Monday, March 31, 2003

Police storm Gay nightclub in Beirut


From the Daily Star Staff

Police officers dressed in civilian clothing were apparently on the lookout for devil worshippers when they stormed Acid nightclub in Sin al-Fil at dawn Sunday and arrested some 10 people.
The detectives were reportedly backed by Internal Security Forces personnel but the ISF directorate of information and guidance was unaware of the bust, when contacted by The Daily Star Sunday. Acid’s owners could not be reached for comment.

A security source said that detective work done by the Jdeidet police station had pointed to “young men between the ages of 20 and 25 sporting long hair and beards, who would frequent the Acid nightclub to listen to hard-rock music, drink mind-altering alcoholic cocktails and take off their black shirts, dancing bare-chested.”

The source added that at least 10 people were arrested and remain in custody of the police, who are questioning them and testing them for drug use.
Sources close to the ISF said that all devil worship-related arrests were being kept under tight confidentiality, as Interior Minister Elias Murr had decided to personally handle the matter. Murr could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Several eye-witnesses interviewed by The Daily Star, on condition of anonymity, said that a number of men in civilian clothes had entered the nightclub at around 2.30 am Sunday, without identifying themselves or the reason behind their mission. The club was reportedly “almost full” with more than 200 clubbers.

“They dimmed the music, turned on the lights and ordered us to raise our arms and place them behind our heads,” said one eye-witness, a 35-year-old who frequents the club every couple of months. Everyone had to keep their arms raised for about 15 minutes, added witnesses. “They were brandishing big rifles, whips and batons,” the 35-year-old added. Witnesses also said that the security men went around, randomly demanding people’s identification and asking some men to pull up their shirts to see if they had any tattoos or body piercings. “Imagine how humiliating it is to have to pull up your shirt like that!” said one man, who was there with his girlfriend.
People whose IDs were confiscated ­ more than 30, according to witnesses ­ said they had to collect them from the Jdeidet police station, where they were made to wait for almost 40 minutes.

One 24-year-old man said he was slapped on the face when he didn’t understand the detective’s orders, which sounded vague in Arabic.
“He told me ‘lift’, and as I already had my arms up behind my head, I didn’t know what he meant, so I asked him ‘lift what?’ At that point he mocked me saying: ‘And you’re shy too? Lift your top’ and he slapped me hard across the face,” said the 24-year-old, who also wishing to remain anonymous.
Another young man, who was accompanying his girlfriend, was taken in for questioning and was released after “about an hour.”
He said he was not told why he was taken to the police station nor did the security forces who took him identify themselves.
“The first person who addressed me was a man in civilian clothes and then he was accompanied by another in ISF uniform,” he said.
Although the young man said he had a tattoo on his arm “that’s in the shape of linear forms and doesn’t symbolize anything,” he said he otherwise looked “totally regular,” sporting a short haircut and being clean-shaven. The young man said he didn’t know what the whole raid was about until he was questioned about devil-worshipping activities.
“I was asked about whether hard-rock music is played at the club,” he said. “But I’ve only heard house and Arabic music being played there.”

Even women were not spared, it seems, with several eye-witnesses reporting that they were shoved around and whipped at their feet, especially if they tried to inquire into what was going on. A reporter, who was out with friends at the club said that over the past year or so, the club has been raided three times.
“But the last two times, security forces were polite and not violent,” he said. In addition to the needless verbal and physical violence, clubbers complained that those with connections, or wasta (bribe), were let off the hook.

A veteran lawyer said that when security forces wished to raid a place, they should announce themselves and explain the reason behind their mission.
“They should have a valid reason for raiding a place. For instance, they could have received a tip-off or could have caught people conducting illegal activities red-handed,” he said, wishing to remain anonymous.

A human rights activist and lawyer said that even legislators, who are working on a project law that could potentially penalize so-called devil worshippers, consider that freedom of creed grants anyone the right to believe in whatever they choose. “The law would only allow the pursuit of people who use a cult to manipulate others mentally or psychologically, or to harm themselves or others,” he said, on condition of anonymity. He added that checking a person’s body for tattoos, which are not a crime, constitutes a violation of personal liberties.


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