No, In 2017, Being Gay Is Still Not Legal In Lebanon… But We’re Getting There

lgbt_lebanon-metn-ruling

Lebanon, rejoice. A judge in the Metn area has issued, according to the legal agenda, what most Lebanese would consider one of the more liberal decisions to happen in the country in a long time by declaring that “homosexuality is a personal choice, and not a punishable offense.”

Of course, people were quick to start the celebrations. The ruling, which was championed by LGBT-rights advocate NGO Helem, is a step forward without a debt. But it remains, more or less, symbolic in a country where the actual constitution still stipulates that consensual sexual relations between two consenting adults who happen to be of the same gender unnatural is still there. This judge’s decision is limited to the jurisdiction of his court and could be overruled by Lebanon’s supreme court if they please because of the presence of the aforementioned article 534 in Lebanon’s penal code.

This is also not the first time that a Lebanese judge issues a decision regarding homosexuality as not being “unnatural.” The first time – and the actual pioneering step in this aspect – was through a judge in Batroun (home state pride!) in 2009. The second time was also in the Metn area, back in January 2014. The third time was in January 2016 when a judge allowed trans-people to legally change their genders. 

Another milestone was a 2013 decision by the Lebanese Syndicate of Psychiatry to remove homosexuality off the list of mental health disorders, which has been the case in scientific literature since the 1970s. 40 years late, perhaps, but the move was still the first in the entire Middle East and Northern Africa region.

The common denominator for all previous three rulings is that they remain limited to what the judge in question decreed, because the penal code is unchanged and, thus, homosexuality is still a “crime” in 2017, in the Middle East’s most liberal country.

The ramification of that is that, despite how excellent and pioneering those rulings are, the state and its backwards policemen can still target LGBT people using article 534 and subject them to all kinds of human rights abuses.

And while the ruling is to be commended, the language it uses further perpetuates the commonly-held stereotype, even among LGBT-friendly individuals, that homosexuality, or any non-heterosexual behavior, is a “personal choice.” It’s not a choice. It’s how someone is built. One does not choose their sexual orientation the same way one doesn’t choose the country they’re born in. It’s really that simple.

One of the main problems facing further changes in mentalities towards the LGBT community today in the country and the region is the fact that education about the topic is severely lacking, many people believe the religion they were born into is enough reference about the particular topic and politicians that we vote for couldn’t care less about the issue to begin with.

Exhibits from Facebook comments on the latest posts about the Metn judge’s ruling:

Moving forward, we have to enable more LGBT-friendly parliament members to get to power by showing them that Lebanese progressives are as active voters as the conservatives they wish to court every single elections. And we cannot be content with important but essentially trivial rulings that can be overruled at any moment when our constitution still thinks being gay is an abomination. The core is rotten, and that’s what needs to be fixed still.

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Fabian Maamari, Enough With Your Silliness

Behold Fabian Maamari, the Swedish-Lebanese whose Facebook pictures are causing a Lebanese frenzy.

4 days ago, Fabian posted a picture of him between two IDF soldiers with the very – err – sentimental? caption that you can check here.

To sum-up, Fabian met Avi – an Israeli – and the love of his life as he calls him, when he visited Israel last year during Tel Aviv’s yearly Pride parade. He then decided to move to Israel and stay there.

Recently, Fabian went on a vacation to the Israeli side of the Dead Sea where he saw two IDF soldiers roaming around. So because he was “experimental” he came up to them and waited until they made contact. He then made sure they knew he was Lebanese because he wanted to shock them.

 

Those IDF soldiers turned out to have served in Lebanon during the period of Israeli occupation of the South, and maybe even during the July 2006 war. Therefore, Fabian’s knee-jerk reaction was to have all his fears dissolve because the IDF soldiers thought Lebanon was “a beautiful country.”

They were then invited to dinner where Fabian told them the story of how he met his husband, and things quickly turned into sunshine and butterflies and how we should never judge people before we meet them and that Israelis can be nice people too.

Israelis can be good people, sure. I mean, they are just people, and people can be good or bad. Fair enough, a soldier killing a Lebanese does not make all people of that country bad. But it does put a huge question mark on the country that ordered the killing, especially when the death tally on our side is of lives shattered and ruined. Meeting adorable Israelis does not mean foregoing the struggles of Lebanese people with them. It doesn’t mean brushing aside their horrors just because it’s “cool.”

By the same token, there are a lot of bad Lebanese people that make me ashamed of holding the same nationality. A recent example that comes to mind is those employees who beat up two African women just because they were, well, African (link), or how many of us are treating the Syrian refugees.

But this isn’t about giving every single Israeli the benefit of the doubt for being Israeli, Fabian Maamari wants us to give their entire country the benefit of the doubt, and with that I have a problem.

This is not, unlike how some Lebanese media portrayed it, about Fabian Maamari being gay, and being a Lebanese man in love with an Israeli man. This is far from it. Maamari can love whoever he wants, and sleep with whoever he wants, Israeli or otherwise, and I couldn’t care less.

This is also not similar to when Miss Lebanon found herself in a selfie with Miss Israel (link) or when the recurrent debate about how to best handle Israeli presence at international events takes place.

 

I feel like a few reminders are in order for Mr. Maamari, who entered Israel with his Swedish passport, and who has absolutely no reason to be “afraid” when he’s there as a European Union nationalist, not as Lebanese.

These are a few pictures from the recent July War, where Israel killed over 1500 civilians of your country including more than 300 women and children:

And this is the love they gave us then:

 

And these are pictures of the 1996 Qana Massacre where Israel shelled a UN compound filled with children, killing 106.

Where was the love back then?

For every picture that you are posting, Mr. Maamari, of your Israeli adventure, there’s one to parallel it in horrors of what that country has caused us.

For every “awww” moment you’re experiencing when you meet an Israeli who happens to be nice, and you get the shock of his life that they can be nice when you’re dating one of them (I don’t get it?), there’s a Palestinian child drawing his last breath. Have you heard about the recent settler arson that took an infant’s life?

Either way, I see that you noticed how Palestine is separated from you by a wall, but you seem not to have an issue with it:

A picture taken by Fabian, off his blog.

A picture taken by Fabian, off his blog.

Fabian’s reply to those who reminded him of Israel’s atrocities in Lebanon is that he does not entertain blind hate. Yes, because the history of how your other country got killed, decimated, and targeted is blind.

Your people, that is if they are your people, are not filled with hate; they are filled with memories, most of which you lack. The wars you’ve “heard” about, some of us lived first hand (link). Those IDF soldiers you had dinner with probably killed a father or a mother or a child of someone that we may know. That country you’re falling in love with actively killed us and occupied our land for years.

Fabian Maamari, you are allowed to sleep with as many Israelis as you want. You are allowed to fall in love with as many Israelis as you want, and by all means have dinner with as many IDF soldiers as you want. You are allowed to be happy you went viral for your “boundaries-transcending” love affair as much as you want. But there’s a limit to how love-struck you can be.

Being Gay Is Worse Than Being ISIS: 2 Lebanese Men Tortured For 3 Weeks in Prison Over Their Sexuality

You, as a Lebanese, are as irrelevant as a cockroach. Your rights are the doormat every single person with power steps on to ascend up the scale of political prowess.

A couple of weeks ago, two minute-long videos were leaked out of Roumieh jail. They featured security officers beating up on Islamist suspects – people who have not been convicted yet. I won’t be sharing the videos here, because there’s no point in propagating such barbaric things.

Mini-Lebanese-hell broke loose as a consequence. In the quiet Ramadan month, politically, the bombshell of torture happening in Lebanese jail – surprise, surprise! – got some people on the streets burning tires, blocking roads. It got Ashraf Rifi, our minister of justice, up in a fit as to how such a thing could ever happen – how shocking – but we all know it was because those tortured are Sunni.

Many were ecstatic about the videos, as I was able to assess with the sheer enthusiasm that many of my Facebook friends shared them. Human rights are not an argument to some people it seemed: those people killed our soldiers, they’d shout at you. Sure, they might have… but how are we better than them if we film them being humiliated and then use those videos for political fuel? Oh, you just love ISIS. 

But this post is not about ISIS torture videos.

Another reaction that took place when the Roumieh videos surfaced was utter shock that such stuff happen in Lebanese jails. Torture? In Lebanon? Mais c’est pas possible? Le liban est le plus beau pays du monde, oh mon dieu. 

Those people clearly lived in their version of Lebanese Switzerland where Beirut served as a Middle Eastern Geneva. The wake-up call that they got to realize that they were indeed living in a third world country where their value is worthless was shocking: this is not a land where human rights are scripture, where your value as a human being is paramount and where your sanctity is holy.

The story of Roy Azar, who had a sound grenade aimed at his chest, killing him a few weeks before his release time, was never front-page news. Roy Azar is not fuel for Ashraf Rifi to ride on the Sunni-anger bandwagon.

The story of Jamil Abou Ghina who died of a heart attack due to the severe torture he experienced at the hand of sadists in Lebanese jail was not front-page news. Jamil Abou Ghina was not filmed being beaten up and laughed at by some irrelevant security officer who probably got orders from high above to do so.

But this isn’t about Jamil or Roy either.

L’Orient Le Jour broke a story a few days ago that I think everyone should read (link). It’s the story of torture that also took place recently, but clearly did not get the attention that a terrorist getting beaten up in Roumieh got.

On June 9th, 2015, Omar and his friend Samer were on their way to spend the weekend in the South when they were stopped at a checkpoint that found a few grams of weed in their car. So they were arrested, their belongings confiscated, and were taken to be interrogated and ended up spending the night in jail where they were subjected to drug testing, all of which turned out negative.

So with no more charges under their belt, our lovely police officers went through Omar’s phone conversation with his friend Samer and noticed that he called him “habibi.” So they accused Omar of being homosexual, which he denied. Then they took out the negative drug test result, told him it was positive, in an attempt to get him to give out details about drug dealers in Beirut. When that failed, they brought out his friend Samer, stripped him and started beating him up with their hands, with their canes. They submerged his head in icy water, in attempt to get them to confess to both drugs and homosexuality charges.

Samer was beaten up, drowned, electrocuted. He ended up confessing to the charges. Then they started torturing Omar to give our names of people in the Lebanese gay community, which he didn’t do. It was then that the police called Omar and Samer’s parents and told them that their children were gay.

When Omar and Samer’s parents arrived to the place where they were held, they were not allowed to see their children. When they asked if their children had been tortured, the officer assured them: walaw? Where do you think we live?

The two men spent 6 days in Tyre where they were faced with a choice: either get beaten up or give out names of gay men in Lebanon. Then they were transferred to the infamous Hobeich police station, where they stayed for 5 days, in a 20 squared meter cells with 20 other people. Then they were transferred to holding in Saida where they stayed for 8 days, with 200 other prisoners who were informed by the security officers there that Omar and Salem were homosexuals.

Omar was then released two days later after being seen by a judge. His friend Samer was kept in jail, until L’Orient Le Jour contacted Nohad el Machnouk who took it upon himself to address the issue. Samer was liberated 30 minutes later.

Of course, the story of Omar and Samer did not receive front-page attention in Lebanon. No one burned tires. No one closed roads. No one got upset. It simply passed by, like any other piece of news, irrelevant and useless.

Why would a Lebanese MP care? Defending the rights of two men who were violated in such a way does not help him with a populace that only seems to care when the issue is sectarian.

Why would Ashraf Rifi, the minister of justice, care that severe injustice has befallen Lebanese citizens when those citizens are maybe not Sunni, or not in any way material for him to further fuel his ascension atop the Future Movement in the absence of Saad?

Why would the Lebanese populace care about two men who were beaten up, electrocuted, humiliated, and have their reputation ruined?

Why would the staunch new-found defenders of human rights who popped out of the blue after the surfacing of the Roumieh videos also rise up to the mantel after such a horrific story as well?

Omar and Samer are just one example in a growing list of stories of torture across the Lebanese Republic. The only difference is this time Omar spoke up for himself and his friend.

How many Lebanese are there among us who have had to suffer horrific transgressions just for falling under the pawns of some barbaric animal with power and are too afraid to tell their story for fear of repercussions? How many stories are there, similar to that of Omar and Samer, of people who are being violated just because someone in power felt like it? How many Lebanese are there, who have been accused of drug possession, of drug use, of homosexuality, or any other charge, had to be subjected to severe transgressions just because?

The sad part is that there will be people in the country to say that Omar and Samer deserve what they got, just as there were people who say those prisoners in Roumieh deserve what they got as well. Welcome to the Republic of shame, we offer you 18 sects, diversity, a capital with identity issues, mountains close to the sea, and 21-st century torture to feast your eyes, senses and human rights.

 

When Arabs Think The Apocalypse Is Near Because The US Legislated Same-Sex Marriage

I’m so honored and flattered to be living in the most open-minded and widely-accepting region of the world. Not only is everything peachy, wonderful and exceedingly rainbow-y around this place, but people in the region are adamant that their quality of life is obviously the way to go for everyone else, and that any deviation from it is quite clearly going to bring about the end of days, Allah-style.

It only took a couple of hours after the United States legislated same-sex marriage on Friday for Arabs across the Middle East to rise in outrage. Obviously, the outrage was restricted to Facebook and Twitter, but some of them were absolutely seething.

Here’s a sample:

How can anyone fathom living in a place where people are equal and requested?

I mean look at Iceland. They have more books published per person than any other country in the world while still being the second happiest country in the world. They legalized same-sex marriage in 2010. How dreadful.

Look at Belgium. The UNICEF called it the best place for children in the world. They legalized same-sex marriage in 2003. How atrocious.

Look at Canada. They are, according to studies, the most educated country in the world. They legalized same-sex marriage in 2005. How horrifying.

Look at New Zealand. They’re the second least corrupt and fourth safest country in the world. They legalized same-sex marriage in 2013. How abysmal.

Look at Norway. They legalized same-sex marriage in 2001, and they’re #1 on the UN’s Human Development Index. How disgusting.

Look at Ireland. In May 2015, they became the world’s first country to legislate same-sex marriage via a public referendum. They’re the #10 in the best places to grow up in. How nauseating.

Obviously, a #GAY_HOUSE is not a suitable place for humanity, because it will destroy everything that we’re about:

Arabs US - 15

 

So, because those horrible same-sex-loving countries are downright appalling at how they do things, I think that we should tell them what “natural” is, because they don’t know, and because we’re excellent at keeping things natural:

  1. It’s okay to have ISIS in your backyard. Clearly, there’s nothing wrong or unnatural about a clan of beheading-loving terrorists who are emanating from our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  2. It’s okay if you marry an 8 year old girl. As long as the person you’re marrying has a vagina, you’re okay. Also, it’s not pedophilia in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  3. It’s okay if you beat your wife to death. The law allows it. No one will bat an eyelash on the news of her ending up in the hospital, brain dead. No one will also care about the bruises on her face. This is how we roll in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  4. It’s not okay for you to marry someone who inherited a different set of religious beliefs. Sunni and Shiite can be okay, even though you wouldn’t want that for your children nowadays also. But Muslim-Christian? This is not how things work in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  5. You will not be naturalized in our countries unless you’re from a certain religion. It doesn’t matter how good of a person you are, how hard-working, law-abiding and national. We don’t want any strangers in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  6. If you hear someone talk about the idea of civil liberties, call them a heretic and hang them at your nearest town square. Civil marriage? Equal right? Human rights? These are foreign concepts in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  7. If someone dares to mention Western countries, you will point your finger to his or her face and accuse them of being a follower of the Great Big Shaytan. This is not an insult to anyone’s intelligence in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.
  8. You will bring up Gaza and other violations of human rights in casual conversation about irrelevant topics, over shisha with your friends, to show you care. We are compassionate in our #NATURAL_HOUSE.

Once upon a time, I used to be a homophobe bigot. I used to think what people did in the privacy of their homes was my own business, and that I was allowed to have an opinion into how other people lived their lives, and that their lives are supposed to go on the track of values that I was exposed to all my life, never challenging, never looking at another realm of morality that existed beyond the confines of that little town, nestled on the hills of Batroun, in the heart of Christian Lebanon.

This extended to the way I dealt with things as well: when the only thing you know is that different is not okay, that “other” is frowned upon, that anything existing beyond your moral code is cringe-worthy, you slowly but surely regress into not being human.

But then I left home, and I realized that there were a lot of things I didn’t know. I realized that being challenged, morally, by things I had never been exposed to wasn’t only mind-boggling, it was also exhilarating. And slowly, over the course of many years and friendships in between, I not only do not recognize the boy that I was a few years ago, but I cower at the idea of that person still existing in some people’s memory.

I’ve seen some people say that discussing the new American legislation should not be done by people not living in the United States. I believe it’s the exact opposite. The most heart-warming story I’ve seen over the weekend is how a friend of mine, whose mother thought homosexuality was an abomination only a few years ago, is now a person who just wants people to live and let live, because what they’re doing does not affect her in any way whatsoever.

The more we discuss such topics and issues that challenge what we know, the more we inch towards truly bettering ourselves as societies, crawling slowly but surely towards a better state, one where people realize that the people who are different in all aspects are not an issue, but not accepting them is.

Why Lebanon’s Psychologists & Psychiatrists Are Now Talking on Homosexuality

You’ve probably heard a lot recently about how the Lebanese Psychology and Psychiatry associations have “come out” in the scientific favor of homosexual behavior in Lebanon.

For those of you who don’t know, the main reference for psychologists and psychiatrists, the DSM, has declassified homosexuality as an illness 40 years ago. So why is it now that Lebanon’s psychologists and psychiatrists are saying it isn’t so to the Lebanese public?

Well, I’m lucky enough to be passing through a psychiatry rotation at the country’s leading psychiatric facilities, under the auspices of one of the psychiatrists who was cited in the many press events that have taken place around the issue at hand. So I asked the question that has been going through my head for a long time now: why now, 40 years later, since the DSM update on the matter happened in 1973?

It seems the main reason behind the associations in question is because “the time is right.” What time is that?
Apparently, following the closure of Ghost in Dekwaneh, some TV stations hosted “psychologists” who proclaimed homosexuality as a disease precipitated by some forms of child abuse. This statement has absolutely no basis in reality so the Lebanese Psychology Association and the Lebanese Psychiatric Society decided that such erroneous information were not to be allowed to be propagated and that they were going to counter them.

The psychiatrist whom I asked for information on the matter was adamant to note that, contrary to the increasingly popular belief that such statements aim to get the law changed, it is not in fact their aim because “legislation doesn’t concern [Lebanon’s psychiatrists].” They are simply trying to raise awareness on the issue due to the way Lebanese media has been portraying it.

Do they hope the law gets changed one day? The psychiatrist in question said he’s personally in favor of changing the law. But it is not their job, nor is it part of their agenda. It is worth noting though, that even though Lebanon is technically “40 years late,” it’s still the “first country in the region to have such stances made public.”

Either way, based on my observations in psychiatry for the past few weeks, Lebanon has a long, long way to go regarding much of that domain.

Homosexuals Not Allowed To Enter Lebanon?

Our minister of interior Marwan Charbel, also known as the gift that keeps on giving, issued a statement on the matter:

Marwan Charbel Homosexuality Lebanon

Picture via Facebook

The above statement hasn’t been altered. It’s what the minister said verbatim (link). “Lebanon is against gays,” he said. “The Lebanese law considers them a felony and I wonder if after France allowed same-sex marriages, we allow them to enter Lebanon?”

Beware gay people, Lebanon will enforce some new airport regulations to ban homosexuals entry to its land. Lebanon is a no-gay zone, according to Marwan Charbel that is.

The statement will resonate with all the people who approve of what the mayor of Dekwane did (link), the people who will applaud Marwan Charbel for “protecting their families,” the people who are busy putting up posters such as this around their towns:

Picture via Stop Cultural Terrorism in Lebanon's Facebook page

Picture via Stop Cultural Terrorism in Lebanon’s Facebook page

Lebanon, the country with entrenched homophobia, isn’t changing anytime soon.

PS: Mr. Charbel, your radar may have missed several hundred thousand individuals of the Lebanese population.

The Closing of Ghost & Lebanon’s LGBT “Crust” Activism?

“Gay people should not exist. They are an abomination.” Raise your hand if you’ve heard this countless times in your life.

It doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is. Homophobia is entrenched in Lebanese society and pretending it doesn’t exist because you live in a more “liberal” place in Beirut doesn’t mean it’s not there.

People see someone wearing something they may not fancy and they say he’s gay. People see a girl with super-short hair and not-so girly clothes and she’s a lesbian. People see two close friends from the same gender walking on the street and they’re automatically dating.

And sometimes, when someone has enough power, they act out on their homophobia. It’s very easy to freak out how someone as homophobic as the mayor of dekwane, the newest a place to close down a gay pub, made it to office. But is it any surprise?

Is it any surprise really and honestly that your security task force, which has no problem wolf-whistling your women on the streets, also has no problem in violating people that your law considers as “unnatural?”

I had no idea what “Ghost” was until today. I asked a few LGBT friends the following question: if it had been a hetereosexual place, do you think it closing would have been justified if the same stuff were happening in it?
They answered yes. The question begets itself: is it okay to do whatever people did at Ghost just because it’s a gay place?

Of course, Ghost closed down because it broke one particular Lebanese law, not the many others that, in any normal setting, should have counted. Of course the mayor wanted to protect his city against the “louwat” and whatnot. And you know what’s also interesting? For everyone person outraged by what happened and by what that mayor said, there are many more others who were just convinced to re-elect that mayor. No amount of Facebook sharing and Tweeting will change what people believe in deeply, surely and resoundingly: gay is not right and should not exist.

You know what’s the best way to tell a homophobic official to go to hell with his decisions? To have the law on your side to protect you, to have a law that doesn’t label you as an inferior human being just because of who you want to sleep with.

Until a time when closing down pubs because they’re gay-friendly becomes illegal and raiding cinemas because someone thinks “unnatural” things are happening there becomes not allowed, isn’t getting up in a fit because of those events happening while forgetting the base of the issue sort of like crust-activism whereby the small victories that might result are celebrated but the underlying cause for the struggle leading to those victories remains?

Until a time when homosexuality is removed form Lebanon’s penal code and homosexual men and women are not considered in law with a prefix, pubs will keep closing and cinemas will keep on being raided and activists will keep on panicking. It’s a cycle that will repeat itself indefinitely – until Lebanon’s LGBT community manages to get LGBT-friendly officials on their side in order to advocate for their rights and make laws that can be shoved in the mayor of Dekwane’s face.

I don’t see that happening anytime soon.