A rainbow billboard has been vandalised in Beirut, Lebanon, only a day after ministers moved to crush LGBTQ+ Pride events.
On Saturday (25 June), Beirut Pride said within hours of its “Blooming Billboard” flowering, thugs tore down some of the thousands of flowers forming the LGBTQ+ Pride flag on it.
“We raised a billboard on the streets of Beirut to create awareness about a Lebanese law that still criminalizes same-sex love,” the organisation said on Instagram.
“The flowers represented members of the LGBTIQ+ community, how beautiful we are, and how resilient we are – a symbol that we always bloom no matter what obstacles we face.”
The billboard was placed in Sassine, Ashrafieh, and slowly bloomed with flowers across June with the line “love always blooms” underneath.
But “within hours, the billboard was destroyed by people who believe we don’t deserve equal rights to them”, the non-profit said.
Among them includes Lebanon’s interior minister, Bassam Mawlawi. Just the day before the billboard was vandalised, he instructed the country’s security forces to “immediately take the necessary measures to prevent any type of celebration, meeting, or gathering” of LGBTQ+ people during Pride Month.
The order applies to all members of the Internal Security Forces Directorate, Lebanon’s national police force which deals with counter-terrorism and public order.
But it now seems that people celebrating diversity and waving some fabric flags now fall under their remit.
Lebanon’s interior minister Bassam Mawlawi. (ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images)
Mawlawi issued the order after seeing “calls on social media to organise parties and events promoting homosexuality in Lebanon, and following communication from religious figures rejecting the spread of this phenomenon”, he said.
“This phenomenon is contrary to the habits and customs of our society,” Mawlawi said, adding that “personal freedoms cannot be invoked”.
Beirut Pride remains the only LGBTQ+ Pride event in the Middle East. Every year since the first march in the Lebanese capital in 2017, Beirut Pride has faced hostility and threats of violence from conservative religious sects and the authorities.
In 2018, Beirut Pride organiser Hadi Damien was arrested and prosecutors banned all other Pride events that “incited debauchery”.
Damien was released only on one condition – that he cancel all remaining events.
Lebanese law says “any sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature” is punishable by up to one year in prison.
But the law is enforced irregularly and does not explicitly mention homosexuality, giving LGBTQ+ people some wiggle room to be open.
Beirut Pride, however, remains resilient.
“Our flowers were broken. But our hope for a future of equal rights is burning strong!” it said on Instagram.
“We will not back down.”