Beirut explosion’s devastating impact on LGBTIQ community


beirut lebanon explosion lgbtiq organisation community helem proud lebanon homeless fundraising
Photo: YouTube

The devastating explosion in Beirut, Lebanon has wiped out local LGBTIQ neighbourhoods and left many queer people homeless.

On Tuesday, 4 August, almost 3,000 tonnes of unsafely stored ammonium nitrate detonated at Beirut’s port. The resulting explosion in the warehouse killed at least 200 people and injured thousands.

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Lebanon’s entire government this week resigned over the crisis, amid fury from a public already protesting an economic crisis before the disaster.

Sadly, the country’s oldest LGBTIQ organisation Helem lost their facilities in the explosion.

The group’s offices are located in Beirut’s Mar Mikhael and Gemmayzeh neighborhoods.

The areas, home to large LGBTIQ populations, are some of the most vibrant and LGBTIQ-friendly spaces in the Arab world.

The blast also destroyed bars, coffee shops, nightclubs and culture sites in the area. Some Helem staffers went to hospital but escaped serious injury.

“Our centers were less than 700 meters away from the blast but thankfully no one was in them at the time of the explosion,” the group said in a statement.

“Our team was not seriously injured [however] our community and services centers were both heavily damaged in the catastrophe.

“The day after, dozens of volunteers came to Helem to help us clear out debris and save what we could of our centre.

“It is thanks to them that we are able to resume basic functions.

“Our services and emergency response are still working remotely. Many members of the community in distress can still call our hotline for emergencies.”

Deadly explosion a ‘crime against humanity’ in Beirut

Advocacy group OutRight Action International are fundraising for Helem to help secure shelter, food and medicine for the homeless.

Executive Director Tarek Zeidan said the explosion has left more than 300,00 people homeless, including many queer Lebanese.

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“Helem’s staff and volunteers have joined the relief effort in Beirut,” he said.

“[We’re] working to remove debris, help set up community kitchens, and dispense emergency aid to members of the community affected by the explosion.”

According to AllOut, the offices of another LGBTIQ organisation, Proud Lebanon, were also badly damaged and some staff seriously injured.

Amnesty International demanded an independent investigation into the blast as well as an “urgent increase” in international aid to Lebanon.

In a statement, Helem angrily lashed out at Lebanon’s “corrupt” government for the crisis, which they described as a serious “crime against humanity”.

“Thank you to all of you who have helped us during this time and donated your time and energy and resources to the relief effort,” they wrote.

“We hope to see [locals] with us on the streets and back in the center to fight for our rights as people living on this land.

“We will be back stronger, and more determined than ever to fight for the justice long denied us.”

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