A Lebanese LGBTQ group was forced to cancel a major gay pride festival after authorities detained the organizer and forced him to sign a pledge abandoning the event, Reuters reported.
Beirut Pride is the first gay pride week in the Arab world. Last year the opening event was cancelled due to safety concerns for LGBTQ attendees.
The 2018 Beirut Pride week was set to run from May 12 to May 20.
In a statement, organizer Hadi Damien said he was taken into custody during a public reading of a theater play. He spent the night at a police station where he was questioned by censorship officials, he added.
“The conversation with the director at the censorship office did not go very far, and questions about Pride, its importance and program became paramount,” Damien wrote.
Lebanon is widely seen as more socially liberal than most other Middle Eastern countries, but LGBTQ communities say they face intense discrimination by society and government.
According to Lebanese law, “any sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature” is punishable by up to one year in prison, according to The New York Times.
The Lebanese Interior Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Damien said he signed a pledge ending Beirut Pride week under the advice of an attorney.
Ghenwa Samhat, executive director of LGBTQ rights organization Helem, told Reuters that Lebanese rights groups often face government pressure.
“These things are not new to us,” Samhat said. “People can still express themselves in public places, there are placers friendly to LGBTQ+, where they face no problems.”
It is not clear if the group plans to organize any other events, or if they plan to dispute the pledge.