Lebanon’s gay pride week has been canceled after its organizer was detained and forced to end the festivities early.
Hadi Damien told The Associated Press that complaints about Beirut’s second Gay Pride led to him being detained overnight for “encouraging debauchery and offending public decency,” according to his lawyer, Layal Saqr.
The festival, which started Saturday, was first interrupted by police on Monday when they tried to halt a theatre reading due to allegedly violating censorship laws.
This led to Damien being brought in for interrogation regarding the week’s events, which included concerts, a street party and a drag show.
Authorities made Damien sign a pledge to cancel the rest of the Pride festivities, as not doing so could have led to misdemeanor charges and a criminal case punishable by two years in prison.
“I advised him to sign. We want him outside not behind bars,” Saqr said, adding, “This was a warning…and the aim was to stop the events.”
Damien said that he was not assaulted during his prison stay and was able to work with authorities to avoid a larger roundup of other participants. “I didn’t want to cause panic or disappoint the LGBT community,” Damien said.
Lebanon became the first Arab nation to hold a Pride event when Beirut Pride took place last year. However, homosexuality is illegal and it is typical for LGBTQ people to be reprimanded under vaguely worded debauchery and public decency laws.
While no one was detained, last year’s pride week was also shrouded in fear and controversy. Islamist groups threatened to attack a parade and complained about the event, leading to the parade and other events being canceled. No parade was planned this year.
However, repressed LGBTQ people in Lebanon have seen a glimmer of hope with a major political party in Lebanon announcing in March that one of its priorities will be advocating for the decriminalization of same-sex consensual sexual acts.