CSO conference takes place despite attempts to close it down


In early October 2018, a conference organised by civil society stirred controversy. The Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality's (AFE) meeting gathered 100 activists from 12 countries. Called NEDWA, it was the sixth annual meeting focused on gender rights in the region. Yet, AFE faced opposition from Lebanese authorities. The CSO noted that Lebanese security forces and a religious group tried to close the meeting.

In a press statement after the meeting, the group cited the pressures they faced. The mentioned that security officials had demanded the names of all participants. AFE also showed the number of threats the organisation received from religious groups. Religious leaders accused the organisers of promoting “perversion” and “drug abuse”. On the second day, AFE's leader refused to sign a pledge cancelling the event. Instead, he moved the meeting to an alternative venue in Beirut. The event continued as planned in the new venue.

The episode has stoked fears among Lebanese civil society. Of late, Lebanese authorities have taken steps to curtail civic freedoms. While Lebanon is generally considered to be a liberal society, authorities have closed similar events in the past.