Archive for the ‘LGBT – Tourism’ Category

Tunisia about to Legalize Homosexuality!


The LGBT community across the Arab World and the world anticipates with great hope the recent laws being drafted in Tunisia which include a clear and explicit call to ban the punishment of homosexuals based on their sexual orientation.

It all started with The Committee on Individual Freedoms and Equality which published its report on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 after presenting it to the President of the country. The report is of over 230 pages and calls for several amendments to the constitution. Among the drafted suggestions, many are expected to arouse vast waves of controversy across Arab and Islamic countries and communities.

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The report does not exclusively discuss the legality of homosexuality but goes as far as suggesting the right of women to pass their last names onto their children. As its title implies, the document goes on to cover various aspects of individual rights & freedoms  and equality and discusses both the latter and the former in two separate parts.                       

Interestingly, the document claims that it is the product of thinkers consulting not only sociological sources as one might expect, but also religious ones. It is also worth mentioning that among the thinkers whose input resulted in the aforementioned document, are people who have been known as political Islamists such as Salaheddine El Jorshy who is an advocate of Islamic Leftism.

Jorshy, who is also a well known media figure in Tunisia, was interviewed by “El Jawhara fm” in Tunis where he stated that this is the first time individual freedoms and personal rights are being officially discussed by “experts”.


When asked about the part of the report that touches upon homosexuality and its legality, he said that “the phenomenon of homosexuality must be admitted and while every human is entitled freedom when it comes to his body, it is the demeaning and insulting practices against these people that should be banned.”

While the Tunisian street is not by any means exempted from opponents to the suggested drafts, the country and social justice advocates elsewhere seem to await the approval of the document with unprecedented hope. With Lebanon being in the process of forming the new cabinet of ministers, one cannot but wonder, are we next?

 Document PDF



Personal Review: Mashrou’ Leila at Zouk Mikael

August 7, 2014 Leave a comment

By: Lisa R. Riskalas


As homosexuals in an Arab country we all go through the same stages of coming out, denial, fear, carelessness and eventually pride. But some of us get stuck on the second stage due to some surrounding force; it can be anything from family and friends to employment.
At the age of nineteen, I found myself stuck in that exact stage, I told myself and many others that I would never come out to my family unless I am heading off to the airport and never coming back.
It was around that same time that I heard of Mashrou3 Leila. I recall the first song I heard, “Fasateen”; my jaw dropped at the sight of the video and the lyrics. For once I found myself attracted towards the Arabic language, the music simply hypnotized me, and as time went on I sank into the Mashrou3 Leila sea of causes, astonishing music and absolute raw honesty, and I was not the only one.


About five years later, I stood at the entrance of the Zouk Mikael Amphitheater, staring at the sight of cops and security guards everywhere. My heart pounded as I waited for the event to start, eyes carefully scanning the surroundings for a sign of disturbance and protesters but none were found.
The area was surprisingly peaceful, filled with just a few people, most of them sitting in the lunch area. Others already running to the gate, waiting for it to open so that they can jump on the first chance they can get to sit in front. I immediately ran after these people and took my spot in the front of the stage.

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The bands started right on time despite the fact that barely a few people had arrived, first came Jammit the band, and then Sandmoon and by the end of each performance you could feel the vibe changing. People started moving closer to the stage and the place became far more crowded. And by the time Loopstache and Pindoll started performing people were surrounding the stage with their arms up, dancing and singing in joy.

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Finally Mashrou3 Leila arrived after a few minutes delay. The screaming got louder and I was one of the people screaming at the top of their lungs. You could feel the energy shifting from musical to an astounding show of love and support for Hamed and the gay community in general. The band’s performance had a lot of heart, you could see it on their faces as they stood on stage staring at the crowd that it wasn’t simply the fans that knew that this performance was more than a concert, it was a fight against haters. As fireworks started, Zouk Mikael Amphitheater metaphorically turned into a battlefield where Hamed Sinno kicked Fouad El Adem’s ass by simply dedicating one song to him “Eskandar Ma’louf.”


As their performance ended, I walked towards the backstage entrance hoping to catch a glimpse of my personal hero where I could actually tell him the one hundred things I’ve always wanted to say. As I waited, I naively asked a cop “how’s it going?” and he nodded back at me with a very cold facial expression, I couldn’t tell whether he thought I would turn into a zombie and bite him or if he simply was disgusted by my homosexuality, and either way I didn’t care.

I walked back to stage after a few minutes of no one coming out besides whoever got backstage passes. I started watching the last performance of the night, Who Killed Bruce Lee playing their energetic and enthusiastic music on stage when I received a text from my friend who stood at the backstage entrance telling me to come quick. I ran passed dancing people, nearly tripping a couple of times until I finally arrived and saw Hamed standing with a bunch of people surrounding him and taking pictures. At that moment, I forgot everything I ever wanted to say, I simply walked up and said “Can I hug you?” and the answer was yes.

After a group photo with my friends, I asked for one more by myself where I surprised him with a kiss that I had held for years until I finally got to meet him. His reaction brought me even more joy as the photo was taken, all those words I wanted to say simply came out in a couple of hugs and a kiss to a person I deeply consider a hero, as him, his music and his band helped me (and surely many people) get through the second stage of coming out and get to the most wonderful and freeing one of all, Pride.

All in all, the performances were wonderful and the bands all did magnificently, hopefully my detailed experience could at least put the people who couldn’t attend stand in my shoes. See you at Mashrou3 Leila’s next performance, at Wickerpark on September 7th, get your tickets at

مقفل… من قبل وزارة السياحة Ghost

يعود ملهى Ghost إلى الواجهة مرةً جديدة،  ليس عبر برنامج جو معلوف أو مع “الشخطورة”، ولكن مع إقفال من قبل وزارة السياحة هذه المرة.

نقل موقع “ليبانون فايلز” أن وزارة السياحة اتخذت يوم الثلاثاء ٢٨ ايار قراراً بإقفال ملهى Ghost في منطقة الدكوانه. وفي التفاصيل أن وزارة السياحة وبعد اطلاعها على ملف الملهى وما تضمنه من مخالفات قانونية قررت اقفاله وإلغاء رخصته الأولية بعد ثبوت مخالفة فيه. وتم إبلاغ مستثمر الملهى عبر لصق القرار على مدخل الملهى.

وبإتصالٍ من موقعنا مع المسؤول عن الملهى، نفى لنا الخبر وقال أنه “ضجة ومعمعة إعلامية” وبأن الملهى مقفل بقرارٍ منه وليس من قبل الوزارة. وأضاف أنه لم يكن متواجد في لبنان وليس لديه أي علم بالامر و-“الملهى ليس لديه أي مخالفات قانونية” .

فمن علينا أن نصدق؟ وزارة السياحة والقرار بالإقفال؟ أو نصدق المستثمر للملهى الذي برهن مراراً وتكراراً أنه فعلاً “متل “الأترش بالزفه”  ؟

ولكن ما إذا كان الملهى قد اقفل أو ما زال يستقبل عشاق السهر، هل يجب علينا التركيز على هذا الموضوع وأن ننسى القضية الرئيسية ؟

هل ننسى كل الانتهاكات والجرائم التي ارتكبها “شخطورة” ونسلط الضو على إقفال ملهى بسبب مدفوعات أو مخلفات قانونية (بحسب ما نقل عن وزارة السياحة) ؟

لا يمكننا دعم أو إدانة إقفال ملهى قبل جمع كل التفصايل حول ما إذا كان قد اقفل أم لا،  وحتى الأن لا يوجد أي مصدر إعلامي تمكن من التحقق والإطلاع على ما إذا كان الملهى قد اقفل من قبل الوزارة لمساعدة الجمهور في بناء موقف على أساس دعمه لحقوق الانسان .

TêTu voyage> Visite Guidée> Beyrouth

March 22, 2011 Leave a comment

TêTu voyage n°8

Visite Guidée: Beyrouth

Les voyageurs avisés ont coutume de dire: «When in Rome, do as the Romans do.» Pour que vous profitiez de votre séjour dans la capitale du Liban, suivez nos trois guides.

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Current debates on LGBT activism in Lebanon: between consumerism and inclusivity

March 19, 2011 Leave a comment

An article by Helem’s president, Ms. Hiba Abbani, caused a controversy in the LGBT commuity and their supporters. The article was published among a series of articles in a space provided by Al-Akhbar newspaper on the International Woman Day. We summarized the series of events. Below you will find links to Abbani’s article and all responses it generated.

March 8, 2011: Hiba Abbani’s article in Al-Akhbar – حقوق مثليّي/ات لبنان: أسقطوا النظام الطائفي

Responses from the community:

March 9, 2011: Raynbow Media Monitor Blog – Did Helem miss!? “ما موقف جمعية حلم من موقف “جمعية حلم

March 9, 2011: Lebanese LGBT Media Monitor post and comments

March 12, 2011: Dr. Hasan Abdessamad Blog – Can we discriminate in fighting discrimination!?

March 14, 2011: Mr. Georges Azzi Blog – Gay bars and activists

March 14, 2011: Bekhsoos – حقوق مثليّي/ات لبنان: أسقطوا النظام الطائفي

March 15 2011: Mr. Bertho Makso – A response to Ms. Abanni – Helem’s Chair & Board member: A way forward for LGBT activism – diversity, respect and inclusivity

March 16 2011: Mind Soup Blog – Lebanese LGBT Community Debates Gay Consumerism and Classism

If we missed any related article or link, please share with us.


Beirut hosts the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association’s (IGLTA) 2010 symposium

October 19, 2010 11 comments

Beirut, Lebanon – (Raynbow Media) – The International Gay and Lesbian Tourism Association (IGLTA) symposium was held at the Bella Riva Hotel in Beirut on October 14th, 2010 to discuss lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) tourism as well as the LGBT situation in Lebanon. Raynbow, a Lebanese nonprofit group that raises funds to support the LGBT movement in Lebanon, was present through its Lebanese LGBT Media Monitor to report.

Four speakers were invited to the symposium. The first speaker was LebTour president and IGLTA ambassador in Lebanon, Bertho Makso, who spoke about LGBT tourism in Lebanon. He started by describing how he first got into the business when he used to show tourists around and, eventually, how this small service turned into LebTour. He held the first Lebanese and regional LGBT tour in 2006 up until it was interrupted by the July War. Mr. Makso insisted on the importance of showing the strong will of the Lebanese people, and how the Lebanese continue to live on in opposition to war when it strikes.

Mr. Makso also announced the launching of the “Hero of the Year” award. The first winner of this award was LGBT activist and one of the founders of the Lebanese NGO, Helem, Georges Azzi. Mr. Azzi thanked all other activists who helped him along the way and spoke about LGBT activism in Lebanon. He insisted on the importance of empowering LGBT individuals in order to improve their situation in their countries. He also considered the LGBT community a hard community to be integrated in and hoped for non-discrimination within the community itself. Finally, Mr. Azzi thanked heterosexual allies who helped the community through its struggles.

Representing IGLTA was its European Ambassador, Clark Massad, who congratulated the volunteers of LebTour who organized this trip without needing help from the international committee. Mr. Massad spoke about IGLTA’s goal in connecting businesses within the LGBT community, underlining its importance in increasing LGBT visibility since 1983. According to Massad, IGLTA has 2278 members (including businesses and establishments associated with it), which is leading to the unity of LGBT businesses as an entire market segment. Media-wise, IGLTA has an important role in encouraging LGBT consumers to know which companies are LGBT-friendly as it is associated with 200 Global Media outlets worldwide. Mr. Massad later showed some research that highlighted the importance of the power of LGBT tourism globally.

Helem Board Member, Anthony Rizk, was the third speaker and started by describing Helem’s work on all levels. Helem lobbies to remove Lebanese laws that incriminate homosexuals and transsexuals and also provides legal services and advising for those who need it. Mr. Rizk also described the Helem Community Center, which is considered a safe space for all LGBTQ’s (Q for Queer) and then talked about the Helem’s health services with outreach campaigns as well as a newly formed collaboration with Al Marsa, Lebanon’s first and only sexual health clinic.

Mr. Rizk then illustrated how fighting for LGBTQ rights cannot be “depoliticized,” especially in this region, where these rights are being used by a Zionist regime to justify certain war crimes. He moved on to show how Helem fights against this “pinkwashing of Israeli crimes” by being part of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement along with boycotting IGLTA’s symposium in 2009 that promoted tourism in Tel Aviv (Click here for Helem’s statement). Mr. Rizk criticized the description of Lebanon as a “very liberal” country, since Lebanese LGBT suffer on daily basis from homophobia, blackmail, as well as harassment by the police. He then criticized the, supposedly, LGBT friendly establishments “that market themselves to the queer community, but practice transphobia, sissyphobia, and homophobia on several levels, and economic discrimination through classism.”

Eyebrows were raised when Rizk asked how this tour benefits LGBT rights. Symposium participants, including IGLTA board members, responded by stating that such tours are beneficial since they raise worldwide visibility of LGBT communities. Click here to read the complete version of Mr. Rizk’s speech.

The final speaker was director of Soins Infirmier de Development Communautaire (SIDC), Nadia Badran. Mrs. Badran spoke about the health situation of men who have sex with men (MSM) in Lebanon. She presented the outreach program that SIDC works on along with United Nations (UN) agencies, the National AIDS Program (NAP), the Internal Sercurity Forces (ISF) and its partners, Helem and “Oui Pour la Vie”. The program consists of empowering vulnerable groups through peer education and increasing the accessibility to health care settings by conducting more voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) as well as providing more information about sexually transmitted diseases (STD) through a mobile unit. Mrs. Badran insisted on the importance of peer education in easing the communication of such information to these groups.

In an exclusive interview with Raynbow’s Lebanese LGBT Media Monitor, Mr. Clark Massad said that trips like IGLTA’s one to Lebanon helps increase the visibility of the Lebanese LGBT community. Mr. Massad did concede, however, that there are risks in participating such as potentially “outing” participants, but these risks exist in all countries, not just Lebanon. When asked about the difference between the way LGBT tourists and LGBT Lebanese are treated by the government, Massad recognized that tourists all around the world will be treated differently than the local community regardless of the nature of the members of the local community.

Event organizer, Mr. Bertho Makso, spoke exclusively to the Lebanese LGBT Media Monitor about how some venues did not previously label themselves as LGBT friendly, but have now started doing so due to the IGLTA trip and its symposium being held in Lebanon. Mr. Makso said that Beirut will never be a gay capital, but it is now welcoming to all kinds of tourists.

IGLTA’s 2010 symposium was not without controversy as members of activist groups and business working with tourists conflicted in their views of the utility of LGBT tourism in Lebanon. This only further shows the diversity within the Lebanese LGBT community as well as everyone’s willingness to discuss issues in an open and friendly manner.

By Omar Harfouch

Oct. 19th, 2010

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