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The Perfect Scapegoats: A Nationwide Campaign against the LGBTQ+ in Lebanon

Published on 10.08.2023
Reading time: 6 minutes

The popular campaign against the LGBTQ+ community in Lebanon is not a new occurrence. Countless instances of harassing, insulting, beating, isolating, and hiding them from the view of “society and family” have been documented and recorded for everyone to see.

This campaign seemed insignificant on the eve of the great [economic] collapse and only escalated as Lebanon lost its old vibrant self. Soon enough, members of the community belonging to all Lebanese sects decided to absolve the sins committed by any “citizen” against another whose sexual identity does not appease them. 

“National unity,” albeit fragmented across the different sectarian groups in Lebanon and divided across different issues, found the perfect scapegoat in the LGBTQ+ community. On social media platforms, electronic ‘armies’ which were used to fighting each other united to cyberbully LGBTQ+ individuals online, causing the hashtag #sexualdeviance to become popular on Twitter. The word deviance, used by adversaries to describe homosexuality, signifies these armies’ hatred towards LGBTQ+ individuals, and their willingness to engage in fierce battles against them.

Prominent religious figures accompanied these social media warriors in their smear campaign against the LGBTQ+ community, such as the Sunni Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan, along with other regional clerics. They were also joined by the Shiite High Council’s two sheikhs, Ahmed Qabalan and Ali Khateeb, and the Druze religious leader, Sami Abi Al-Mouna.

Despite Pope Francis’ clear intention not to target LGBTQ+ individuals, as evidenced by his notable statements like “LGBTQ+ individuals should be welcomed with respect in Catholic churches,” and his advice to their families “not to reject them,” his stance was contradicted by Lebanon’s Catholic priest Abdo Abu Kassem and Orthodox Archbishop Elias Audi, who vehemently attacked LGBTQ+ individuals. This also coincided with the Minister of Interior’s decision to ban a conference in Beirut, claiming it was meant to “promote homosexuality,” even though the State Shura Council rescinded this decision later. Verbal disputes continued, and some parliament members exchanged heavy words on the subject, falling into the routine of contentious debates as seen in other controversial matters.

And then Hassan Nasrallah’s speech made some commotion in one of the Ashura gatherings that had been taking place in Lebanon. He issued a divine verdict on the matter that surpasses all the elders, bishops, and hashtags. 

What did Nasrallah say?

Hezbollah’s Secretary General positioned himself as the spokesperson of the heavens, declaring that this sexual “deviance” is a crime for which it is permissible to “apply the Islamic punishment and kill the perpetrator.”

According to him, this battle against members of the LGBTQ+ community is a genuine matter to be undertaken: “We are not making a battle up, nor are we making up an imaginary threat. [The LGBTQ+] is a real and imminent danger that has already begun.” 

In his speech, he emphasized the concept of “national unity,” which brings Muslims and Christians together, and he preached the “confrontation of homosexuals by all means, also seeking assistance from individuals specializing in treating these conditions.” Nasrallah also described “early marriage” as being his preferred “solution” to homosexuality, as he sees it as having “great blessings,” echoing his earlier call for the marriage of minors.

As seen over the years, Hassan Nasrallah has a habit of giving the signal to launch his battles or freeze them. For example, he signaled to the Lebanese judiciary to halt investigations into the crime of the Beirut port explosion, claiming they were “politicized,” and this was the first spark to bury the files of Judge Tarek Bitar in yet another grave of files. He has also managed to freeze battles seamlessly, seen through his complete silence regarding Riad Salameh, who has four international arrest warrants against him on charges of corruption and embezzlement of Lebanon’s funds. This silence surrounding Salameh was exceptionally interesting, as Nasrallah had worked hard on inciting his followers against the “party of the banks” and urging them to protest against Salameh as loudly as possible.

Therefore, we should expect more persecution, pursuit, beatings, isolation, and concealment of members of the LGBTQ+ community in an environment as Nasrallah’s that is conducive to the spread of such stances against impoverishment and collapse, and that awaits Iranian decisions regarding the “rules of engagement” with Israel. The hungry, angry, and lost “masses,” in the midst of all these “rules,” will devour any man who appears delicate or tender. It is the most fitting revenge for degradation and poverty. There is no consolation or regard for the priorities of the living. This means, above all, that Hassan Nasrallah does not see any of those committing the slaughter of kinfolk, rape, child trafficking or any other such crime as deserving a battle to the death as much as the LGBTQ+ community.

And most importantly, Hassan Nasrallah’s death sentence for LGBTQ+ individuals serves as an additional signal to his Supreme Leader, his financier, and the decision-maker, reaffirming his unwavering ideological loyalty. In Iran, there is a clear law criminalizing homosexuality with public hanging as the punishment. Today, the estimated number of victims of these executions exceeds four thousand people. We do not definitively know whether the recent popular uprising against the Iranian authorities is also a reaction to the killing of LGBTQ+ individuals. It is more likely that this resentment is suppressed and not openly expressed by the protesters, perhaps remaining among their secrets.

At the beginning of Hezbollah’s rise to popularity and power, I had discussions with some of my friends, who identify as secular and leftist, about their enthusiastic support for it. As we delved into the discussion, they would conclude their answer about the dimensions or depths of this support with a single sentence: “We are with the party because it prioritized the fight against imperialism and Zionism.  And it still allowed for ‘social freedoms’.”

What are these social freedoms?

When I asked them what they meant by social freedoms, they answered: staying up late, singing, alcohol, the beach, bikinis, revealing clothing, freedom… and so on. When they delved deeper into the answer, they would add that they also support Hezbollah because it allows for media campaigns in favor of civil marriage or those who advocate for it, and it allows women from other sects and outside its “environment” to not wear the hijab. They said that the party calls for the oppressed and the downtrodden. Some of them did not miss pointing out that the party also does not, or at least did not, engage in battles against different sexual identities. This allowed the editor-in-chief of a newspaper loyal to the party to announce a decade ago that he supports homosexuals and supports Hezbollah at the same time. In his view, this was proof of having his intellectual freedom within the resistance circle.

Thus, throughout the years, these individuals have turned a blind eye to the organized and sometimes routine violations of said “social freedoms.” Each aspect of these freedoms was limited in one way or another: alcohol, the beach, dancing, singing, or even Fairouz herself… Added to this was also the increasing number of divorce and custody cases unjustly deciding against mothers in religious courts controlled by Hezbollah.

And now, what remains of these freedoms?

LGBTQ+ individuals have now become the primary targets of a national campaign taking place on the streets, in ministries, in homes, as well as on online platforms, with electronic armies waiting only for the signal to launch. And as Iran, Hezbollah’s ultimate reference and big brother, has turned into an authority that kills its own people for demanding the very “social freedoms” that some of our leftists and secularists cited to explain their involvement in the political party’s projects, what does this mean?

There is hardly anything left to defend in and unite around the party. You can sense this in what they write or do not write, whether they acknowledge it within their community or withhold it. For they present sheets of words, wherein justifications and evasions come together. They are sacrificing the priority that has become a wreckage: fighting America and Israel. And on behalf of an Iranian state that tramples on freedoms originating from the West, yet consumes its war industries to facilitate spreading its toxins in regions it targeted for infiltration, it has succeeded.

Published on 10.08.2023
Reading time: 6 minutes

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