Lebanon authorities block gay pride festival

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A gay pride rallyist in Lebanon in 2013. (Times of News image)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Lebanon’s LGBT festival, the only event of its kind in the Arab world, was suspended after authorities interrogated its organiser and threatened him with prosecution, he said Wednesday.

The second edition of Beirut Pride had started Saturday with a concert starring “Alsarah and the Nubatones”, a band fronted by a Brooklyn-based Sudanese singer.

The week-long event was to include cultural events, talks and readings aimed at raising awareness, minus the extravagant parades held at Pride events elsewhere.

But Lebanon’s General Security agency stopped a reading set for Monday evening and summoned festival organiser Hadi Damien for questioning, he said in a statement.

He was advised to “sign a pledge that assures the activities will not take place” in exchange for his release, he said.

The festival’s remaining events, including poetry readings, a storytelling night and a talk on sexual health, were cancelled, the statement said.

Lebanon is generally more tolerant of its LGBT community than other Arab countries, but an event was also shut down during the first edition of Beirut Pride last year.

Activists in Beirut are at the forefront of efforts to tackle prejudice in the region, but continue to face discrimination both by state institutions and society.

p: wjg

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