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Violent Assault on Drag Event in Lebanon

Increasingly Hostile Climate for LGBT People

The drag artist known as Latiza Bombe hides on the terrace of a bar after it was attacked by a group of conservative Christians who identify as the “Soldiers of God,” in Beirut, Lebanon, August 23, 2023. © 2023 Emilie Madi/Reuters

Men from an anti-LGBT group attacked a bar in Lebanon where a drag event was being held on August 23, while threatening violence against LGBT people.

“We stopped the show and had to hide behind the bar, lying down on the floor, breathless,” one of the performers told me. “The police stood on the side, watching, as the men were beating people.”

The men were part of the so-called Soldiers of God group that is openly hostile toward LGBT people in Lebanon.

“There were a dozen men on motorcycles who attacked us. At least two of them had guns,” another performer said.

A video of the attack shows the assailants shoving some of the attendees and shouting “We warned you, this is only the beginning,” and, “We will not allow the promotion of homosexuality in the land of God.”

Agents of the Internal Security Forces who arrived while the attack was under way did not intervene, five of the event’s attendees said. “The police were watching as they attacked us, but instead of stopping and arresting them, they interrogated the bar owner and the attendees about the nature of the performance,” one of the attendees added.

The attack follows widespread anti-LGBT incidents in Lebanon, including incitement to violence against LGBT people by religious leaders, banning events around gender and sexuality by the government, and proposed legislation by officials to explicitly criminalize same-sex conduct and “promoting homosexuality.”

“We had to assess whether it was safe to host the event, but we decided to go ahead because drag is a form of entertainment that is mainstream in Lebanon and had not yet been targeted,” one of the event organizers said.

To our knowledge, there have been no arrests made in connection with the August 23 attack. If no one is held accountable, authorities are sending an alarming message that violence motivated by hate toward sexual and gender minorities is above the law, and LGBT people are excluded from the government’s obligation to protect them.

LGBT people and their allies will continue to raise their voices and fight for their rights. The only question is whether Lebanon’s government will listen.

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