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.”
(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.