As a result of violence, oppression and discrimination that are faced by LGBTQ communities around the world, human rights activists and lawyers chose May 17th of each year to commemorate an International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHO) for the first time in 2004.
In the 14th year of commemorating IDAHO, and while there are events planned around the world to raise awareness over the LGBTQ rights and freedom, Middle Eastern organizations are facing barriers to plan any event, from getting the authorities’ permission until finding a place that agrees on hosting them.
In the Middle East, hashtags such as “ضد_رهاب_المثلية” (Against Homophobia) and “اليوم_العالمي_لمناهضة_رهاب_المثلية” ( International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia) have been trending by social media users. It has to be rembered there is no explicit laws against homosexuals or at least laws to protect them in this part of the world.
Reading tweets using those hashtags leads to several stories of oppressed minorities who had to face their societies despite all struggles, including remembering the incident of what became known as “Queen Boat” incident in Egypt in 2001, in which 52 Egyptians were arrested on a floating disco called the Queen Boat in the Nile, Cairo.
Translation: “Today marks 17 years on the Queen Boat incident.. From 17 years, 52 homosexuals were arrested only because the government wanted that to be so, they lost their normal lives and their families because the government action.”
The incident had been remembered since then as an example of stories of abuse and ill-treatement toward the LGBTQ in the world.
There are other stories of discrimination against people some of whom chose fake accounts and nicknames to tell their experiences of being part of the LGBTQ community in the region.
Translation: “On the day of IDAHO, beautiful Lebanon will impress us this month. I will be supporting you.”
Additionally, news of banning several events commemorating IDAHO in Lebanon went viral among defenders of homosexuals rights.
Translation: “An event organized by Beirut Pride organization was canceled on the IDAHO under pressure from authorities.”
Translation: “Arrest of the coordinator of activities against homophobia, activities were canceled.”
On international basis, human rights defenders planned events in different parts of the world to raise awareness, support equality, share stories about homophobia, remembering names of LGBTQ activists who were killed around the world.
Why May 17th to commemorate IDAHO?
According to the official website of “Day Against Homophobia”, choosing May 17th specifically was made to tally with the day of the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.
IDAHO received official recognition from many states, including European Parliament and most United Nations agencies to mark the Day with specific events.
It is celebrated by more than 130 countries with 1600 events reported from 1280 organizations in 2014, which resulted in winning the support of millions of people who recognize human rights for all, despite their sexual orientation, gender identity or sexual orientation.
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