Members of a Christian militant group Jnoud El-Rab, the so-called Soldiers of God, attacked patrons outside of a popular LGBTQ-friendly club and bar in the Lebanese capital of Beirut’s restaurant and entertainment neighborhood, Mar Mikhael, on Aug. 23.
A drag event was being held at the Om Bar Room, when the men from the anti-LGBTQ Jnoud El-Rab attacked. Multiple videos showed the men physically attacking patrons while yelling that LGBTQ people are “satanic” and have no place in Lebanon.
In the videos the men carrying out the attack can be heard shouting “We warned you, this is only the beginning,” and, “We will not allow the promotion of homosexuality in the land of God.”
he attack lasted more than an hour, with several people injured by militia members, according to Tarek Zeidan, the executive director of Helem, a Lebanese LGBTQ rights group.
“We had to assess whether it was safe to host the event, but we decided to go ahead because drag is a form of entertainment that is mainstream in Lebanon and had not yet been targeted,” one of the event organizers said.
“We stopped the show and had to hide behind the bar, lying down on the floor, breathless,” one of the performers told me. “The police stood on the side, watching, as the men were beating people.”
“There were a dozen men on motorcycles who attacked us. At least two of them had guns,” another performer said.
William Christou, reporting for The New Arab, noted that the first appearance of the Soldiers of God, or Junoud al-Rub, in Arabic, was as a neighborhood watch group in Beirut’s Achrafieh neighborhood more than a year ago.
The group claimed to conduct patrols to ensure security in the area, especially in the wake of Lebanon’s 2019 economic meltdown.
The patrols were reminiscent of the practice of militias self-organizing during Lebanon’s civil war, where the country’s sectarian divisions were enforced by armed groups.
Soldiers of God quickly began employing violence against those who it said threatened Lebanese traditional values.
In June 2022, the group defaced a billboard in Achrafieh, which was decorated with flowers and an LGBTQ rainbow flag. Members then accused the LGBTQ community of promoting “satanism” and of kidnapping children.
The Christian extremist group numbers only around 150, but is infamous for its propensity for violence, the New Arab reported.
The owner of the bar told Amnesty International that when the Internal Security Forces (ISF) arrived at the scene, they prevented the aggressors from entering the bar and aided some guests in their attempts to leave the bar, but they did not stop the attack or arrest any of the assailants.
In recent weeks, Lebanon’s political and religious leaders have intensified their campaign against the LGBTQ community, with the head of a prominent political party calling for LGBTQ people to be killed, the culture minister attempting to ban the movie “Barbie” on grounds that it ‘contradicted morals and values’ and requesting that the media use the term “sexual perversion” to describe homosexuality, and the education minister banning a board game in schools because it depicted a rainbow.
“Last night’s attack on Madame Om, a bar considered to be a safe space for the LGBTI community, marked an alarming escalation in the attacks against LGBTI people that have followed troubling remarks by high-level politicians and religious figures. The authorities must ensure that the attackers are held accountable and demonstrate that such acts have no place in a country invested in upholding human rights,” said Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Lebanon’s constitution guarantees equality, free expression, and free assembly for everyone — and these rights must be respected. What happened at Madame Om last night offered an ominous sign of how the situation of the LGBTI people is deteriorating in the country,” Majzoub said.
“The Lebanese authorities must immediately stop creating an environment conducive for discrimination and violence against the LGBTI community to be perpetuated. Crucially, the government should ensure that everyone is protected from violence, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” Majzoub added.