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Shane Farrell

Gay crackdown ignites outrage

Human rights activists have denounced the Internal Security Forces after it raided and shut down a theater in Bourj Hammoud, which screens porn films and is popular with gay men, and arrested 36 individuals present at the time of the Saturday raid. They have also accused television channel MTV of promoting hatred and homophobia.

The theater, Plaza Cinema, is not the first such location to be shut down. In May, an MTV show hosted by Joe Maalouf called “Enta Horr” (You are Free) showed undercover camera footage of men in porn cinemas in Beirut and Tripoli. The featured cinemas were subsequently shut down. At the time, the gay rights organization Helem condemned the program, criticizing MTV for showing footage of the men without their knowledge and calling it “unethical and unprofessional.”

More recently, Ziad Nabulsi, spokesman for the Lebanese Association for Education and Training, accused the show of using offensive language by calling homosexuality an anomaly.

But Maalouf, who has been the target of much personal criticism online, says he has no knowledge of the news report MTV filed on the raid on Saturday as he has been out of the country on holiday. Moreover, he stressed that the “Enta Horr” show in May was not a witch-hunt against homosexuals, but rather an effort to expose the mistreatment of the teenagers who he says frequent such locations, often having been brought there by older men. He denied accusations of homophobia, saying, “I believe we should protect the rights of homosexuals.”

But Georges Azzi, cofounder of Helem, believes that Maalouf is backtracking as a result of the criticism he has faced over this issue. He says Maalouf is responsible for highlighting the issue and ought to make an apology to the men who were arrested in the raid (three of whom remain in prison). “Everyone knew about such cinemas, but they didn’t care because they didn’t affect anyone’s life,” he told NOW. MTV highlighted the issue, he added, forcing the ISF to close them down.

These cinemas, according to Azzi, are particularly popular among homosexuals of a lower social class, as tickets are relatively inexpensive, around 5,000 LL ($3.33). He does not believe they are spaces that men under 18 frequent and noted that in the controversial “Enta Horr” episode, no one appeared to be underage.

Homosexuality is a taboo in Lebanon, and many gays hide their sexual orientation from friends and family. Moreover, Article 543 of the Penal Code prohibits having sexual relations “contradicting the laws of nature.” This is despite a ruling by a judge in Batroun in 2009 that homosexual relations did not contradict natural laws. Indeed, activists believe that the men arrested in Saturday’s raid were held under the same article.

Helem contacted the Hobeiche police station, where the 36 men were held, and discovered that they had been anally examined. The practice involves an egg-shaped device being inserted into the anus to find traces of sperm. It has been widely criticized by human rights organizations, which call the practice outdated, discriminatory and a violation of human dignity.

Maalouf also spoke out against the examinations and encouraged gay rights activists to make this the focus of their remarks. “It is a shame that the Lebanese government does not ban these tests. It gives Lebanon a bad image. It’s not just silly, but a crime.”

Human rights lawyer Nizar Saghieh told NOW Lebanon that a statement condemning the probes and calling for an end to the practice has been sent to the ministry of justice.

“It is shameful that it still exists,” he said.

  • Roger

    When I was in lebanon on vacation, I realized that every Lebanese stuck in Lebanon has only one dream which is to leave the country. Most of the decent people are gone and most of what's left are scums and thugs with some exceptions of course. If people continue to feel threatened and not free,they will keep on leaving. And Lebanon may be a free country in appearance but in reality it is not at all especially for law abiding citizens who like to follow the rule of law (like me). What just happened is just apalling and shameful.and I u guys keeps like that, there will be no one decent left on board!!!

    August 3, 2012

  • Marcel

    Joe maalouf, you have destroyed the lives of 36 poor people and i hope that you will pay for this. U can afford to live your gay life freely in Mykonos but these poor people cannot. If you want to terrorize people, go to iran and stay there with MTV. Also, it is about time to legAlize homisexuality. Our government is only Iinterested in their pockets and they don't care about their citizens. U guys Are public servants not executors!! Shame shame shame.

    August 3, 2012

  • Ramses

    @Phil: Too bad you will no longer be watching Mtv dude.. You will be missing out on such excellent shows as Ana wal Asal, Ajyal, Bel Baher Sawa, Enta Adda.. LOL

    August 3, 2012

  • Civilian

    I agree that the sight of homosexuality should be banned from any public places. If you want to do gay stuff then fine, but do so in private. We don't want to see or even hear about it. And stop shoving gay culture down our throats, (no pun intended), almost everyone I know is disgusted at the thought of two men having relations. It's definitely not the norm in any and I am sick to death of people telling how and what we should be thinking on the issue of gay behaviour. Am I a homophobe? No. Like I said, do you gay stuff in private because many find it disgusting.

    August 3, 2012

  • Dana

    Ok so they insert the device, and they find sperm... then what happens? Is the person accused of indecently harboring several million homosexual children? WTF happens if they tested "positive" for sperm? What the hell were the police thinking here? Are these people out of their damn minds? The rape of Lebanese men is now justice?

    August 3, 2012

  • Kudmos

    What are you doing mtv? There is nothing left in Lebanon to investigate but some few guys masturbating in a cinema? That disturbed your senses? Why do you care? These people are consensual adults and it's not up to you nor your Maalouf guy to decide if porn cinemas are morally ok!! Are you joining Hizballah by dictating what is morally good and bad? Shame on you! I am a fan of your TV and I hope this was just a mistake and that you will learn from it. You can't be pro democracy and freedom while at the same time promoting hostility against a minority group. You knew that such a program would turn the police against these men, because they are the weakest link in our society. That report was totally irresponsible of you!!

    August 3, 2012

  • Renee

    This is shameful,desgusting and illegal in all of the civilized,world, that the Lebanese purport to be civilized,sophisticated,democratic this is totally unacceptable. The sleeze that already exists in this country is tacky and obvious all around us,so what is this 'harrasing gay week' Shame on the police,doctors and the prosecutor general,has he nothing else to do, let the police round up all the thugs robbing womens handbags and kidnapping people which is far more serious and let the gay community look after themselves,they are harming no one and it's all consensual between adults. It's not a crime accept in this hypocritical country.

    August 2, 2012

  • samra

    Hetrosexual men are more dangerous sexual exploiters of children and young girls. Cases abound. It is a misconception that homosexuals are morel likely to exploit children.

    August 2, 2012

  • شاب دون الثلاثين

    What a shame. So many problems in the country and this is what they focus on? Reminds me of the hunt for devil worshipers, who turned out just to be people that liked heavy metal music.

    August 2, 2012

  • Phil؟

    Those theaters have been around since the 80's.. and the ISF knew about them and even have records of people who frequent them.. Instead of protecting citizens against recurring daily theft and murdor, the incompetent ISF choose to arrest these helpless homosexuals and "examine" them in the most demeaning ways.. That's all they're capable of, I guess.. Anyway, Mtv is no longer part of my TV channels..

    August 2, 2012

  • joe

    What is wrong with you people? Shame on lebanon!! Joe maalouf and the MTV should be the one behind bars!! This is terrorism!!!!

    August 2, 2012

  • alex

    Shame on Joe Maalouf, a self-hating gay, whose rise to fame made it harder to be himself. So in outrage he's taking out on gays in Lebanon. The discussion should not be based on whether it's okay to shut down the cinema because it catered to gay customers. Instead, it should be whether those individuals, as consensual adults, have a right to go to a sex cinema. It's when the government takes away these types of rights that the rest of our rights are endangered.

    August 2, 2012

  • georges azzi

    I just want to clarify that it was helem who appointed someone in hbeish not myself. I was giving the information that were reported from helem

    August 2, 2012

  • don

    homesexuals have gone too far in their behavior in Lebanon. I have never seen anywhere else in the world open dispay of homosexual behavior as I've seen in Lebanon. The New York times wrote an article few years ago describing how Beirut has become the gay capital of the middle east and even the world. People have the right to protect their children from being exploited by homosexuals as they have the right to protect them from straight people.

    August 2, 2012

  • jj

    Lebanon is one of a dwindling number of countries that has the courage to keep God and the foundation for their moral laws. I pray for the continued strength required to ward off the evils of hedonism.

    August 2, 2012

  • Rana

    ... this country, have gay sex as much as you want

    August 1, 2012

  • Jasper

    Dude, wtf is wrong with joe maalouf THATS NOT A WAY TO TAKE SUSPICION OF BEING GAY YA JOE... and so what if they are putting gay porn!! ITS PORN the whole cinema should be shut downed not because there is gay porn! stupid lebanese ignorant... GENDER X ;) A

    August 1, 2012

  • Rasputin

    There should not be any outrage at the arrest. Public indecency is against the law, and officials are well within the confines of both the law and human dignity to perform arrests. However, people should be outraged over the forced so called homosexuality exams. Those defy the simplest logic and go against human dignity and basic rights. It is shameful that people have to go through that.

    August 1, 2012

  • Nabil Ghandour

    This MTV program and the person who presents it are so lame. Besides, the makhlouf guy looks so gay himself which makes him also a cheap, sleazy hypocrite . He should be put on trial for intrusion of privacy.

    August 1, 2012