British and Dutch embassies in Lebanon fly the rainbow flag

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The rainbow flag was flying in Beirut yesterday.

The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, which takes place annually on May 17, marks the continuing persecution of LGBT people around the world.

The day was marked in a few surprising places, with the rainbow flag flying in Lebanon to mark the occasion.

The British Embassy Beirut marked the day by flying the rainbow flag from its embassy in the country’s capital, while the Dutch Embassy in Beirut also marked the occasion.

The UK embassy explained: “On IDAHOBIT we recall that LGBT rights are human rights. Everyone deserves respect & dignity; no one should live in fear.”

The UK in Lebanon

Until 2016, the UK Foreign Office banned the flying of Pride flags from embassies. However, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson axed the rule after taking over from Philip Hammond.

The Dutch embassy added: “We are proud to fly the rainbow flag on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia #IDAHOT2017 in support of all who fight discrimination and hate in Lebanon and around the world.

“We will continue to work towards a world where everyone is equal, no matter their race, colour, gender identity or gender expression and unequivocally defend LGBTIQ-rights as human rights.”

Lebanon’s law is vague when it comes to homosexuality, though it is technically legal to be gay. A section of the country’s Penal Code prohibits sexual relations “contradicting the laws of nature”, but courts have ruled that this should not be applied to consenting gay sex.

LGBT people have little in the way of legal protections and there is a strong social taboo against homosexuality.

Earlier this week a planned IDAHOT event in Beirut hosted by the Proud Lebanon group was cancelled after threats of anti-LGBT protests.

The group had planned to host journalists, artists and doctors at an event to discuss anti-LGBT discrimination for IDAHOT.

However, a statement explained: “Regrettably, after numerous pressures, threats, intimidations and complaints from religious authorities, the basic rights for the LBGTs to be dignified, recognized and respected were denied.”

The venue for the event cancelled at the last minute, citing the threats of violence and protests.

According to Pride Lebanon, a religious body had “warned it would use force to prevent the gathering from taking place”.

It added: “Our organizations strongly condemn this incident and call on the authorities to take the necessary measures to ensure freedom of assembly, information and expression in Lebanon.”

Speaking to AFP, Proud Lebanon director Bertho Makso added: “The Association of Muslim Scholars threatened to hold protests in front of the hotel, which finally cancelled the event.

“There were real threats. We then thought of holding the event in a public place, but who could guarantee the safety of the participants?”

In 2016, Pride Lebanon were forced to cancel an event after threats from local Christian groups.