A group of men who identified themselves as members of militant group Jnoud El-Rab – also known as the Soldiers of God – have attacked LGBTQ friendly venue Madame Om in the bustling Mar Mikhael area of the Lebanese capital of Beirut.
The Soldiers of God are a right-wing Christian group who see themselves as the moral protectors of Lebanon. The group justified that attack by stating the venue was “promoting homosexuality”.
Patrons in the bar - who were attending a drag show - were subjected to physical and verbal assault during the attack, and the bar was damaged. The attack reportedly lasted about one hour until local security forces arrived at the scene. According to media reports, no arrests have been made.
The attack appears to be part of a rising tide of homophobia in Lebanon.
What’s life like for LGBTQ people in Lebanon?
While still a socially conservative country, Lebanon is slightly more liberal than other countries in the region.
There’s been no official decriminalisation of homosexuality, but recent judicial interpretation of the relevant laws seems to have established that sodomy is not a crime and people should not be prosecuted for same-sex sexual activity.
Article 534 of Lebanon’s Penal Code includes a prohibition on sexual relations that are “contradicting the laws of nature” – punishable by up to one year in prison – but, in recent years, a number of court decisions have found that this prohibition doesn’t extend to same-sex encounters on the grounds that homosexuality doesn’t contradict the laws of nature.
However, there is still quite widespread homophobia and police harassment of LGBTQ people. Authorities frequently use public morality laws to ban LGBTQ Pride events.
In Beirut, there is a community of LGBTQ people – working together to tackle homophobia and to create safe spaces such as bars and cafes and other meeting points.