Lebanese LGBTI Ask Aussies For Help

Antoine Chakhtoura, Mayor of Dekanweh

Antoine Chakhtoura, Mayor of Dekanweh

LGBTI advocates in the Lebanese town of Dekwaneh, north of Beirut, are asking their counterparts in the Australian city of Paramatta for help in their fight against police persecution. Dekwaneh is a ‘twin city’ of Paramatta, where the local mayor, John Chedid, has been in hot water for his behaviour towards a respected LGBTI group. The Mayor of Dekwaneh, Mr. Antoine Chakhtoura, has shut down an LGBT-friendly club called Ghost. In an illegal raid on the club, four people were arrested and taken to the local police station, including one transsexual person. There they were stripped naked, photographed, and attacked verbally, physically, and sexually.

“I saw 25 men outside, or what looked like boys and men. I went inside… I saw people kissing, touching each other, and a man wearing a skirt. These homosexual acts that are happening… are scandalous sexual acts,” said the mayor, accusing the club of “promoting prostitution, drugs and homosexuality.” “Of course we made them take off their clothes,” Shakhtoura said, “We saw a scandalous situation and we had to know what these people were. Is it a woman or a man? Turned out to be a half woman and half man. I do not accept this in Dekwaneh.”

A spokesperson for Lebanese gay rights group Helem said the nightclub was a regular target of police abuse.

“Witnesses confirmed that customers near the nightclub were frequently exposed to abuse because of their appearance. Some are transferred in car trunks to the municipality where they are physically and verbally abused.”

The Mayor’s actions were strongly condemned by The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH). We, as health care providers and concerned citizens of Lebanon:

(1)   Call on our fellow healthcare professionals in Lebanon to speak up against these acts of abuse and their serious health consequences. (2)   Call on the appropriate authorities to launch an immediate investigation into the events of April 21st, 2013. We insist that those who perpetuated the abuse are held accountable for their actions. We must ensure that they face appropriate legal consequences. (3)   Call on the Lebanese parliament to eradicate the antiquated and unjust Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code.

Since Dekwaneh is the sister city of Paramatta City in Australia, a coalition of Lebanese LGBT bloggers have prepared the following letter and are asking everyone to send it to the council: a list of contact points, including an email submission form, is here http://www.parracity.nsw.gov.au/home/contact_us

Dear Sir, Madam, We would like to bring to your attention the violation of Basic Human Rights done by your sister city, Dekwane, Lebanon. The city mayor, Mr. Antoine Chakhtoura, has ordered, illegally, the closure of an LGBT-friendly club called Ghost. The closure came with the arrest of four individuals, among them a transgender person, who were taken to the police station in the police cars’ trunks, and subject to insulting and humiliating acts such as stripping them nude, taking pictures of them without their consent, and violate them verbally, physically, and even sexually. Knowing that your city is one of the proud cities of Australia, a country known for its tolerance and respect for Human Rights; we call upon you to act publicly and show support to the LGBTQ community in Lebanon. This is not the first time, and maybe won’t be the last time, such discriminating act might take place in Lebanon, where the road towards equal rights for the LGBT community is still ahead of us. Yet, we as a community would love to hear your support to our cause, and would appreciate any and all help you can give us. Join us in our righteous fight, be there for us, now that no one else might help us. Best wishes, [Your Name]

They council may not be as accommodating as our Lebanese friends hope: Mayor John Chedid wasn’t exactly welcoming to LGBTI at a recent festival in the city.

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)