The Lebanese mayor of Dekwaneh defended his actions in an interview Tuesday after he ordered Lebanese security forces to raid and shut down a gay-friendly nightclub in the Beiruti suburb town.
Several club-goers were arrested and forced to undress in the municipal headquarters, where they were then photographed naked.
“I saw 25 men outside, or what looked like boys and men. I went inside... I saw people kissing, touching each other, and a man wearing a skirt. These homosexual acts that are happening... are scandalous sexual acts,” Antoine Shakhtoura said.
Shakhtoura had ordered the nightclub Ghost to be shut down on charges of “promoting prostitution, drugs and homosexuality.”
The closure of the club occurred “without legal notice,” said the founder of Lebanese LGBTQ rights organization Helem, Charbel Maydaa, pointing out that the police already oppress gay and transgender people.
Those arrested included “people from the Syrian community and a Lebanese transsexual woman, who was harassed and forced to undress in the municipal headquarters,” said Maydaa.
“Of course we made them take off their clothes,” Shakhtoura said referring to the people they transferred to the municipality’s headquarters who were also photographed there.
“We saw a scandalous situation and we had to know what these people were. Is it a woman or a man? Turned out to be a half woman and half man. I do not accept this in Dekwaneh,” he insisted.
“We didn’t fight for and defend this land and our honor for some people... to practice these things in my neighborhood, Dekwaneh,” Shakhtoura added.
In response, one of Ghost’s managers said, “even if they are [gay], well, that is their personal freedom and we do not have any problem with it at all.”
The nightclub’s management condemned the municipality’s accusation, stressing to Al-Akhbar that the accusations against them were false and that the raid of the Lebanese forces had no prior warning.
Helem, which was founded in 2004, had been monitoring the nightclub as it was a regular target of police abuse.
In a statement the organization issued recently, they said, “witnesses confirmed that customers near the nightclub were frequently exposed to abuse because of their appearance. Some are transferred in car trunks to the municipality where they are physically and verbally abused.”
As reported in Al-Akhbar, the Dekwaneh area has joined other Lebanese regions in their heightened discrimination towards Syrians in the country. Syrian nightclub goers often risk violence should they violate the 7:00 pm curfew imposed on Syrian refugees in parts of Lebanon.