Posted by: G-AZZI | November 10, 2013

Testimonies following the arrest of 14 gay men in Egypt

The following testimonies were collected by activists in Cairo:

1- Testimony on a Visit to El-Marg Police Station to seek Information and Check-on a Group of 14 men Accused of Immorality

10 November 2013

On Thursday the 17 October 2013, I was exposed to verbal harassments and insults by a police officer (who refused to mention his name) in El-Marg police station. I’ve been there at 8 am to ask about a group of 14 men who’ve been arrested on the 11 October 2013 from a health club in El- Marg after being accused of “habitual practice of debauchery”.

This incident happened on the 3rd day of Eid Al-Udha (religious festival) as I had to head to the police station, in an attempt to ask about the arrested group, since there has been absence of information and clarifications regarding the arrest and detention. I had to claim to be a journalist to guarantee not being harassed or face any violation during my visit to the police station. I had made earlier agreements with friends to keep them alerted in case something wrong happened to me in the police station for any reason. I arrived to the police station after a trip in a cab that took almost 50 minutes till we reached. Once I reached the front gate of the police station I asked soldiers who have been standing outside about the possibility of gathering information about the arrests for a report I was working on, they told me to head to the information office which I actually did. In the office there were two men, two police officers I believed, one of them was wearing his uniform while the other wasn’t, I couldn’t identify their ranks. They welcomed me with a suspicious smile, I told them I was a journalist in a mission for covering the story of arresting the group of 14 men but I didn’t use the word “homosexual” to identify them and used a common term socially used to stigmatize the act to avoid raising any doubts by police officers.

One of the police officers was really uncertain whether to help me or not, he eventually agreed after the other man told him “Come on, this journalist is here to do a report on how police officers have done their best during the feast to protect moralities of the state, and how we arrested faggots, and sexual harassers as well…achievements of the police”.

Before answering my questions the uncertain police officer looked at me and said “Do you know that I am the one who received the complaint of the neighbors, the one that guided us to arrest the group of 14 men?”, he said it with pride. I asked him about what was said in the complaint, he answered saying “They said the place had drug addicts and immoral acts, so we sent a task force and surprisingly they didn’t take much time till they arrested the 14 men, and sorry for my language, as most of them were already fucking each other in the closed rooms in the club when the soldiers would knock on the doors. You can say they were caught in action”.

I asked the police officer to describe the club for me, so he said “It’s an ordinary health club with gymnastics equipments, steam rooms and closed massage rooms”, He looked at me and asked in a humiliating and sarcastic tone “Come on dude, you’ve never been in one of those rooms with any one before?”.

I ignored the comment by laughing and making fun of it, but he insisted on harassing and insulting me once more by saying “You know that those who were fucked in that place used to pay, while those who used to fuck wouldn’t pay a penny, so would you like to pay or go for free?”, he went on laughing, he and the other man, I had to smile and answer “No sir, neither nor, I am here to do my work”.

When I asked about the ages of the 14 men, it seems that the police officer didn’t understand my question well as his answer was “well 7 of them were negative and 7 of them were positive”. I

didn’t understand or I was shocked enough not to understand, he interrupted asking “You know what’s negative and positive?”.

It was obvious to me that he was asking to know if I was gay or not as these terms were being used among some groups of gay men, so I answered quickly “Oh, well it’s only because of my work as a journalist, it happens that I meet such terms in newspapers or similar cases, but tell me sir how did you know this piece of info?”.

His colleague was the one who answered saying “well, there’s medical test and…”, before the sentence was completed he got interrupted by the other police officer, I understood he didn’t want me to know if they forced the arrested men to go through anal examinations or not, he later completed saying “Well this whole medical test comes later after a permission from the prosecution office, but we don’t wait, we have our own vision”. The comment made me ask “What do you mean by your own vision?”, so he answered saying in a very confident tone “Like when you find someone, and sorry for my language, who only has two balls but no penis, do you think he was fucking or getting fucked? Aren’t you a man? You definitely understand”.

In addition to what was said, the hints, indicators and harassments, I managed to know that the ages of the 14 men varied from early 20ths till late 60ths, I also managed to know that the siblings and families of the arrested men have been treated in a humiliating way and that the 14 men were left naked or semi naked in jail for couple of days The evidence is a story that was told by the other police officer whom I asked whether the families of the arrested men would visit them or not, he said confidently “well I remember that I saw the prisoners wearing clothes the last shift, So I guess their families paid them a visit”. Also during my visit to the police station which didn’t last for more than 15 minutes I noticed that the police officers were mocking the families of the 14 men, especially that some of the old men among the 14 arrested men, are married and have sons or daughters who would go to ask about them and discover what happened so they would be shocked then mocked and made fun of by the police officers, it happened at least with a brother of one of the 14 men when he went to another police station to ask about his brother, so a police officer in that station called El-Marg police station to ask about the man who turned out to be one of the 14 men, when that officer from the other police station knew the reason for why the man was arrested he told El-Marg’s officers “Fuck, so his brother is being fucked and he shows up here acting as a man… I’ll fuck him up”.

This is exactly what happened to me in this 15-20 minutes visit to El-Marg police station as I had to leave immediately being afraid of raising any more suspicions especially that police officers of higher ranks had started to arrive by the time I left.

I knew later that the prosecutor renewed the detention of the group for 15 days which makes their upcoming hearing and round of investigation on the 12 November 2013. There’s a possibility that the prosecution renew their detention for another 15 days, among other possibilities. It’s confirmed by now that they were forced to do forensic tests but the results are not out yet, and again there’s this fear that the report may accuse any of them of being “used analy” which could make the situation worse and uglier. The lists of accusations are not limited to “sodomy” but it includes drugs as well.

Amidst worries, fear and tensions we are waiting for 12 November 2013 to give us any piece of information that could help us figure out where the group of 14 men are heading to.

2- Testimony on Detaining Gay Men and One Woman for Pissing the Military Police Off

10 November 2013

On Tuesday the 5 November 2013 at around 3:30 am unexpected call was received. A friend and a community member was calling to inform me that about 70 Gay men were arrested from a private party in the 6th of October City at around 1:30 am after being beaten up severely. According to what we’ve been told they were kept in the police station till 5 pm when they were moved to another police center as the investigations started at 6 pm.

At 6:30 Pm I arrived with a lawyer who has been working on similar cases. We discovered that out of almost 200 people (guests of the party) around 70 were arrested then later all those who looked “masculine and macho” were released. The total number of the remaining people who’ve been investigated with was 10 (9 men including the organizer of the party and one female who was serving as a bar tender in the party). According to the friends of the 10 people their friends were kept for being “effeminate” and wearing makeup in addition to accessories. One of the 10 people is a man in his late 30s who works as a belly dancer whose wife was with him in the party and was taken as a witness. We’ve been told that the reason behind arresting him was the “the belly dancer outfit” he was accused by the police to be wearing.

9 out of the total 10 detainees were accused of sodomy, practicing immoral behaviors and adultery, while the organizer of the party was accused of running immoral and adultery-full- parties. On a side note, the organizer of the party is being known among the Egyptian gay community as events planner who organizes similar parties for gay men to get introduced to each other.

We’ve discovered as well that 3 out of the 10 are minors they are under 18 years old. The investigations lasted for almost 5 hours and half as the stories; testimonies were heard in the presence of the lawyer. It was becoming clear to the lawyer, the friends of the arrested people and even the police employees that the 10 people would be released as there was no proof of adultery or any other crime and also because the police investigators was (according to the arrested people) respectful and understanding.

The 10 people were taken later downstairs and put in the police van while their relatives, friends and I were standing & watching. All of us were waiting for the good news before the lawyer came to tell us that a major shift in the case had happened.

It turned out that the military police (MP) was behind the complaint that led to the arrests as their check point was close to the villa that hosted the party and that they were pissed off at the noise and how the invitees of the party looked like at their arrival to the villa so the MP called the 6th of October’s police station to go check, however I was informed that the police forces went in 3 big vans which means there was an intention to arrest individuals before even checking first. According to the lawyer the MP wanted to the villa to be permanently closed and for this to happen a legal reason and moral lesson were needed. Also according to the lawyer and others, we’ve been told that the prosecutor had already prepared his decision which was basically releasing all of the

arrested people before his boss (the general prosecutor) told him not to, he ordered him to keep the case open and to send the 9 men for forensic tests and anal examinations on the next day (6th of November 2013). The new decision was received with shock, frustration and fear of the tests’ results. It’s believed by most of us that the reason for this shift in decisions was the fact that the general prosecutor wanted to please the army and MP by making a case that would lead to closing the villa permanently. Weirdly enough no one knows why the only female who was arrested with the 9 men would be kept in prison and whether she’d be medically examined as well or not especially that this is a first in similar gay men related cases to find a woman being accused and arrested

In the next day the forensic tests took place and the primary report was in favor of the 10 arrested individuals but since the official report didn’t come out within the first 4 days of jail, it has been decided to keep the 10 people in detention for 15 extra days. The lawyers of the detainees are doing their best to disrupt the decision and take the case to court ASAP (during this week).

In addition to all of the previously mentioned incidents we’ve been told that the effeminate gay men who were arrested were beaten up, fingered, sexually assaulted, called names and insulted as well by police forces. They were forced by police assistants in the 1st police station to clean the bathrooms and offices of the station as a moral punishment for being gay.

 

Posted by: G-AZZI | May 1, 2013

With or against us? (1)

On Saturday the 21st of April, the  mayor of  Dekwaneh, Antoine Shakhtoura, illegally raided a club, harassed the owner and the clients and had three gay and a trans person arrested and transported in car boots to the police station where they were forced strip naked, photographed, beaten and humiliated breaking more than 11 laws, despite the illegal and inhuman actions of the mayor, not all the media, journalists and public figures condemned his actions, some of them went as far as commending what he did, for this first part I will be speaking about the media coverage, below are the lists of shame and honor of the media (the list will be updates when more articles are published)

List of honor: 

1- LBC:

In the last few years  LBC has become the champion in defending human rights, challenging political and religious pressure and advocating for the rights  marginalized groups,  it is not surprising that LBC was the first to cover the attack on “Ghost club” two nights in the in a row, condemning the practices of the municipality of dekwanei in their 23rd of April news edition and the 24th of April .
2- Now lebanon

Now Lebanon, one of the most important news websites in Lebanon, has always defended the rights of minorities, its young and liberal journalists  in both english and arabic versions are very outspoken against sexism, racism and homophobia. Four articles, two in English and Two in Arabic were published after the Ghost bar incident:

Nadine Elali wrote:
Transgender club victim speaks out & Mr. Antoine Chakhtoura, you should be punished:
” During my interview with the state official, who believe it or not, is also a lawyer, he asked what I personally thought of his actions. My reply was that during reporting I remain objective and refrained from giving my personal opinion. Here in this blog however, I will share what I personally think of you Mr. Chakhtoura, and back it up with all the relevant arguments from experts. 
Mr. Chakhtoura I believe you’re a monster, and that you and your deputies should be punished for your actions, which are anything but humane, and it is the Lebanese state’s responsibility to see to that matter”

Rasha el amine wrote in now lebanon: “الشمـع الأحمـر” ينتهـك حريـة المثلييـن فـي لبنـان

حرية مثليي الجنس في لبنان هشّة. ما إنْ يحقّقوا بعض مطالبهم حتى يصطدموا بانتهاكات أخرى. فبعد انتصار المجتمع المدني العام الماضي بوقف الفحوصات الشرجية، فاجأ منذ أيام رئيس بلدية الدكوانة الرأي العام

اللبناني بانتهاك من نوع آخر.

Also one of my favorite articles by Carla El Zayed: رئيس البلدية في سريركم

مقيت. كلمة تختصر وضع الإنسان في الجمهوريّة اللبنانيّة، الأقرب إلى “جمهورية عار” حيث موظفوها- صغاراً وكباراً- يسوّلون لأنفسهم التحرّش بأجساد اللبنانيّين واللبنانيّات وحتى الأجانب. مقيتة هي زمجرة  رئيس بلديّة لبنانيّة على الإعلام بإنجازيه الأخيرين: إغلاق ملهى ليلي لأن مرتديه مثليون، و”جرجرة” 4 أشخاص من الساهرين إلى مركز الشرطة، وضربهم، وتعريتهم وتصويرهم لمعرفة “شو هني هاو”، على حدّ تعبيره.

3- Al-akhbar: 

A left wing newspaper and historically a big supporter of the LGBT community, Nadine kenaan wrote: بلديّة تكافح الغرباء… واللواط!

ومن الواضح أنّ الدكوانة انضمت إلى مناطق لبنانية أخرى في عنصريّتها تجاه السوريين (الأخبار 18/4/2013). هذا ما أثبتته «حلم» في حديثها عن تحوّل زبائن الملهى السوريين أيضاً إلى ضحايا «بسبب خرقهم لقانون حظر التجوال الذي تفرضه البلدية على اللاجئين السوريين بعد السابعة مساءً».

4- Assafir:

Another famous left wing newspaper, wrote about the protest organized by helem: «حلم» تعتصم ضدّ التعسّف

قامت شرطة البلدية باعتقال خمسة أشخاص سوريين تعسفيا ومن دون أي إشعار قانوني. قامت بضربهم وإهانتهم وأرغمتهم على خلع ملابسهم وتصويرهم للتأكّد من هويتهم الجنسية. ترافقت الحادثة مع تصريحات تلفزيونية لرئيس بلدية الدكوانة أنطوان شختورة الذي فاخر علنا برهاب المثلية، باسم «عنفوان الدكوانة وقلعة صمودها».

also assafir criticized the show ” bassmat watan”: «بس مات وطن» .. الكوميديا مرآةً لمجتمع يحتضر

ا يختلف شربل خليل في شيء عن رئيس بلديّة الدكوانة الذي يرى أنّ العنفوان يمرّ بالتلصُّص على خصوصيات روّاد نادٍ ليلي. بالنسبة لـ «بس مات وطن» فإنّ الضحكة تمرّ بعرض شخصيّة مثليّ، يقرِّر الالتحاق بمجاهدي تونس، طمعاً بالمشاركة بـ«جهاد النكاح»! كان ذلك بعض ما اختاره شربل خليل لإضحاك اللبنانيين في حلقة الجمعة 26 نيسان الحالي من برنامجه. في «الاسكتش» الأخير من تلك الحلقة

5- New TV: 

New TV is a leftist TV station,  it was the first TV station to promote LGBT rights in Lebanon, in 2006, Rania Baroud denounced discrimination against LGBT people in her program El hal bi idak, i am not surprised that new TV condemned shakhtoura:
Chi n n a satirical news show  bashed the mayor (start watching at minute 11):Episode 29 April

and  in their news:

6- Lorient le jour: 

The french speaking newspaper of Lebanon was also one of the first newspapers to express its support to the lgbt commuity, on the ghost incident Bechara maroun wrote: « Helem » se mobilise contre « le scandale de Dekouané »

 Faire une entrée en trombe dans la boîte de nuit Ghost un samedi soir, arrêter des ressortissants syriens parmi les clients sans aucun préavis, obliger deux d’entre eux à s’embrasser dans les locaux de la municipalité, les forcer à se dénuder dans une ambiance hilare, les prendre en photo, les violenter, les humilier, les relâcher sans procès-verbal et se vanter de proclamer une localité libanaise, censée être accessible à tous, comme zone interdite aux homosexuels et transsexuels : telles sont les accusations lancées contre le président du conseil municipal de Dekouané, Antoine Chakhtoura

Ralph shayne in the opinion page wrote: Le scandale de Dekouané

La torture a-t-elle été érigée en loi à la municipalité de Dekouané ? Peut-on accuser la police de Dekouané d’association de malfaiteurs ? 
Nous apprenons aussi l’existence d’un couvre-feu contre les ressortissants syriens, donc d’un règlement municipal raciste. En plus d’être une atteinte au principe d’égalité de tous devant la loi, s’agit-il d’un abus de pouvoir ?

7- Radio liban libre:

Another surprising position, RLL being  the radio of the lebanese forces (christian right wing), in his show the presenter Pierre el Bayee, Called out the mayor  accusing him of corruption and creating his own law in dekwaneh ( i will be getting a recording of the episode soon).

8- Haydalebnan: 

A lifestyle website exposed the corruption of the mayor of dekwanei: هذا هو السبب الحقيقي لاقفال ال GHOST

في معلومات خاصة بموقعنا فقد افدنا بان السيد شختورة على خلاف مع مالك هذا الملهى بسبب أمور مادية خصوصا ان هذا الاخير رفض الخضوع مجددا لابتزاز رئيس البلدية الماديوالمستمر له خصوصا أن رئيس البلدية نفسه قال انه لم يتم ضبط أي شخص

 9- MTV: 

MTV is usually known for its racist and homophobic positions, however they  surprised us last Tuesday, a radical change in MTV’s Joe maalouf position, Surprisingly joe Maalouf initiated an aggressive attack against the mayor of dekwaneh, can we really say that MTV has changed ? will we be able to forget its past, i guess we will wait and see.  Enta Horr 30 Apr(ملف ملهى Ghost)

Numerous local  blogs, international news website and magazines expressed their support to the LGBT community, i apologized for not being able to list all of them, most of them can be found on the LGBT media monitor page

The list of Shame: 

1- Al-balad newspaper:

Journalist Layla geries hoped that “Cleaning” dekwaneh from homosexuals would be a first step towards cleaning it from all kind of crimes: شختورة: نحن ضد الشذوذ الذي يمارس جهارةً امام العالم

ويبقى الاهم من كل ما قيل عن هذا الموضوع بالنسبة الى رئيس البلدية الذي صورته بعض المؤسسات الاعلامية بالمناهض لحقوق الانسان انه ” بالمبدأ مع حقوق الانسان لكن الدين والشرع ضد الشذوذ الجنسي. نحن ضد الشذوذ الذي يمارس جهارة امام العالم وعلى مرأى من الجميع، وهذا ما يُعاقب عليه القانون. علما ان المؤسسة اللبنانية للارسال بثت تقريرا يفتقد للمهنية، واطلب منهم بل اتحداهم ان يبثوا المقابلة كاملة”. اما الدليل القاطع الذي يعتمد عليه الرئيس فهو اثبات حالة الشذوذ الذي تمّ القبض عليها ، والتي تحميه قانونيا وتصون صلاحياته. ويختم شختورة بالقول ” لستُ بصدد ان أُحاكم احدا وانما انا بصدد حماية الاطفال والشباب لعدم الانجرار الى هذه الظاهرة الشاذة التي تسود مجتمعنا، وهي اعمال يُعاقب عليها القانون في حال توفر الجرم المشهود وهذا ما حصل معنا”.
إذا الدكوانة محمية من رئيسها ، يصونها بحرصه على تطبيق القانون وابعاد شبح المثلية والدعارة عن منطقته، فهل تكون هذه اولى خطواته في حملة مناهضة الفساد ، في انتظار ان تكون الخطوة التالية مواجهة السرقات، ولِمَ لا ؟

2- Aljaras:

The infamous tabloid, cheered the mayor for fighting immorality, and attacked LBC for defending “perversion” but again if alajaras is on your side, you must be doing something wrong: بالفيديو: الشرطة ضربت الشاذين والمذيعة تعترض

وللسيد أنطوان شختورة أقول: لا تعتذر لأنك لم تخطئ ولم تعتدي على أحد. أنت تقوم بعملك الأخلاقي والقانوني، وعلى أكمل وجه، إلا إن كان هدف المراسلة أو من يُعارض هذا القرار، تحويل المنطقة إلى (بار) تمارس به أقبح أنواع الفساد الأخلاقي وأكثرها عهراً.

3- Aljomhoria:

Probably many Lebanese never heard of it, but yes, it is a new newspaper in Lebanon, i think their first issue was published last year, anyway, Aljomhoria backed up the mayor against “prostitution, drugs and sex” مَن يريد إباحة الدعارة والشذوذ والمخدرات؟”  

ويقول لـ”الجمهورية”: “يعتبر البعض أنّ إقفال المطعم أو ملاحقة عدد من الشاذّين هو نوع من تحدٍّ للحرّية الشخصية، إلّا أنّنا نؤمن بأنّ الحرّية الشخصية التي تؤدّي إلى خطأ أخلاقيّ هي ليست بحُرّية بل تراخٍ من جهة، ومرض اجتماعيّ وجسديّ من جهة ثانية

4- Lebanonfiles: 

A news website, the editor in chief danny haddad, launched an attack on LBC for :” defending homosexuals ” and Syrians, a proud racist and homophobic editor: “القصّة كلّها” بين “بسمات الوطن” و… “بسمات الأخبار”

إلا أنّ الخطأ الأكثر فداحةً الذي ارتكبته الـ “أل بي سي”، من دون أن تجد من ينتقدها عليه، لأنّه يفتقد لأيّ طابع سياسي، فهو رفع المحطة لواء الدفاع عن ملهى ليلي غالبيّة روّاده من المثليّين والمتحوّلين جنسيّاً، ناهيك عمّا يشهده من تعاطٍ للمخدرات، على “عينك يا قوى أمنيّة”. ففي سلوك مستغرب، مهنيّاً وأخلاقيّاً، دأبت المحطة، على مدى ثلاثة أيّام ومنها إحدى مقدّمات نشراتها، على تناول القضيّة ومهاجمة بلديّة الدكوانة

5- Melody FM:

Sana Nasr hosted in her show the mayor of dekwanei and expressed his support to him, Sana Nasr also presents the lebanese Loto show, she is really good at …..reading numbers

LGBT bloggers, organizations and individuals are asked to share this letter, the signatories want ” AUB’s LGBTQ students know that there are many faculty and staff at AUB who are their allies and support them in their expression and would fight to ensure a safe and secure space for them to grow.”

(the letter below is to be re-blogged and shared):

To: AUB Faculty and Staff

 

Subject: Hate speech and bigotry on AUB campus

 

This letter is in response to the homophobic article published in Outlook titled “Please me at any price” (Issue #21, Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012, http://issuu.com/outlook-aub/docs/issue_21_44/15)

 

As members of the AUB community, we are committed to meeting the highest standards of integrity and ethics and should ensure our students do the same. The article in Outlook goes against basic human values in general and those of AUB in particular.

 

A respectful, fact-based discussion of issues is not only necessary for the development of any society but is core to AUB’s mission statement of seeking to “foster tolerance and respect for diversity and dialogue. Graduates will be individuals committed to creative and critical thinking, life-long learning, personal integrity, civic responsibility, and leadership.”

 

Bigotry and hate speech should not be given a platform to thrive. Such speech should be denounced swiftly, publicly, and unequivocally.

 

AUB is not immune from society’s discriminatory and prejudiced opinions, but it is our duty as faculty and staff to create a safe space for all our students to express themselves while encouraging and developing a critical, informed, and compassionate student body.

 

The right to exercise free speech and expression should not come at the expense of targeting any group, including but not limited to: gender, color, religious belief, or sexual orientation. This freedom should not inflict nor incite harm; and it should maintain the respect for and the rights of others.

 

We are AUB faculty and staff who want to express our rejection of any intolerant and hateful speech while maintaining our commitment to the right of everyone to freedom of expression, and underscoring the important responsibility that comes along with this freedom.

 

Sincerely,

 

–       Haitham Khoury, Assistant Professor, OSB

–       Lina Daouk-Oyry, Assistant Professor, OSB

–       Ramzi Mabsout, Assistant Professor, Economics/FAS

–       Rola Yasmine, Research Assistant, FHS

–       Charlotte Karam, Assistant Professor, OSB

–       Nidal Najjar, Assistant Professor, Psychology/FAS

–       Carole Levesque, Assistant Professor, Architecture/FEA

–       Bana Bashour, Assistant Professor, Philosophy/FAS

–       Victor Araman, Assistant Professor, OSB

–       Hala Ghattas, Assistant Professor, Community Nutrition/FAFS

–       Pia Zaynoun, Psychometrician, AUBMC

–       Talal Nezameddin, Dean of Student Affairs

–       Raymond Brassier, Chair, Philosophy/FAS

–       Hans Muller, Associate Professor, Philosophy/FAS

–       Nadiya Slobodenyuk, Assistant Professor, Psychology/FAS

–       Lina Choueiri, Assistant Professor, English/FAS

–       Thomas Kim, Chair, Fine Arts and Art History/FAS

–       Syrine Hout, Associate Professor, English/FAS

–       Johnpedro Schwartz, Assistant Professor, English/FAS

–       Michael James Dennison, Assistant Professor, English/FAS

–       Kasper Kovitz, Assistant Professor, Fine Arts and Art History/FAS

–       Robert Myers, Professor, English/FAS

–       Alexander Hartwiger, Assistant Professor, English/FAS

–       Karim Barakat, Instructor, Philosophy/FAS

–       Rima Akkary Karami, Assistant Professor, Education/FAS

–       Kristen Scheid, Assistant Professor, Anthropology/FAS

–       Sawsan Abdulrahim, Assistant Professor, FHS

–       Bashshar Haydar, Professor, Philosophy/FAS

–       Christopher Johns, Assistant Professor, Philosophy/FAS

–       Mayssun Succarie, Visiting Professor, CAMES/FAS

–       Tariq Mehmood Ali, Visiting Assistant Professor, English/FAS

–       Sari Hanafi, Professor, Sociology, Anthropology, and Mass Communications/FAS

–       Rima Afifi, Professor, Health Promotion and Community Health/FHS

–       Faysal El Kak, Senior Lecturer, FHS

–       Susann Kassem, Program Coordinator, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs

–       Nate George, Instructor, English/FAS

–       Livia Wick, Assistant Professor, Sociology, Anthropology, and Media Studies/FAS

–       Samer Jabbour, Senior Lecturer, Public Health/FHS

–       Ruba Ismail-Hamadeh, Instructor & Program Administrator, Center for Research on Populaation and Health, FHS

–       Nisreen Salti, Assistant Professor, Economics/FHS

–       Rima Nakkash, Assistant Professor, Health Promotion and Community Health/FHS

–       Omar Al-Dewachi, Assistant Professor, Public Health/FHS

–       Mayada Kanj, Coordinator, Health Promotion and Community Health/FHS

–       Ghalya Saadawi, Instructor, Psychology/FAS

 

 

 

 

Posted by: G-AZZI | May 29, 2012

The Egyptian LGBT magazine

Exciting news coming from Egypt, a group launched the first Egyptian LGBT Magazine, since the magazine does not have  website yet and it is only available in PDF format. I decided to share it here for those who would like to read it and forward it to other people. EHNA Magazine

As for Lebanon, I am excited about the relaunch of barra magazine during the International Day against homophobia (IDAHO event) on Sunday the 3rd of June 2012.

Posted by: G-AZZI | March 22, 2012

mother’s day

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. On Mother’s Day, we celebrate all the great women dedicating their lives to the their children, to make sure they are brought up well, putting in all the efforts within their power to support us.

And on that day, I couldn’t help but think of all the mothers, especially those in our culture, who have had to deal with their children’s homosexuality/ transsexuality…

It is much harder for our mothers to deal with our homosexuality than it is for us. WE know who we are, and we realize that we are brought up in a society with a low level of understanding of homosexuality. The impacts of a highly homophobic society and media are within us as we struggle to accept ourselves and gradually make peace with who we are despite all the arguments we face.

This is not the case for our mothers: when we come out to them, they tend to go straight into that same closet we came out of. Now they have to go through the same process on their own, except that it is harder for them since the concept is completely strange to them.

We live in a society where women are underestimated. We live in society that teaches women that their greatest achievement is raising a child and raising that child well. Learning that your son is gay with all the misconceptions that society has taught you means that your entire life is a failure.

It takes a lot of courage to overcome this shock. It takes a lot of effort to learn more, understand better, and accept the fact that your son or daughter is gay. I believe that only great women can bring themselves to deal with that.

Some years ago, I worked with Rasha Moumneh, great feminist activist and friend, on “Ohibbuhum wa Lakin,” a guide for parents of gay and lesbian individuals. It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life, because I was blessed to meet many of these great women.

To these special women, I would like to express my admiration. Whatever your questions and concerns were, you all came to the same conclusion: “We love our kids and their happiness is what is more important to us.”

You all came from different backgrounds, different religions, different social classes… Some of you were religious and conservatives, others were liberals, but you all showed the same courage and love for your children.

I wish I could publish your photos as my all-time heroes, but I know that society will not see you as heroes just yet.

I do believe, however, that I most probably speak for a majority when I say that you definitely are the greatest heroes for us, your sons and your daughters.

To my mother, and to all the great mothers of LGBT sons and daughters, I hope you had a happy mother’s day, and will continue to have warm years to come surrounded by your children in whose lives you’ve made an indescribably positive impact.

Posted by: G-AZZI | February 24, 2012

It’s just a comedy show

That’s how some people responded to the rage that many individuals expressed again MTV’s racist, sexist and homophobic sketches; having lost hope that we can actually change MTV’s position, I decided to respond to people who think that this show is funny.

1-     In a society where  there is still no consensus not to discriminated against women, gays and migrant workers , hearing scornful jokes about them let go inhibitions you might have, and you feel it’s ok to discriminate against them. Furthermore, it is clear that people behind this program are aware of the campaigns lead by the Lebanese civil society and intentionally trying to bring them down ( domestic violence law, migrant workers rights etc… ), the show is not as innocent as you think. Watch all the videos here http://mtvlebanonhumanrightsabuse.wordpress.com/

2-    Do you really think this show is funny? What is funny about repeating the same stereotypical jokes that people have been telling for years now, only people who are completely and utterly devoid of creativity and intelligence use jokes like these in their show. Those who are actually creative will find new jokes that appeal to everyone.

3-    Humor depends largely on the context and audience, if these sketch were made in a different context with the intention of making fun of stereotypes I would probably laugh, The same joke can be funny or not depending on who tells it and to whom. The Lebanese society is not a tolerant society and lame programs like MTV’s “ktir selbi” are just just telling us it is ok to be racist, sexist and homophobic, if you are laughing , then, you are no better.

Posted by: G-AZZI | December 21, 2011

History of the LGBT movement in Lebanon

Last month, I was asked to give a presentation about the history of the LGBT movement in Lebanon, because of the limited time i was given, i could not present all the activities and achievements of the movement, however I did my best  to present major milestones showing the evolution of the movement:

1998:Article 534 condemns “unnatural intercourse” this article is used to persecute LGBTIQ people, the illegality of homosexuality prevented LGBTIQ people from organizing, the internet however did help: a “gaylebanon” group was created in 1998, allowing a group of people to build trust, which led to the creation of an underground group called “club-free”. Club free was a social group; the membership was restricted to trusted LGBTIQ people.

After four years of empowerment and networking, clubfree became Helem, in 2004, Helem was officially registered at the ministry of interior in Lebanon, and the first LGBT center in the MENA region opened in spears street, Beirut.

2004:Barra, the first LGBT magazine was published to counter the negative image about homosexuality in the mainstream Lebanese media.

2005, helem celebrated the first international day against homophobia; the theme was “I Exist”. The message of this day was basic: LGBT people exist In Lebanon and we are breaking the wall of silence.A documentary about experiences of LGBT people across the Arab world was screened followed by a discussion

Media reaction to helem’s visibility was mostly negative except for few newspapers. Saad el din alwazan, member of the municipality of Beirut council, called the government to stop helem from promoting perversion. An investigation about helem activities was requested by the general attorney in Beirut. The charges against helem were dropped …

2005:“chaz” (pervert) was the common word used for homosexuality in the media. In 2006, Helem focused its work on the media, creating new terms in Arabic for homosexuality that many media adapted, Helem’s visibility also increased this year, using the media as a tool to outreach to the Lebanese society. IDAHO that year reflected helem work, the theme was “who is a pervert: homosexuals or homophobic people” , renowned sociologists and psychologists participated in this event

2005:“Rohab al mythlya” (homophobia) was published by helem: LGBT allies, journalist, psychologists and writers expressed their opinion about homophobia. “A book not about vegetables … or bugs. Or cars or travel …” is the first book on sexual health using a rights based approach

2005: For the first time, the Lebanese ministry of health acknowledges helem’s work on HIV/AIDS and decided to partner with helem on a nationwide prevention program targeting MSM (Men who sex with Men). The ministry of Health also opened in Helem one of the 20 voluntary HIV testing centers of Lebanon.

In 2006, helem focused on visibility, Helem was present in major public events, media, universities, schools and religious retreats wanting to discuss homosexuality.

2007, IDAHO’s theme was diversity, the fingerprint represents the diversity and the uniqueness of each individual, for the first time 25 major organizations from the Lebanese civil society participated to this day and voiced their support to helem

After addressing society in general it was important to address families of LGBTs, in 2007 helem publishes “ohobihom wa lakein”, a guide for parents of LGBT. in2007, Helem girls publishes su7aq the fist LBT magazine

In 2008 and after 2 years of cooperation with helem, the ministry of health included decriminalizing of homosexuality in their national strategy, becoming the first governmental institution to call for the removal of article 534

In 2008, Helem opens a space for expression for LGBT people during an exhibition at the art lounge.

After a violent attack by the Lebanese police in Beirut, Helem protests again police brutality for the first time

Helem girls becomes meem group, an LBT support group in the MENA region. Meem publishes bareed mosta3jeil. Short stories of LBT women

In 2009, Helem continues its campaign against article 534 and publishes “homosexuality myth and facts”, answering all the questions that helem was asked during 4 years of activism and social support. Bekhsoos the online LBT magazine was published by meem

Helem released a groundbreaking report on the legal situation of homosexuals in Arab countries, with cases studies from Tunisia and Lebanon. And another study on homophobia in universities and medical institutions

2010’s theme was: yes I am not normal, I am against the sexist and discriminating norms of society

2011, more focus on 534 and a study was published about the amendment of article 534

Blooming of LGBT blogging in Lebanon. Online visibility increased with LGBT media monitor and blogs. Opening of MARSA sexual health clinic.

 signs-tests-so-called-protest.n 2012:36 men were subjected to anal test by the police after being arrested in a cinema in borj hammoud as a reaction to that a huge online campaign was organized by the LGBT community, Helem held a protest tin front of the Lebanese ministry of justice in Beirut, demanding immediate halt to the use of the anal probe and vaginal exams. An unprecedented media support to the LGBT community was noticed which showed the radical change in the mentalities in Lebanon, following this campaign the Lebanese medical association ordered to stop carrying out ‘anal probe’ tests, doctors who perform these tests risk having their permit revoked. In 2013 the police lost one of the main tools of intimidation they use against LGBT people.
 eskandar-360x220 2013:Following the campaign of helem montreal and LGBT media monitor, Canada bans homophobic and sexist singer mohammad iskandar
Posted by: G-AZZI | November 12, 2011

Aljaras again …

Once again, Al Jaras has graced us with its amazing journalistic skills to enlighten us with yet another indescribable ingenious scoop of an article that shed light on matters we never would have imagined possible.
Apparently, one of Nidal al Ahmadiyeh’s cronies went to one of Beirut’s Halloween parties. “People were dressed as vampires, you could see blood everywhere, gay men were cross-dressing,” reported the poor, traumatised ‘journalist.’
Dear Al Jaras,
Congratulations! You have just discovered what a Halloween party is!!
Honestly, you did not have to waste two precious pages over that; everyone (except you, obviously) knows that this is what a Halloween party is all about.My dear journalist wannabes of Al Jaras, I will repeat what I mentioned in a previous article:

1) This is not an exclusive scoop anymore. People do party in Beirut, regardless of their sexual orientation. Cross-dressing on Halloween is not something weird, it is entertaining for straight males as well, and does not pinpoint sexual orientation in any way. Beirut is known for its party scene. Your articles are news for you and you alone.

2) Your articles do not scare us. If anything, we are all laughing about how much more morbidly lame you are getting by the issue. To be fair, I have to thank you for the entertainment, actually.

3) You do not need to go to dark underground places to find us and expose our “rituals.” We are everywhere and within every society.

For everyone else who enjoys a sense of awareness and does not need a reality check, check out the pictures of the article distributed on Facebook below:

Posted by: G-AZZI | September 29, 2011

Identity debate

I recently participated in a meeting discussing LGBT strategies in the MENA region. In one of the panels, an activist criticized what she called “identity politics” and the fact that some MENA organizations are importing a western form of activism, notably by celebrating events such as the International Day Against Homophobia, and she went on presenting an alternative form of activism that she believed would be more relevant to the MENA region (theoretically of course). This alternative activism is based on another western current opposing “identity politics.”

this debate is very important, but I am not interested in defending any of these two forms of activism; my issue is with the fact that some are importing a binary vision of the LGBT movement:

–          You either live in the LGBT bubble (ghetto) and you do not feel concerned by any other issues in society, or

–          You are a “radical activist” who wants to deconstruct all form of identities and change the whole system before working on any specific cause.

Both forms are limiting and inapplicable in our local context, and both isolate LGBTQ activists from the realities of our society, at least in my opinion.

The first tends to transform the LGBT movement into a commercial lifestyle, disconnecting LGBT people from reality and limiting the movement’s representation to mostly young, middle and upper class people living in urban areas.

The second is based on a utopian vision rather than on an analysis of society, representing mostly academicians and young radical rebels who can afford being radical.

Furthermore, working under broader mainstream human rights organizations has made it impossible for us to speak about LGBT and sexual minority issues; in the Lebanese context at least, LGBT issues were never set as a priority, and LGBT rights were never pushed forward in mainstream civil society NGOs until Helem was created and started networking and creating partnerships.

It is important to create a different form of activism in the region, one that reflects our identity, but we cannot build a movement merely by attacking the west and systematically rejecting whatever comes from a western organization.

The celebration of the international day against homophobia (IDAHO) does not mean that Helem adapted the western model just because the initiative is a western initiative (this can be applied to International Women’s Day, as well). Helem has been successful in creating good relations with different civil society members and building solidarity, and this was visible at the International Day Against Homophobia.

I strongly believe in a focused type of LGBT activism that is linked to other causes and movements and is aware of different issues affecting LGBT people as citizens. However, it is very important not to lose focus of our fight and allow it to disintegrate within other issues. We need a movement that is representative of our society and that focuses on understanding the needs of the community, a movement that is willing to improve the system through communication, awareness and field research and work, not through aggressive theoretical statements.

Posted by: G-AZZI | June 28, 2011

Lebanon is in Danger!

It is not the first time religious authorities try to jeopardize the work of the civil society.

It is not the first time that religious institutions try to hijack the Lebanese society by doing their utmost to influence the legal and the political systems.

The freedom of the association in Lebanon is futile since at any point any religious authority can put an end to any campaign in the name of religion.

Our country is in danger due both to religious leaders as well as political leaders. The latter acting as “protectors” of the different sects will certainly not dare to oppose the relevant religious institutions’ decrees and decisions.

I have often been branded as intolerant to religion. To be honest, I do not care if people believe in unicorns, UFOs or flying green fairies. Personal belief is a private matter that nobody has the right to dictate upon any individual. However, when religion, represented by its corrupted religious authorities, tries to control my life by imposing its absurd rules on me, then I have the right to question these beliefs, and even actively oppose them.

If you believe in human rights and equality, you need to overcome your fear of openly attacking religious authorities. They – just like any and every other citizen – should be held responsible for their decisions, actions, and the ideologies they disperse.

Believing in God does not mean that you should blindly follow what religious figures who represent him on earth say. They are human. They are not infallible. Perhaps it is about high time to question whether or not they really represent the values you believe in.

The relative “freedom” we have in Lebanon is fragile. It can be lost at any given time if we do not put an end to the illegal supremacy of religious institutions that often find it more than acceptable to censor or deny or twist content or events to serve their own purposes.

A draft law presented to parliament asking for the protection of Lebanese women from domestic violence has caused uproar and extreme irrational opposition from religious groups. If something as basic as protection against abuse and violence is that problematic to the religious figures, it makes one wonder… Where does the infringement upon the MOST BASIC personal freedoms stop?

Supporting this campaign could be our first step in demanding our rights as citizens and in our fight to putting an end to the absolute power that religious leaders exercise on our legislators.

For years we have been enduring their censorship, their hatred, and their intolerance; it is time to say that Lebanon is a civil country. It is time to make it clear that although we do not oppose religion and are not asking for its eradication, it just has no place in the creation and setting of our laws. Laws should be secular. Laws should be based on human rights and civil rights, and should be apply to each and every citizen equally, based on their status as human beings, and not on their status as Greek Orthodox, Sunni, Catholic, Shiite, Druze, or any of the 13 other recognized sects within our 10,452 km2.

To support the law and be informed of the next steps, join the Facebook page for the campaign to protect Lebanese women.

Older Posts »

Categories