Lebanese group forced to shut down first gay pride week in Arab world

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.

Report: Homeless woman found dead in Beirut had $1M in bank account

A homeless woman found dead Tuesday in Beirut may have possessed more than $1 million in a Lebanese savings account, An-Nahar reported.

The Beirut-based newspaper said the 52-year-old woman, identified as Fatima Othman, was initially found with $3,000, or LBP 5,000,000.

A further investigation located a savings account in her name worth about $1.2 million, or LBP 1.7 billion.

homeless millionaire beirut 2

According to An-Nahar, the authenticity of the documents remains unknown.

The photos have created a social media firestorm, with many users asking how she had so much money.

Othman was found dead in Beirut’s southern Ouzai district, according to the Internal Security Forces. She died of natural causes.

Residents told Gulf News that Othman lived in the street for more than 20 years, and frequently rented a car from the neighborhood.

Her body was returned to her family in Akkar where she was buried, security officials said.

Lebanese engineer wins $16.8M in lawsuit against Ford Motor Company

A Lebanese engineer and former Ford employee won $16.8 million in a employment discrimination lawsuit against the Big Three automaker.

Dr. Faisal Khalaf filed a lawsuit against Ford and two supervisors for allegedly creating a hostile work environment based on ethnic discrimination.

Khalaf, who was born in Lebanon, alleges that he was retaliated against and terminated due to his accent and Lebanese background. He was employed at Ford from 1999 until September 2015 when he was terminated.

“There was a high-level executive at Ford Motor Co. that my client reported to, that would berate him and criticize him week after week about his English,” said Carol Laughbaum, Khalaf’s attorney to the Detroit Free Press.

The attorney alleges his supervisors — Bennie Fowler and Jay Zhou — created a hostile workplace and subjected Khalaf to “regular and frequent criticism and hostility” over his ability to speak English.

Khalaf earned a “top achiever” performance rating six months before being moved under the supervision of Fowler, the lawsuit said.

Read the full lawsuit here.

Khalaf’s attorney also claims Zhou recommended he take a English as a Second Language class. Khalaf holds a PhD in industrial engineering.

A federal jury ruled in favor of Khalaf and awarded him $15 million in punitive damages, $1.7 million in retirement and pension losses and $100,000 in emotional distress.

In a statement, Ford officials said they did not agree with the verdict.

“We don’t believe that the facts in this case support the verdict,” Brad Carroll, corporate communications manager for Ford, said in a statement. “Ford is committed to creating an environment that promotes diversity and inclusion within our workforce and communities. The diverse backgrounds of our employees truly make us a stronger company and we are extremely proud of our policies and programs that support equality.”

Lebanese-American prosecutor runs for California State Assembly

Bill Essayli, the son of Lebanese-American immigrants, is looking to unseat the incumbent in California’s 60th State Assembly election this fall.

The former federal prosecutor, a Republican, announced his bid for California legislature at a gas station in his district. The announcement was livestreamed on his Facebook page.

His opponent Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, a Democrat, voted to increase the gas tax in California, he says.

While working in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Essayli took part in the investigation of the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack, and assisted in a case against a Santa Barbara doctor who over-prescribed opiates to his patients.

To visit his official page and learn more about him, click here.

Lebanese-American businesswoman, philanthropist dies at 95

Lebanese-American businesswoman and philanthropist Adele Barakat died April 29 at her Pennsylvania home, an obituary said. She was 95.

Barakat was born to Lebanese immigrant parents in 1923, and owned the beloved Hykel’s Subs restaurant in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.

She established the restaurant in 1938 after graduating from business school. She also worked for the Signal Corps during World War II, where she helped provide support for command and control of the armed forces.

Barakat and her husband opened several businesses, and employed more than 250 people in the Delaware Valley, her obituary said. Her husband also owned a manufacturing facility in Oxford, Pennsylvania.

As a Lebanese-American, Barakat was one of many families approached by former actor Danny Thomas to fundraise for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

She was also a major support of the Lebanese Maronite Catholic community in the Philadelphia suburbs, where she donated a 14-acre property to establish St. Sharbel Church in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.

Barakat and her husband were recognized by Pope John Paul III with the highest honors of the Catholic Church to thank them for their contributions.

Her funeral was held on Saturday.

Barakat loved gardening, spending time with her family and cooking traditional Lebanese food, her obituary said.


U.S. congratulates Lebanon on elections, urges dissociation

The U.S. congratulated Lebanon on its historic parliamentary elections Sunday, and urged the country to dissociate from foreign conflicts.

The U.S. Embassy in Beirut posted a string of tweets on Tuesday with its message for the Lebanese government.

“As Lebanon looks ahead to forming a new government, we urge all parties to uphold Lebanon’s international obligations, including those contained in UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, and Lebanon’s policy of disassociation from foreign conflicts,” the statement said.

They also recognized security forces and the Lebanese Army for providing security measures on election day.

“We hope Lebanon’s next government will continue along the path toward building a stable and secure Lebanon that is committed to peace and responsive to the needs of the Lebanese people,” the statement added.

Political fight leads to shots fired in Choueifat neighborhood

One person was killed during a political fight between two young men Tuesday in a neighborhood in Choueifat.

The two men are members of opposing political parties and clashed on electoral backgrounds, the Lebanese National News Agency reported.

The clash led to shots fired with a machine gun, NNA reported.

“Security forces rushed to the clash scene and worked on solving it to prevent further escalation,” NNA added. “The joint committees of the two parties also intervened to end the clash.”

The clash involved two young men from the Lebanese Democratic Party and Progressive Socialist Party.

It is not clear who was killed and if anyone was arrested.

Minister Taymour Jumblatt warned that political clashes are unnecessary and unacceptable.

“Beware, comrades. You are not allowed to be dragged into sedition, and will not let strife infiltrate into the one house,” Jumblatt told NNA. “(We urge for) restraint in order to preserve our youth and their lives, regardless of the party they belong to.”

Lebanon’s parliamentary elections were held Sunday.

LBC television truck stolen outside of Baalbeck hotel

A satellite truck belonging to a Lebanese television station was stolen Saturday outside of a hotel in Baalbeck, one day before the Lebanese parliamentary elections.

The truck was parked outside of the Kanaan Group Hotel in the Ras Al Ain area when it was taken by an unidentified group of people, the Lebanese National News Agency reported.

The photo shows a similar satellite truck that was stolen, but does not belong to LBC.
The photo shows a similar satellite truck that was stolen, but does not belong to LBC.

The satellite truck is used for remote field production, typically to cover live television news events from a mobile location. It features a large satellite used to transmit a live feed back to the LBC central studio.

LBCI, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International, is one of the largest privately-owned television stations in Lebanon. The studios are located in Adma wa Dafneh, in the Keserwan District.


Power-players to watch in the Lebanese parliamentary elections

As Lebanon prepares for its first parliamentary elections in nine years Sunday, 3.6 million registered Lebanese voters are expected to cast their ballots. Thousands of Lebanese expats voted last week.

Here are several key power-players that could influence the country’s direction for years to come.

Future Movement

Future Movement Lebanon

Prime Minister Saad Hariri is the leader of the Lebanese Future Movement Party, founded in the 1990’s by his father, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005.

Hariri, a Sunni Muslim politician, holds Saudi citizenship and is intensely critical of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group.

The Future Movement could be impacted by the new electoral law, which could fragment the Sunni vote and cost them key parliamentary seats.

Free Patriotic Movement

Free Patriotic Movement Lebanon

Founded by President Michel Aoun, this group has allied with Hezbollah since signing a memorandum of understanding in 2006.

The Free Patriotic Movement, which is mostly Maronite Catholic, currently has the second largest bloc in parliament.

The group is likely to gain significant support from Shi’ite Muslims who turn out.


Hezbollah Lebanon

This Shi’ite Muslim group was founded in 1982 as a resistance movement to the Israeli occupation of parts of Lebanon. They are backed by Iran and Syria.

Parliamentary candidates are likely to turn out a large number of Shi’ite Muslim voters, and some Christians who supports its record of fighting Israel.

Hezbollah currently holds 12 seats in the Lebanese parliament, and is expected to keep close to the same number, analysts say.

Amal Movement

Amal Movement Lebanon

Amal, a Shi’ite Muslim group, was founded in the 1980’s by Imam Moussa al-Sadr, who went missing in Libya in the late 1970’s.

The group is led by Lebanon’s parliamentary speaker, Nabih Berri, who has held his position for 25 years.

Amal has a strong alliance with Syria, and runs jointly with other Lebanese Syrian-backed parties and Hezbollah.

Progressive Socialist Party

progressive socialist party lebanon

This group is the main political party of Lebanon’s Druze community, which makes up just 5 percent of the country’s population.

Druze politician Walid Jumblatt heads the group, and is stepping aside to make room for his son Taymour to take his seat.

The group has many candidates running in unity with the Future Movement and other Christian right-wing groups.

Lebanese Forces

Lebanese Forces Lebanon

The Lebanese Forces group is a right-wing Christian political party that is a harsh critic of Hezbollah and its rival, the mostly-Christian Free Patriotic Movement.

Former Christian warlord Samir Geagea leads the group.

Lebanese Forces is one of the most organized and strongest Christian groups int eh country, and is expected to win several seats in the parliamentary elections.

Civil Society

Flag of Lebanon

The Civil Society includes many non-traditional, independent candidates that are hoping to garner the support of young people and Lebanese citizens who disapprove of the current political system.

Many women, activists and independents are running in these elections.

They may not garner much support in this election because of the strength of the establishment political parties, but many of them are just fine with sharing their platforms for a better Lebanon.

Lebanese expat voter turnout reaches 59 percent, government says

The turnout rate for Lebanese expats who voted Sunday in the Lebanese parliamentary elections reached 59 percent, according to Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.

In a Monday news conference, Bassil said the turnout was high and reflected the “enthusiasm and interest of the Lebanese community abroad.”

According to the state-run National News Agency, the total cost of the electoral process reached about $1.5 million. Elections were held in 39 countries.

“Elections were held under the administrative supervision of the Ministry of Interior; there was a lot of cooperation between the Foreign and Interior ministries,” Bassil said. “I think there has never been such a remarkable vote in Lebanon’s history, with such transparency.”

He announced the following voter turnout rates abroad:

  • 58% in Austrailia
  • 59.5% in Europe
  • 68% in Africa
  • 45% in Latin America
  • 55% in the United States
  • 69% in Arab countries.

Voting inside Lebanon will be held next Sunday.

READ MORE: Lebanese Americans vote in parliamentary elections

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