Posts Tagged ‘LGBT tourism’

The Tests of Shame Return to Lebanon

In recent days, it has become evident that anal tests or “Shame Tests” have returned to Lebanon, as Dr. Ahmad Mokdad, a Lebanese forensic doctor, has been examining individuals using the abusive test in order to determine their sexual orientation. The test, banned on August 7th 2012 by the Lebanese Order of Physicians, includes the forcible insertion of a metal egg-shaped object into the anal rectum, which supposedly tells if an individual had anal intercourse. Obviously, the test is a sham, as it fails to prove anything. Firstly, consensual anal intercourse does not leave permanent scarring or result in deformities of the anus or penis. Secondly, homosexuality, which is what the test is intended to prove, is not only about anal sex but is a much more complex concept, based on attraction, behaviour and identity.

In August 2012, the Lebanese police arrested 35 men (which is reported here, on the Daily Star website) at a cinema in the Bourj Hammoud district of Beirut, as they had received a tip-off that the men were watching homosexual pornography. All the men were subjected to the test and forced to pay the $85 which the test costs. Three of the men were later charged of ‘unnatural sex’ under the archaic and condemned Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code. Whatever the conviction, the anal probe still scarred all 35 men. The Lebanese Order of Physicians, politicians and human rights activists came out strongly against the tests; there were protests staged around Beirut, denouncing the tests of shame, as they came to be known. Apparently the “Provincetown of the Middle East” (a claim made by the New York Times) is only a “gay haven” for tourists, not for locals, and definitely not for refugees (which became evident after the Dekwaneh scandal).

The anal tests in 2012 caused an outbreak of protests across Beirut. Helem, the Arab World's leading LGBT organisation was at the frontline protesting this crime.

The anal tests in 2012 caused an outbreak of protests across Beirut. Helem, the Arab World’s leading LGBT organisation was at the frontline protesting this crime.

The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH)  just released a position statement ( on anal tests to assess someone’s sexual orientation. LebMASH has responded to the Legal Agenda’s report on shame tests still being performed in Lebanon, where 5 men recently were subjected to the test (in Arabic). LebMASH urges the Lebanese Order of Physicians (LOP) to discipline Dr. Ahmad Mokdad and offers to provide the LOP’s members with cultural competency training and scientifically sound educational sessions on the topic.

Unknownlegal agenda

I, Jonathan Lawrence, thank for hosting my post. I decry the lack of media attention to this story. There are regular reports in Western media concerning homosexuality and homosexual rights, yet these outrageous invasive and abusive tests, which can permanently damage an individual, both mentally and physically, have largely been ignored by Western media outlets.


Jonathan Lawrence


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.

Têtu page 066

Têtu page 067

Têtu page 068

Têtu page 069

Did Helem miss!? “ما موقف جمعية حلم من موقف “جمعية حلم

March 9, 2011 17 comments

For the International Women Day, Al-Akhbar newspaper provided a space for women from all different groups to express themselves.

Did Helem turn its back on its community?

As progressive and righteous as Al-Akhbar usually is, a space for lesbians, bisexual women and transgendered individuals was provided.

Hiba Abbani, Helem administrator, had the opportunity to represent Lebanese Lesbian, bisexual women and transgrender individuals. Read her piece titled  حقوق مثليّي/ات لبنان: أسقطوا النظام الطائفي (Arabic for: Lebanese lesbian and gay rights: Down with sectarianism). Let us know what you think!

The first ideas that jumps to your mind:

  • Does Abbani’s opinion represent that of Helem? After all, the article is signed رئيسة الهيئة الإداريّة في جمعيّة حلم (Arabic for: President of Helem’s Administrator’s Committee)
  • Does her comment يعبر هذا المقال عن وجهة نظري الشخصية و ليس عن موقف جمعية حلم . اقتضى التوضيح (Arabic for: This article represents my personal opinion and not that of Helem organization) that is buried among the thread of comments under the article enough and sufficient?
  • Did Helem miss a golden media opportunity?

When The Lebanese LGBT Media Monitor posted the article, three strong criticisms were immidiately posted.

Here is the response of Mr. Joseph Aoun, manager of Bardo:

well i was reading ur article online on al akhbar, well u know it’s good that u said that the article isn’t the helem position towards the matters dicussed afterwards, however for next time if u may please let’s not do the “Sakata Sahwan” game bcz people who bought the newspaper didn’t read ur appology on writing, “Ra2isat l hay2a l tanfiziyya fi jam3iyyat 7elem”, n to be frank i don’t think it really “Sakatat Sahwan”. With ur title u represent gays of lebanon, i don’t know how much true it is with all the internal issues ur opinions are creating, however that’s the image ur projecting to the straight community who don’t know ” l cherdeh wel Werdeh”.

As for details within the “brotherhood” or “Sisterhood”, u know? i am somebody that catagorize himself of being a leftist (socialist if i may say), however i have a strong position against the way ur mixing ideas in non relevant subjects. “al ra2smaliyya” “al tabaka l 3amila”, who r u the gay female version of Karl Marx? Me n You share obviously alot of ideas, excluding the idea of mixing them all together in “Tabkhit Ba7s”.

I like a lot of the opinions u’ve gave, however 7esseh l so7afeh having studied basics in journalism make me say the way you mixed subjects in the article show a lack of chronology of ideas and conclusions. It showed more a pretentious aspect of intellectualism and showoff rather than an objective article meant to be read by “al tabaka l 3amma” so shall i say ur targetting intellectual gay people in a discriminatory article same as for the gay places targetting the wealthy gay community?

As for the salaries paid for “al tabaka l3amila” in gay places, could u provide me the factual numbers, u based your opinions on? that would add credibility for you indeed!

As for the gay places being more expensive? i went to a restaurant today and had to pay 75$ for my meal, it hurts, however u have this n that in Lebanon, n guess what? not only in gay places!!!Now let’s go to the personal aspect of it:

1-You had the chance to give a good idea about us in our society n u were given that priviledge i guess for being involved in activism n having ur position in helem, u abused it n started involving our society with things that are internal and that’s called technically “Abuse of position ” for the personal cause.

2-The main purpose of helem was to join people, defend them, spread awareness in the society, give a good image and a strong one to others, help the ones that are being violated….with ur opinions you’ve fulfilled non of these.

3-You are attacking businesses that have been very supportive to helem in its work on the ground and played a role in connecting helem to alot of gay people n giving it exposure.

4-You managed to make people who were ready to serve the cause by any way, far away of doing it under your suppervision, me being an echantillon of alot of people who read your article and were disappointed by it!

Sincerely yours, Joe

Here is the response of Mr. Georges Azzi, previous Helem coordinator and current president of Arab Foundation for Freedom and Equality:

1- it is sad to see that we did not use the space that was given to us in a national newspaper for constructive and useful cause. Are gay businesses more of a priority than article 534 and police practices?

2- most of your arguments are assumptions and not based on facts, itis weired when people who claim are radical leftists use the same prejudice and intimidation technics like right wing fanatics. You assume that people who go to bars are superficial and not politicly engaged which is pretentious from your side again reminds me of judgements made by homophobic magazine. It seems that extrem left and extrem right do meet at some point.

3- I think that certain circles of activists are more exclusive and elitist than gay bars, which explains why they do not manage to gather a big number of people.

I hope that we promote solidarity because it is much needed at this point


Myra M. Abdallah, an LGBT activist, responds:

Hiba, no one can deny that it is a great article. In my opinion:

1- I find straight places more expensive than gay places, especially the ones located in Hamra. Hamra street is known to be leftist and very cheap according to other nightlifestreets in Beirut. Gay places have a very shy existence outside Beirut anyway.

2- Besides, gay business are not charity!!! The owners are business people with a financial target. They can’t go to failure just because they want to be affordable for everybody. If, by asking gay places to be affordable, you mean that a person who wants to go there should be able to have a coke for 3.000 L.L. and stay there all night and has the right to do it because all this person wants to pay there is 5.000 (and I’ve seen it a lot), I think you are being a little bit irrational.

3- When you want to make gay places “as you like” maybe you should start by sticking to their rules and policies. It is not gay places fault that gay people are discriminated in Lebanon. How can you ask them to stick by their rules when you are not able to stick by their rules and go crazy making boycott campaigns that are most of the times over reacted and irrational.

4- I second what Joe and Georges said, it is so said to use this spot we were given to “ncharchi7” gay places instead of using it to make gay community look strong.

With all my respect, Myra

The question remains, does responses like those of Mr. Azzi, Mr. Aoun and Mrs. Abdallah represent a minority or a majority of the Lebanese LGBT community and their supporters?

Until we have appropriate polls and reliable statistics this question will remain unanswered.

We are very interested in reading from you. What do you think? Did Helem miss a precious media spot? Do you agree with Abbani’s ideology?

Please comment!



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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