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Lebanon endures increasing attacks on LGBT rights and their defenders

Lebanon endures increasing attacks on LGBT rights and their defenders

Right-wing Soldiers of God blocked march, chanted homophobic slogans


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The 'Soldiers of God' group clashed with people marching in support of LGBT rights and riot police. (Photo courtesy of Canberra TImes/ EPA)
The ‘Soldiers of God’ group clashed with people marching in support of LGBT rights and riot police. (Photo courtesy of Canberra TImes/ EPA)

Lebanon has a reputation as a relatively tolerant society, but anti-LGBT homophobia has increased in recent years. The government in 2019 blocked a planned conference about gender and sexuality by the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality. In 2022, the Interior Ministry banned events promoting LGBTI rights.

This year, the government is considering passage of bills that would explicitly criminalize same-sex intimacy. In July, the leader of thetShiite group Hezbollah spoke out against homosexual relationships and said that same-sex couples should be killed.

In August, the Soldiers of God, a right-wing Christian extremist group, attacked patrons of a bar hosting a drag show  and in September they blocked an LGBT rights march.

The Australian Associated Press reported:

At least three injured in attack on Beirut LGBT march

At least three people were injured [late last month] in central Beirut when a march in defense of LGBT rights was attacked by a group of purported Christian extremists.

As the march passed through the Shohada and Riad al Solh squares, a group of men on motorcycles, allegedly members of the Lebanese far-right Christian group Soldiers of God, tried to impede its progress.

The men chanted slogans against “any kind and form of homosexuality in the streets of Beirut,” the official Lebanese news agency ANN reported.

Shortly after the march began, the bikers attempted to paralyze it, while others from the same group went to the Ministry of Interior to request an order to cancel the march. The bikers threatened the parade and chanted slogans against the legalization of homosexuality.

Videos of the incident were circulated on social networks, where many activists and human rights organizations criticized the violence of the extremist group.

Photo circulating on social media depicting members of the Soldiers of God' movement. (Photo courtesy of aawsat.com)
Photo circulating on social media depicting members of the Soldiers of God’ movement. (Photo courtesy of aawsat.com)

One of the videos shows a young man with a bloodied head, while others try to prevent further aggression by the bikers.

The Progressive Socialist Party condemned the attack on its X account (formerly Twitter) and reminded the security forces that “they must arrest the attackers and bring them to justice,” as “they are obliged to fulfill their duty to preserve freedom.”

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The Beirut-based NGO Legal Agenda said in X [Twitter] that security forces were forced to protect activists and journalists after the attackers threw stones at them.

According to the organization, the constant aggression forced participants in the march to “replace it with a sit-in.” The organizers also issued a statement denouncing “methods of repression and attacks on public and private freedoms” and calling for “the implementation of the provisions of the constitution” to guarantee freedoms.

Aa month after a group of extremists stormed an LGBT bar in Beirut that was hosting a drag queen show. The attackers, identified by Amnesty International as members of the group Soldiers of God, shouted anti-gay slogans and bashed some of the attendees.

Hostile rhetoric against the gay community has increased in recent weeks after the leader of the Shiite group Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, spoke out against homosexual relationships, going so far as to say that those who engage in them should be “killed”.

Although Lebanon is considered one of the least conservative countries in the region, with the greatest freedom of expression, the LGBT community still faces fierce opposition, and last year the authorities banned the celebration of events organized by the collective.

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