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Why is Hezbollah targeting the LGBTQ+ community?

According to experts, Hezbollah is looking for scapegoats to ‘justify its failures.’

Why is Hezbollah targeting the LGBTQ+ community?

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah next to an LGBT flag. (Credit: Illustrative photo by Guilhem Dorandeu/OLJ)

Since June, Hezbollah’s attacks against the LGBTQ+ community in Lebanon have increased.

In a statement released during pride month, the party announced its rejection of “any tolerance of the promoters of sexual perversion, pornography and homosexuality,” because of the “danger it poses to Lebanese society.”

Recently, the party condemned what it dubbed “the growing phenomenon of deviance, decadence, disintegration, and family chaos ... [that] threatens the country’s stability and its demographic and religious composition.”

In a speech on the occasion of Ashoura, Nasrallah stated that “liwat” (a derogatory Arabic term for homosexuals) are to be “killed in accordance with Quranic teachings.” A video snippet from the speech circulated on social media and amassed criticism.

“If a heterosexual person commits adultery, they should be whipped if they have performed good deeds in life, and killed if not. As for the liwat, these people are immediately punished by death, even if they do it once,” he told his audience.

On Saturday, Nasrallah said that in Lebanon, “the danger started with associations and the publication of children’s books that transmit deviant culture.” He called on the Education Ministry to “ban” this culture and “protect the future generation of children.”

This is not the first time that Hassan Nasrallah has attacked the LGBTQ+ community in his speeches. In Lebanon, authorities continue to refer to article 534 of the Penal Code, which punishes any sexual act “contrary to the order of nature.” This has facilitated abuses against the community, which has faced increased discrimination since the start of the crisis.

The outbursts from Hezbollah's leader appear to set a precedent in terms of hostility and frequency.

The timing of his “campaign" has raised a host of questions. Beyond the ideological nature of the attacks, what are their political objectives? The presidential vacancy has been dragging on for months, and accusations of corruption weigh on the BDL’s governor, who remains without a successor despite his term of office coming to an end. The Lebanese lira is in free fall, inflation continues to hit the economy hard, and poverty and malnutrition continue to ravage the country.

Mohammad Afif Naboulsi, a Hezbollah spokesman, said this move is “a pre-emptive attack against a possible promotion of LGBTQ+ rights orchestrated by the US embassy in Beirut, as well as other Western embassies.”

According to Naboulsi, Lebanon, which is a “conservative country,” is constantly subject to “attempts by certain embassies and Western countries to push it towards these new tendencies.” He alluded to the United States and Germany, who recently raised the LGBTQ+ flag in front of their embassies at the beginning of July.

He also claimed that prior to the 2018 parliamentary elections, “the US had sent a document to all candidates to promote LGBTQ+ rights in Lebanon.”

The US embassy and several political parties denied these claims to L’Orient-Le Jour. “We are not in the logic of promoting any particular lifestyle, as we are often accused of doing,” said the embassy spokesman. “However, we do promote respect for human rights, including those of LGBTQ+ people,” he continued.

A strategic dimension

According to political analyst, economist and feminist researcher Hussein Cheaito, these attacks and their timing have a well-calculated strategic dimension. “Today, given the country’s political and economic situation, the attacks launched by Hezbollah and other conservative groups against the community are no more than a defense mechanism that enables them to mask a dazzling political failure,” he said.

“These parties, unable to project themselves into the sphere of change, prefer to assert their power by targeting vulnerable scapegoats such as refugees, women and the LGBTQ+ community.” “The existence of the LGBTQ+ community, and in particular the queer community, challenges the binary system that perpetuates patriarchy, sexism and corruption in society, and therefore traditional politics, and calls their presence into question,” said Cheaito.

At the beginning of June, the Islamic Cultural Centre asked the judiciary to investigate HELEM, a non profit organization defending the rights of the LGBTQ+ community in Lebanon, and called for its “dissolution, due to its provocative actions in public spaces.”

“We warn against any possible attack on LGBTQ+ people, as it could jeopardize their safety or their lives. We know who wants to harm them, and we will bring them to justice,” said HELEM Director Tarek Zeidan.

In June 2022, during Pride Month, caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi issued a decision ordering the police to cancel all LGBTQ+ related events — a measure condemned by a coalition of rights groups. The State Shura Council overturned the minister’s decision. Despite this, the minister did it again in November 2022.

Hezbollah’s strategy is reminiscent of the one many conservative countries, including Iran and Russia, adopt on the issue. Under the pretext of combating US influence, these countries have stepped up attacks on the LGBTQ+ community for ideological and political reasons.

This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour. Translation by Joelle El Khoury.

Since June, Hezbollah’s attacks against the LGBTQ+ community in Lebanon have increased.In a statement released during pride month, the party announced its rejection of “any tolerance of the promoters of sexual perversion, pornography and homosexuality,” because of the “danger it poses to Lebanese society.”Recently, the party condemned what it dubbed “the growing phenomenon of...