Journalist Dan Littauer reports on a wave of Lebanese police raids targeting gay men, starting with the Aug. 9 arrest of 27 men at the Agha Hammam Turkish bath in Beirut (reported here Aug. 13). Further raids reportedly occurred on Aug. 14, with 18 men arrested at two locations. Excerpts from Littauer’s account, starting with the current status of the 27 original arrestees:
Six have been released on Thursday [Aug. 14] while the 21 others have been transferred to Zahle’s prison. … 16 of the detainees asked Helem, Lebanon’s LGBTQI advocacy organisation, for legal help and can only be released with the payment of a substantial bail, to which the organisation is calling for donations.
On Thursday a further raid occurred in the morning on Sheherazade Hammam [Turkish bath] in the Burj Hammoud neighbourhood of Beirut, before it opened its doors to the public, with one employee being arrested.
In addition there have been unconfirmed reports of further raid on a private home in the northern city of Tripoli, where gay men were meeting, with 17 people arrested also on Thursday.
Hbeish [police station] personnel investigated the detainees and their files have now been transferred to the General Prosecutor, Bilal Dinnawi, awaiting charges.
Dinnawi informed the five organizations “that overall the General Prosecution is not interested in charging the detainees with [“having unnatural sex”], article 534. However, in this particular case Dinawi confirmed that he might charge the detainees under public indecency (article 521).”
The general prosecutor stated that no anal tests were done because the men “confessed” but he also mentioned that he could have had these carried out “if he wanted to.”
The coalition of five advocacy groups called upon the General Prosecutor and Hbeish police station to respect the dignity of the detainees and expressed concern over the possibility that anal-probe tests were used, which were previously slammed by international rights organizations as a form of torture.
Dr. Hasan Abdessamad, president of the [Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health, said] …:
“The men who frequent such spaces are usually working class or poor and can not afford going to a hotel or much less have a holiday home, or pay a substantial bail. They are often not out and the police has now put their lives at risk because their families and communities will be informed, and are usually not very tolerant of gays.
“Why are authorities targeting poor gay men, if this was a campaign about ‘public decency’ why were only these establishments selected?”
Joseph Aoun, a Lebanese LGBTI rights activists, told me: “Our state is trying to do imaginary victories facing their failure on other levels. They are ready to target minorities and gay people as they are a catchy subject.” …
The Lebanese LGBT Media Monitor has started a hashtag #HammamRaid and #NoMoreRaids twitter campaign, inviting people to use them in protest and in order to raise awareness.
For more information, read the full article in Huffington Post: “Lebanon Launches Police Raids Targeting Gay Men.”