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


  1. Dear Georges,

    I am very happy Georges to see for once that most of the achievements done by Helem & Meem are quoted however, i think you shouldn’t forget mentioning other’s achievements like the IGLTA Fam trip to Beirut, done by us in Lebanon!
    True, Lebtour isn’t an NGO but sill we contribute in the LGBT mouvement!
    Bertho 🙂

  2. 100% Bertho and i expected this comment :), it is the courage of people who are not part of NGO that actually made the change, Bars, businesses and recently bloggers played a major role in changing the situation of LGBTs in Lebanon and i thought they deserve a separate article. the focus was here on the NGO activism, the next one will be on people who made real change but it needs more research.

    i always respected your work 🙂

    • Thank you for posting back sweet Georges,
      However, I had to make this comment on your article, as it’s crucial to remind all readers that LGBT businesses are playing an important role as important as NGOs as they are the partners in this fight for a better future.
      Thank you.

  3. IGLTA’s trip to Lebanon was a set-back in the LGBTQ history of Lebanon.

  4. hakjs jasj,
    i wonder why this kind of people who like to attack never leave a REAL name or identity!
    it’s really funny, and un-mature!
    if you consider that what we did isn’t supportive … i feel the same for what you and many others are doing… but i still keep hope in YOU! one day, you change and give something fruitful and constructive to the LGBT community!

    Relax, and always be positive …

  5. Very interesting overview of the movement…….thanks Georges for putting this together……Mike Luongo in New York

    • Thank you mike, i am glad you like it

  6. sorry, ‘lebtour’, or whatever that means. I’m blind because I could not see how something like bringing euro-bears for a middle eastern fetish is so authentic and liberating for the gays

    if you want to bring tourists here, sex work, hibernate, or whatever bears do these days, it’s completely fine, but please don’t make it sound like a very important step in the history of the world…at the end of the day you’re just making money as a private business and sa7ten 3ala albak i hope you make even more, but by no means you can compare your business to the lgbt struggle, i find that offensive for all the people who put their lives (legally, socially, etc..) on the front line

    you are supportive and that is great, keep that up, but to look at the ACTUAL impact your business did on the struggle….i can’t point my finger at it.

    Azzi’s timeline is stating IMPORTANT events that happened, not publicizing for something, unlike your failure attempt to get your company on that list.

    Note: it’s Mrs. Hakjs Jasj to you 🙂

    • This post has been posted just as a clarification reply to Mrs. Hakjs jasj :

      Dear Mrs. whatever you want to call yourself!

      I want to bring back to your mind Harvey Milk’s fights (remember he was a gay businessman) @ least he was not hiding behind the NGO status as most of you do here in the country!!
      For god’s sake! I know all the big lies you are doing to take money and nothing else than the money!
      Please I do respect the CLEAN work done by CLEAN people in the NGOs here (and remember these clean people) are very few, and I’m glad they took over back the charge of Helem.
      As for the risks for your lives! I never saw any of you doing anything risky! Oh please don’t tell me that publishing articles @ barid mesta3jil is risky!
      COME ON!!! Stop lying!

      And beside, if you call my tours are sexual tours; again I should remind you that I do nothing sexual in my tours! And in if you insist on not believing it’s your fucking problem not mine!

      and if you think that I am using such a research to promote my business remember I don’t need Georges’ study! Bcz it’s not targeted to potential tourists but to professionals…
      So. There is no need for this bitchy lesbo-attack!

      Stay relaxed, and better for you and those who share with you the same thoughts to focus on doing something to the LGBT community else than fighting just bcz they are born with hate…

      @ The end, I think people filled with hate, will NEVER give anything to the society!
      We need people with positive vibes who would give with love and compassion….


      • Dear Lebtour,
        i don’t want to get involved in this debate about gay business and all the arguments pro or against. what caught my attention is and i quote: ” I do respect the CLEAN work done by CLEAN people in the NGOs here (and remember these clean people) are very few, and I’m glad they took over back the charge of Helem.”
        i see in this statement some disrespect to a lot of members of Helem since it was and always be a member based organization and whoever is working “as staff” or a “board member”, all decision were discussed and aproved my members (or at least my most of them in a democratic way).
        and even at all times, Helem’s work was very clean and call for the respect of all especially those who claim (and i respect that) that they care about the LGBT struggle in Lebanon and the Region.
        just wanted to make that clear, and if you please. all of you, leave your personal conflicts out of this movement, we are few and the least we need is people backstabbing eachother in the community,
        thank you and have hope you have a – gay = Happy – Holoday.

      • Dear Psycho,

        I am very happy to read your comment! As you recognize that there is an internal conflict that has to be left aside!
        That’s a very good start and I wish all activists did the same!
        Since I’ve started with LebTour back in 2005 – 2006 and I was most of the time being attacked or marginalized by many of the members of your NGOs!
        I don’t think someone else would be more diplomatic! But, to keep the good steps from my side, I always tried to keep very good contacts and I’m proud that I have met among your NGOs very good people (I classified them in my previous comment as THE CLEAN people)

        Just for the example, IGLTA’s Symposium in October 2010, was decided after the famous gathering @ Helem’s office when I was invited to explain about IGLTA and it’s involvement in the promotion of new LGBT destinations around the world.
        I have invited Helem’s members that instead of attacking IGLTA for going to Tel Aviv to invite IGLTA’s members to come to Beirut and show them that Beirut is the Human right friendly destination in the Middle East and use IGLTA’s presence in Beirut to highlight the LGBT infrastructures and achievements in the country, Especially that the IGLTA members that came to Lebanon were VIPs that would have helped a lot putting Lebanon on the map. Oh by the way, just for your info, Lebanon’s IGLTA Fam trip brought the same number of participants as Tel Aviv, and we had beside the LGBT businessmen, we got among us journalists from Canada, the US and Europe. As well, we had activists from New York and even some movie producers from Hollywood, that were looking to see if Lebanon can be a place for a coming movie.
        But! What Helem’s representative has done that time, was just attacking! And the speech is still online for those interested in reading it.

        In return, to recognize George’s blessed work, the Lebanese team preparing the IGLTA Symposium decided to give George an Award for the Best & Bravest personality in our community.

        The problematic is more than being recognized or not! The problem is that some activists are bringing some political dogmas into an NGO that has been created to answer ALL and each member of the LGBT community, with no discrimination, with no limitation!

        For this reason! Once again, I salute all the good work that has been done during these years! And invite leaders of these NGOs always to consider the non-members, as they can be partners for changing the world.

  7. I feel disgusted and sick when I hear that we have LGBT in Lebanon. Is it all about sex and sexual relations?. Okay, let me tell you something that I want you to understand.

    Before you announce that you are gay/lesbian you were respected by people and as a human being. we respect our humanity as much as you do to others but when you go to streets, you are no longer asking people to respect you as humans but as homosexuals. That’s why you are hated in our society and will remain. Why the hell I am supposed to know that you are gay or lesbian? I don’t find the point. Even normal people do not announce their sexual stuff in public. and by the way, gays and lesbians are still labeled under “disgusting” even in Europe and USA.

    For god’s sake, I want to know, how the hell do you accept or find it logical to make sex with a person from your gender? even animals don’t do that. God did NOT created you for that. and be honest with yourself, you are not normal and what you are doing is abnormal and an act against humanity and morals.

    Go get some medications instead of publishing your crap for people to read.


    • to Joanna Abi Khali : sorry bs enti w7de m3a2ade b7yatek ..w ya shbab w ya sbaya …min hnen hdol al3alam ylli bdna mnon ale7tiram ,lesh hnen m7trmin !!! w b3mron ma r7 y3rfu sh3ur algay aw lezbian ,w ma by3rfu eno n7na khl2na hek …aslan bygharu mnna leano n7na sh3b fun n happy ….
      viva LGBT

      • The one who taught you that being abnormal is okay is the one I blame. However, keep doing fun and BRING BABIES to life, if you can.
        by the way, you are saying that you don’t need respect and understanding from people, okay, then WHY THE HELL DO YOU GO TO STREETS? stay at home.

        m3a2ade??????!!!! that’s how life goes, and this is the way human beings and EVEN ANIMALS are living it.

        However, I am not going to reply back to any of your comments, but I just want to tell that you ABNORMAL people will stay in the dark, and you will never gain respect or understanding as long as you are like this.

        Go get medication or something, and I will surely keep praying for you and everyone else like you, gays, lesbians, and any other sick category of you.

        2al fun 2al, bala 2araf, lak ya khayyeh sho hal sar3a haydeh! eff

    • Dear Joanna;

      At least we agree that everybody should be respected as a human being, that is a good base for discussion,

      you think homosexual sex is disgusting, good don’t do it, obviously if others are doing it then they do not share your opinion, living in Lebanon there are many things that disgust me but i learned to live with it because if everyone will have the right to ask people to stay at home just because he or she are disgust by them, then nobody will be on the streets 🙂

      you look like someone who enjoys having babies and live in a family which is great and good for you and i hope you will find your happiness.

      as for me i have other interests and let’s say i am participating in reducing the over population of earth by not having children.

      LGBT exist everywhere even within the animal kingdom, except animals do not discriminate against each other based on their sexual orientation.

      why we need to go out ? because in Lebanon people risk prison, harassment and violence because they have different sexual orientation. and because when there is injustice people need to go out and ask for justice, we are doing the work we are doing.

      have happy holidays

  8. viva LGBT

  9. I’m trilled at the progress that has occurred in Lebanon. i now visit and count Helem as friends. thank you for all you have done for us.

  10. Lebtour, I do not find your response to be related to what I discussed earlier, also because you assumed I’m part of a lesbian group and or helem, which I belong to neither.

    You are pointing serious accusations towards LGBTQ groups and you’re obvious fear is Lesbians is not making it better, obviously by your choice of words: ‘lesbos’. I suggest you do not drag your opinion publically in such a manner if you cannot support it; I mean what are your references? Do you have any financial audit or their program of these organizations before accusing them with corruption? You are undermining the expression space provided by Meem for lesbian and queer women, which is a need for a lot of people; and it can expand for further trouble if, let’s say, you were to be sued for tash-heer since after all you are expressing your opinion under Lebtour’s name.

    Please refrain from mixing too many subjects in one sentence, and from involving other parties/accusations to organizations, thus I do not support or approve of your previous writing.

    Move on,

    • I’m sorry but i never mentioned Meem or Helem in any of my accusations! i said SOME activists!
      anyway your defensive process is confirming my accusations!
      anyway i don’t need auditing to know about corruption!
      i have my personal experiences with each and everyone of them!
      Facts reflect realities!
      anyway! i don’t think i will be discussing more on this issue!
      have a good day

  11. […] […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: