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Antoine Chakhtoora, Municipality Mayor of Dekwaneh
Solidarity with Demands for Justice Against the Abuse and Degradation of Non-heteronormative bodies by the Municipality of Dekwaneh, Lebanon

in LEBANON, 08/05/2013

People across Lebanon have risen up against the injustice perpetrated by the Municipality of Dekwaneh last Saturday April 20th, 2012. Antoine Chakhtoora, Municipality Mayor of Dekwaneh, ordered his internal security forces to raid and close a Club frequented by people with non- heteronormative sexual orientations and gender expressions. Please adopt this statement and spread the statement to your allies and to the media and join the campaign of mobilizing mass support in Lebanon and the Global South in the pursuit of justice.

Internal Security Forces were also ordered to conduct the arbitrary abduction in trunks of police cars and abuse and degradation of 4  persons, one of which who was ordered to strip in front of police officers at the Municipality  Headquarters under the supervision of the Mayor to "check" whether she was a man or a woman’. Pictures of the naked body were taken by municipality police officers under Chakhtoora'’s directions and distributed on mainstream media.

Chakhtoora said: "We took their clothes off, in our office, the holding station, of course. We need to know. We saw  something scandalous happening, we need to know, what are these? Public immorality on the  streets "…okay" …but is this a girl or a man? No, it turns out, half girl and half man."

Antoine Chakhtoora, Mayor of the Dekwaneh, blatantly announced his decision to detain, humiliate  and shame transpersons and vehemently denies the criminality of his, and the Municipality'’s,  actions. This incident falls in parallel with a recent policy by the Municipality of Dekwaneh to  enforce a 7 pm curfew on Syrians living in Dekwaneh.

These arrests and the subsequent illegal detention, humiliation and police harassment constitute a  flagrant abuse of power, a deployment of police brutality, and criminal assault. We also  acknowledge the rampant misogyny explicit in Chakhtoora’s actions and words and his role within  a patriarchal system to monitor, survey and police gender roles on one hand, and to discipline,  humiliate and punish any deviation from these gender roles on the other. We attest to the misogyny inherent in this incident, where the 'cross-dressing'” of men as women has been described  by Chakhtoora and his associates as abhorrent, criminal and an attack on '“the vigor and strength of Dekwaneh'”.

Reprehensible decisions from Lebanese municipalities are a growing issue of concern. Lebanese municipalities, including Dekwaneh, have taken it upon themselves to institute a police state that  represses the freedom of mobility of Syrians and migrants in Lebanon, with many incidents of  police brutality and hard-handed enforcement.

Antoine Chakhtoora has the power, resources and security apparatus to enforce a transphobic  monopoly on morality. It is not within the jurisdiction of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces to forcefully strip people of their clothes and examine their genitals, and it is even more  reprehensible that the Dekwaneh municipality felt it was entitled to photograph and publicize the  naked bodies and genitals of persons which we consider to be a violation of sexual autonomy, rape. This behavior constitutes criminal assault on the part of the Municipality of Dekwaneh and, directly, it'’s Mayor, Chakhtoora. It has become apparent since the incident that Chakhtoora  has been strategically targeting individuals with little or no political backing, such as Syrian  refugees and residents, people with non-heteronormative gender expressions, and the working  class, in a bid to ascertain power in the next Municipality elections.

We recognize the deep connections and similarities between the experiences of our peoples in the  Global South and loudly protest the normalization of transphobic decisions and behavior by  Lebanese elected officials and the Internal Security Forces and the persecution of trans* and  migrant bodies as a political tool. We demand that the Lebanese Courts give no leniency in the persecution of the blatant illegal abuse of power and criminal assault perpetrated by Chakhtoora  and his municipality and also urge the residents of Dekwaneh to bid for the immediate dismissal of Chakhtoora from office.

The signatories of this statement reject and condemn all forms of state violence and police  brutality condoned by the State that systematically oppress social, political and bodily freedoms.  This incident as a continuation of recent rampant and uncontested police brutality, abuse of power and criminal assault and rape perpetrated by the Lebanese State and its security forces.

Lebanon'’s security apparatus violated the sexual autonomy of  36 working class men in a porn cinema in Nabaa by conducting anal probes, (test for  homosexuality subsequently denounced by the Lebanese Order of Physicians, the harassment of migrants  in Dora by general security forces, attacks on political protestors by the security forces in front of the Egyptian Embassy in January 2010 and the attack on Chaml organization in their Civil Marriage  protest as well as the vicious and unresolved attack by the SSNP (Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party)  militia on  political protestors, and, most recently, the trans-bodies assaulted by Municipal Chief  Chakhtoora, and the attack on sex workers sensationalized in the Lebanese TV Program "‘Inta Horr’."

We call on the Lebanese state to denounce all forms of violations on social, political and bodily freedoms and end its  permissibility for abuse of the rule of law.

We salute all individuals (in this case the trans* and Syrian individuals) living under daily threat of  physical, verbal and structural abuse and violence and commend the Lebanese Broadcasting  Corporation (LBC) for exposing the criminality of the Municipality of Dekwaneh and their unyielding demands for justice. We call for the intersectional unity of Lebanese civil society and  activist movements to organize collectively on the growing issue of police abuse, brutality and violence and the unpunished transgressions of elected officials.

Thank you for adopting this statement in solidarity with the demands for justice against the abuse  and degradation of non-heteronormative bodies by the Municipality of Dekwaneh. We urge you to  spread the statement to your affiliations, acquaintances and the media,  and join the campaign of mobilizing mass support in Lebanon and the Global South in the pursuit of justice.

To add your organization'’s signature, please email solidarity.lebanon@gmail.com

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