Part 7/7: “Ya Bash!” – Lessons Learned

“Ya Bash!”

That was probably the sound I heard most often during my weeklong stay. The sound echoes on the floor anytime a detainee tries to get the guard’s attention, be it for a cigarette, for food, for a status check, or because some detainees are pulling up a fight.

No shutting up! Speak out like these flower burgeons
on a blossoming tree in Geitaoui
Turns out “Bash” comes from “Pacha” and dates back to the times of the Ottomans, who ruled Lebanon in the early 1900’s and to whom we owe much of our carceral system today. No wonder then that the system seemed so archaic seen from the inside.

Besides getting acquainted with Jail culture, Jail etiquette and Jail jargon (as mastered like no other by this underground rap band called “Irhab” from Roumieh), I also had enough time to digest quite a few lessons that I hope will keep me on the safe side in the future:

We live under a corrupt Justice system…

Yes, we already knew that, but as much as I’d heard about it before I was still shocked to see it at work from the inside. If you get arrested in Lebanon, the legal limit on detention time (up to 48 hours) without getting a hearing, exposing the charges and proofs against you or speaking with a lawyer, simply does not always apply. You can linger in for days and weeks before they even turn to your case, especially if you don’t take the proper steps to get help from the outside. And even more than in our society in general, socioeconomic class plays a huge role in the kind of treatment we get and whether our rights are secured or not.

… where you really need to have your ass covered

Getting help from the outside in such an emergency situation meant I had to involve my family into the details of my case. They in turn had to attempt anything and everything to get me out of there, like trying to call Someone who knows Someone or hiring a “good” lawyer – and making 2,000$+ readily available for it. Ideally, I would already have a lawyer’s contact that I would have called myself. Getting this kind of help is the only way out of the rotten structure, for the system’s so corrupt that one guy can make it all the way to Roumieh to serve a jail sentence, while for the same exact charge another guy might get out straight from the courthouse without even a hearing with the judge.

… where they won’t hesitate to intimidate you

During what probably added up to 4 hours of interrogations and filling out endless sheets of Q&As in my deposition, my interrogators added a number of twists here and there to my own version of the events, sugarcoating it at places especially the beating part. I ended up signing on a declaration that I did not entirely agree with. While this probably spared me some physical torture in Hbeich, some others’ interrogations did not go as softly as mine. As for mental pressure, I did have to cope with the humiliating remarks of some of the guards, and almost broke down on my first day in the basement of the courthouse in Baabda, the closest place to Hell on Earth I ever experienced. I was lucky I did not catch the eye infection that many of us were starting to get.

… where drugs can aggravate any other case

Urine tests seem to have become commonplace in the detention centers, the airport and other security checkpoints. They can test you for THC (cannabis), cocaine and morphine regardless of whether you are being arrested for a drugs-related issue or not. That a test comes out positive from smoking up in the last month or snoring a line in the last couple days, would aggravate any other case with the heavy charge of ‘drug consumption’ (ta3aati), a charge that remains on criminal records for 2 or more years. And that’s regardless of which kind of drug it was, how much of it, how long ago, if it was found on you at the time of arrest… and even what country you were in when you used it!

… where homosexuality is still considered a real crime

Yes there is a flourishing gay scene in Lebanon, yes Beirut is full of horny guys and gay sex is everywhere, yes Beirut boasts loads of gay friendly places from bars to clubs to hammams to cruising spots, you name it, it has it all... So much that we tend to forget at times that it also has Article 534 of the Constitution, the law that makes homosexuality illegal in Lebanon, a law we keep in mental denial like only we Lebanese know how to. Most of the time it seems like this law is collecting dust in some chief officer’s drawer, but yet in other instances like in my case (which may be exceptional, I don’t know) it seems like they just take it off-hold and use it sporadically, like a joker card they can pull out anywhere, anytime.

… and we need to do something about it!

Seven packs of cigarettes, seven days and seven nights later, looking like shit, smelling like shit and feeling like shit, I’m finally out and back home. Apart from the scars, it already feels like a bad dream and I could easily act as though nothing had happened, call it a bad week and slowly forget it – But some good friends are telling me that maybe it happened for a reason and I have to do something about it. So I decided to write it down on GiB, share it with the local organizations such as Helem and Human Rights Watch to support their upcoming report on police brutality, and consider filing a complaint. Was this a courageous or a suicidal thing to do, a good thing for me and with a positive impact on the community or another drop of sand in the Sahara, and do I have this freedom of speech in Lebanon today... I guess I’ll have to wait to find out!

-- By GiL. Photo by GiB#2.


  1. Well said and well written.

    To Jimmy, everyone acts "foolish" sometimes. Don't judge. One day this could be you or me.

    Anyway the point of those posts is the cruelty and brutality. The harshness of the treatment is not in anyway commensurate to the alleged crime. And this is an alleged crime. They beat him up before the hashish appeared. It seems they just have nothing better to do than to harass people.

    The darak need a lot of education and training. I hope that they're getting that soon.

  2. Do I smell my first advocate here? Looks like someone's ready to pull up his/her sleeves and teach the darak a lesson... Yummy :)

  3. lol pull up my sleeve, a blackboard and chalk and teach them a lesson in humanity maybe.

  4. I know there's a good quote from Gibran Khalil Gibran for this one :)) or was it Gebran Tueni.. something about the pen being the best weapon of all... ah there's also "sayfouna wal kalam" from the national anthem!

  5. WOW!!! I am an American that is going to Beirut in two days. I was honestly looking to having some "fun" in Beirut. You have really opened my eyes. I am so sorry for what happened to you, but I am glad you are educating others and give you all the credit for being so brave!-- Johnny

  6. GiL, thanks you for sharing your experience and reminding us of the silly 534. I am sure you went through a lot, but it makes me happy you turned it into a positive attitude in order to spread awareness and fight for Our Rights.
    I guess most of young gays in Lebanon, including myself, are not aware of the risks they face.
    Spreading knowledge about homosexuality in medias and among friends, will eventually change the cultural perception and laws.
    I hope you feel Proud to Be Gay!

  7. Johnny I'm glad it only helped open your eyes and not change your mind!!! I would have felt so bad otherwise..
    don't worry too much you'll see it's not that bad, the mistakes I did are obvious just don't overdo it like I did with the cruising and the drugs, 'play safe', and this will all sound to you like it would never happen in Lebanon :)
    so please by all means... DO ENJOY!!!

  8. Hey Anon, thank you for the support, it took me a while to be able to turn this over in my mind... my first decision was to just let go of it just so as to never ever have anything to do with these people anymore. They made me hate my life for a while but then I figured it's them who are backwards, and I would be stupid to give them the credit to reconsider my own life. I am glad you agree with my decision to publicize the story, I also think that knowledge will eventually kill the ignorance we live in, and with it the social and legal attitude toward homosexuality.
    And yes, today I am proud to be what I am, it is "them" I feel sorry for today, not me.

  9. GiL, I can assure you that your 7 chapter story affected me somewhere, as I was getting those heart racing episodes, those few seconds of raging anger every now and then. You were constantly talking to my subconscious, in some of your lines you mirrored what I am in my day to day life(the way you were judging yourself on the night of your detention), how much I am positive about life (where you were trying to stay friendly and to make the best out of it) and how I relate to fellow humans (when you described the 12 angry people) .
    From my childhood school memories I remembered that I use to be bullied-abused physically by a handsome boy, I assume that he developed to become one of those “ta7ariyeh” , drop dead gorgeous brainless….as humans we tend toward valuing ourselves, our existence; Some of us inflict pain on others to live that, others use their misery to experience their humanity in its fullest manifestation, by communicating with others, empathizing with them and fighting to make a change in the right direction …that’s what you did.
    You were set free from your pain when you spoke your heart, I was set free when I felt it inside mine, your pain was my communion for today…thank you for sharing it.

  10. Wow, I am soo sorry about all you went through, glad you shared it with all of us. Stay strong.

    You mentioned that you had to involve your family and tell them the details of the case, it must have been hard, how did they react? And how are they in the aftermath of this ordeal? Also, did it get leaked to extended family, or did you manage to keep the details hush-hush?

  11. Peter, I am speechless. Thank you for the support, it's really great to hear from a like-minded person like you.

    Seriously, if just for what it did to you, I am happy I did it.


  12. Hey Ahmad, yes as you noted, I could not not involve my family, I had no other way of finding and talking to a lawyer by my own means while I was in.

    One "good" thing about my case however was that it mixed gay and drugs in some confused way, which kind of blurred the whole thing about the cruising part of how I got arrested. My parents obviously found out that it involved "Mores", but I don't think it's very clear to them to this day... For as much as they know (I think) I could have been caught with a female prostitute fooling around in the car. It might not be the right thing to do, to leave their questioning buried down under, but I chose not to ever mention it at home anymore.

    My parents were extremely supportive to me throughout the whole thing, they hated "them" as much as I did, and at home we just called it a bad week. This experience sort of came out like the kind of trouble that teenagers get themsleves and their parents into, and which I never got into as a teenager...only to do it at 27 :))

    When I got out we decided to keep it strictly within the close family, and we came up together with a version to tell the others of how I had a "business travel" come up unexpectedly for a week...and the soft lie went through ok.

  13. i read your 7 posts, and then i read them again, from 1 to 7 then in the proper order.
    i tried to make some sense out of your story, i couldn't.
    this whole, lets catch us some gays thing is ...i dont know what it is, i cant find a proper word.
    of course you did pick up a random stranger which isnt probably the smartest thing to do, but then again, i also remember the countless times i had sex in my car, rolled and smoked a jay while driving, or stopping at a checkpoint high.
    we take risks every day, but things need to change, to move. there is something fundamentally wrong with our system, and for some reason it feels like this country has reached "son point d'ebulition".
    i'm anxious.
    i lost my id card and i havent reported it yet, i want to, but i never want to come close to a maghfar, much more after reading your story.
    i salute your courage for sharing

  14. this once happened to me, but i think we got lucky.
    a year ago, a couple of friends of mine and i, decided to go to the freeway pick up area, since we heard so much about it, and we decided to have ourselves a laugh.
    a girl driving and a guy in the front seat and two other guys in the back seat.
    we were going round in circles, and this red car was just parked there, we pass it a couple of times, and then the guy in the car comes out.
    so we pull over next to him to talk to him.
    he's slightly rude, then after a couple of exchanged sentences, he asks us for our papers, and says that he's from the police.
    we execute, no more laughs by now, we give him our papers, and the girl starts asking him what is wrong.
    he aks us to leave, but it feels like he doesnt really want us to go anywhere, and says:
    what are you doing here, bta3rfo eno hayda ma7al lal gays?
    we simply answer that we heard about it and wanted to check it out.
    and we leave.
    on our way out of there, a police car, is carefully parked between some bushes.
    awhile after we decide to forget about it, and decided that the guy was just "fucking" with us.
    apparently he wasnt, i think we didnt get in trouble because we simply were 4 people and there was a girl with us. so i dont know.
    i read this story before i went to bed, and it's all i can think about today.
    thank you for sharing. really. you did the right thing by not keeping all of this secret. i think awareness should be spread, and people should be more careful.
    if there is anything to do, petitions, a way to report this, to talk about this more, to spread the word, then i think you should let us know through this blog.
    there is a small activist in all of us i believe, we are all in the same boat, and we should have the right to live freely.
    we peoduce and sell and live off of selling hashish yet for some reason if they find a tiny piece ur a junkie, and homosexuality, well the gay community is a huge chunk of not only our society, but also part of the new economy. we are the thinkers, the artists, the designers, we keep lebanon youthful and alive.
    bless you.

  15. Thanks for sharing! I hope this gets really heavily documented so your suffering ma bi rou7 di3an!
    also bring a girl into the house every now and then so your parents become happy their son has a female mating partner haha

  16. Just don't give them the opportunity to put you in jail or detention ,this way they'll all lose their jobs all nkeye fiyon!!!!

  17. If you want to live peacefully in Lebanon ,you have to keep some things private and not give them the opportunity to act against you,don't speed and get a ticket,that way they'll have part of your salary and keep go out with that money,don't sell or buy 7ashish because there are things worth more that 7ashish you can sell,if that's what you think is pocket money,don't give the opportunity to arrest you,don't pick up a complete stranger on the road,don't help the poor because the beggers you think they're poor on the streets are none but the mafia's labor system,don't help anyone in LEBANON because they're all beggers and are sitting on loads of cash ,and then again why did u have the urge to pick up a complete stranger while u said it yourself that there are lots of gay friendly bars in Lebanon,I'm not defending the corrupt unjust system but next time do not give them the opportunity to take money or put you in jail,let them live without work,in my opinion they arrested you because there's no work for them ,they're just coward brainless ta7ariyye

  18. Anonymous talking about a "point d'ebullition": I hate to say it but I think that this "point d'ebullition" is not so much about the country, rather it is about the image we have of the country in our own minds... the country has not changed so much lately, it's us who get sicker and sicker of it as we live through its craziness. Experiences like the one I went through are the kind that can make you think that's is I've had enough, that make you want to draw an X on the country, emigrate and never come back. I didn't, and I won't, instead I've been trying to lower this internal temperature...

  19. Anonymous who almost got caught once, thanks to you too for sharing your story. Some of your words are GOLDEN, makes me want to highlight some comments in a separate post. And I'd like to invite the activist in you to write on GiB if you'd like to! We re happy to have quality guest posts.

    "there is a small activist in all of us i believe, we are all in the same boat, and we should have the right to live freely."

    "we produce and sell and live off of selling hashish yet for some reason if they find a tiny piece ur a junkie"

    "we are the thinkers, the artists, the designers, we keep lebanon youthful and alive."

    ... PRICELESS!

  20. To Anonymous talking of the "coward brainless ta7ariyye" -- You're absolutely rights, and this is one lesson I've learned from this, that we should do everything possible to stay away from them. Like you I believe that the whole point of arresting me was to pour my 2,000/3,000$ into the system, that's what feeds this corrupt system, certainly not the strive for justice.

    As for helping out other Lebanese, I would much rather help out those who know who they're helping out (the charities), than the beggers on the street.

    And finally I know it was just an example you were giving, but I have to say I've never re-sold hashish for pocket money, it's always been for my own use...

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. ...maybe publish this in a couple of magazines...on a couple of blogs...

  23. u should publish this in a few magazines and another couple of blogs... maybe spread it all over facebook.

  24. bobby malone: good point, and great idea. just pick urself a pseudo and you re ready to go! get real, get smart, get naughty, let's hear it all :) send us ur stuff to gayinbeirut@gmail.com!

  25. sam: a couple blogs have already relayed the story, timeout recently features GiB...but how do you get more outlets to talk about it? we re open to any marketing ideas you might have and to any contacts you might make!

  26. wow..
    i lived in aub dorms in front of hbeish for 2 years... if only i knew these things are happening...
    fucking dawli... and stupid sha3eb...
    homosexuality is proving to be genetically and biologically controlled day by day... just like a guy might be oriented towards blonde girls and another one towards dark girls, some guys are oriented towards guys...

    just get over it...


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