Beirut Pride concert cancelled after religious protests against ‘debauched and immoral’ festival

Lebanese LGBT people rally in Beirut in 2013

Beirut Pride organisers say they have been forced to cancel their opening concert after religious authorities raised objection to the “debauched and immoral” event.

It is technically legal to be gay in Lebanon, but the annual Pride festival in the country’s capital has faced repeated crackdowns, with its lead organiser arrested in 2018.

The 2019 event now also appears to be under threat, with organisers announcing the cancellation of a planned opening concert.

Beirut Pride concert cancelled after resistance to ‘debauchery and immorality’.

A statement said: “Upon the announcement of the Opening Night of Beirut Pride 2019 at [arts venue] The Palace, religious institutions called for the cancellation of the concert, linking it to the promotion of same-sex marriage and associating it to debauchery and immorality.

“Security authorities contacted the administration of The Palace, and multiple parties issued statements, threatening with violence against the theatre and against the participants in the concert, in addition to anonymous threats that targeted the theatre management.

“Under pressure from the street, the management of The Palace is unable to produce the concert next Saturday.

“We thank the performers and The Palace for their perseverance, and the opening evening of Beirut Pride 2019 is suspended until further notice.”

A protester waves the gay pride flag as others hold banners during an anti-homophobia rally in Beirut on April 30, 2013

A protester waves the gay pride flag as others hold banners during an anti-homophobia rally in Beirut on April 30, 2013. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty)

The Palace said in a statement on Facebook that the decision “was the result of threats and bullying by groups and individuals” and not “the result of any formal request from the Lebanese authorities”.

It added that “the decision to cancel was agreed in cooperation with the organisers”.

Lebanon has banned LGBT+ activists from entering the country.

Last month, it emerged that activists and academics who attended a gender and sexuality conference in Lebanon were banned from re-entering the country.

The country excluded people who had attended the 2018 Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality conference, which aimed to allow activists to share knowledge between countries and develop strategies on LGBT+ issues.

Lebanon’s director of general security Abbas Ibrahim confirmed: “The preservation of the security of family and society makes it imperative to take immediate and rapid measures to avoid the dismal collapse of society and prevent and confront any imported vice, and to grant the competent authorities, in particular the Directorate of General Security… the authority to take all required measures to prevent any act that irritates and disrupts the security and stability of society.”

Lama Fakih, acting Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said: “The Lebanese authorities’ actions against the conference is a blatant attempt to restrict the space for free speech and assembly.

“These collective sanctions undermine the rights of advocates who are committed to advancing equality in Lebanon and in the region.”