Human Rights report on three men who were hanged in Shiraz on Aug. 3.

This photo accompanied the Iran Human Rights report on three men who were hanged in Shiraz on Aug. 3.

Two prisoners were hanged in public on Aug. 6 in the city of Shiraz in southern Iran on charges of sodomy, Iran Human Rights reports.

Details of the charges were unavailable.

Iran Human Rights stated, “Since there was no mention of rape in the report there is possibility that these men were sentenced to death for sexual relationship with the same sex.”

Two other prisoners were also hanged in public that day in Shiraz. Their offenses were given as kidnapping and rape.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of Iran Human Rights said on Aug. 6: “We urge international condemnation of today’s barbaric executions. … Iranian authorities should be held accountable for these inhumane acts.”

The two prisoners executed on sodomy charges were identified as “Abdollah Gh. Ch.” and “Soleiman Gh. Ch.” Information on the hangings came from the official website of the Iranian Judiciary in Fars province.

In addition, two prisoners were reported executed in Karaj — one hanged in public after being convicted of kidnapping and rape of a woman, the other hanged in prison for sexual abuse of minors.

Three other prisoners were reported hanged in public in Shiraz on Aug. 3 on charges of rape and armed robbery.

In a separate account, the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran stated:

“In the time span of just three days from August 3 to 6, twenty-two prisoners were hanged by the inhumane clerical regime in the cities of Karaj, Shiraz and Chahbahar. …

“Twelve of these prisoners were executed in the city of Karaj alone on Wednesday, August 6. Eleven prisoners, including one identified as Abbas Khorshidie, were hanged in the central prison of this city.

“Reza Fallah a 27-year-old prisoner was also hanged in public on the same day in this city. Before hanging the victim, the henchmen flogged him 100 times as the crowd watched in shock.

“Seven prisoners were hanged in two groups in public on August 3 and 6.

“Three men, Abdoljabbar Riegie, Othman Hassan Zehie and Abdolkarim Zahoukie, were executed in the central prison of city of Chahbahar on August 4.

“Fearing social uprisings, the criminal rulers in Iran conduct these atrocities under the pretext of ‘implementing God’s decree.’ They widely publish shocking photos of the hangings in an attempt to intensify the climate of fear in the country.

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Uganda: Party-style Pride after victory in court

A hundred-plus people attended Uganda’s third annual Pride festivities, held yesterday on a beach in Entebbe.

The mood was celebratory, because the Constitutional Court had just overturned Uganda’s harsh Anti-Homosexuality Act on Aug. 1.

Pirate-style party-goers at Uganda Pride. (Photos courtesy of Facebook)

Pirate-style party-goers at Uganda Pride. (Photos courtesy of Facebook)

From Agence France-Presse:

Dancing and waving rainbow-coloured flags, Ugandan activists held their first gay pride rally Saturday since the overturning of a tough anti-homosexuality law, which authorities have appealed.

“This event is to bring us together. Everyone was in hiding before because of the anti-homosexuality law,” organiser Sandra Ntebi told AFP. “It is a happy day for all of us, getting together,” Ntebi said, noting that police had granted permission for the invitation-only “Uganda Pride” rally.

Uganda Pride showed that not all Ugandan Christians are homophobic. (Photo courtesy of Twitter via Gay Star News)

Uganda Pride showed that not all Ugandan Christians are homophobic. (Photo courtesy of Twitter via Gay Star News)

From The Guardian:

Gay men and women face frequent harassment and threats of violence, but activists celebrated openly on Saturday.

“Since I discovered I was gay I feared coming out, but now I have the courage after the law was thrown out,” said Alex Musoke, one of more than 100 people at the event.

One pair of activists waved a rainbow flag with a slogan appealing for people to “join hands” to end the “genocide” of homosexuals. There were few police in attendance and no protestors.

Celebrating Pride Uganda. (Photo courtesy of Twitter and PinkDotSG)

Celebrating Pride Uganda. (Photo courtesy of Twitter and PinkDotSG)

From the Associated Press:

Although organizers had expected more than 500 people to attend the event, fewer than 200 turned up, said gay activist Moses Kimbugwe, who noted that many were afraid of possible violence following a court’s decision earlier this month to jettison an anti-gay law that had wide support among Ugandans.

“We are here to walk for those who can’t walk, who are afraid to walk,” said Kimbugwe. “We are here to celebrate our rights.”

Uganda Beach PrideFrom Frank Mugisha, leader of Sexual Minorities Uganda, on Twitter:

Pride Uganda 2014 successfully concluded. Thanx to Uganda Police, especially Entebbe police.

Thank you, all my friends who supported Uganda Pride.

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