Helem (Arabic: حلم) is a Lebanese non-profit organization working on improving the legal and social status of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT). Helem (complete name Arabic: حماية لبنانية للمثليين, ḥimāya lubnāniya lil-mithliyīn, literally "Lebanese Protection for homosexuals") is the first LGBT advocacy group in the Arab World. Helem means dream in Arabic.
Helem (the Arabic acronym of "Lebanese Protection for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender People"), is a non-governmental non-profit organization registered in Quebec (Canada) as of February 11, 2004. As mentioned in Helem's constituting act, its action encompasses Lebanon and Canada. Helem has also established support groups in Australia, France and the United States, in addition to Canada.
Helem is a legal organization recognized in Lebanon. As explained in the Helem website, "according to the Lebanese law of association, any non-government organization can register through providing public notice (in Arabic علم وخبر pronounced as ilm wa khabar) to the Lebanese Ministry of Interior.
Helem's primary goal is the annulment of article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code which punishes "unnatural sexual intercourse". This law is primarily used to target the LGBT community by violating the privacy of its members and by denying them basic human rights. The abolishment of this law will help reduce state and societal persecution and pave the way to achieving equality for the LGBT community in Lebanon. Helem's other main objective is to counter the AIDS epidemic and other sexually transmitted diseases while advocating for the rights of patients.
Field of action
Helem, a group previously known as "Club Free", has been working on LGBT issues in Lebanon for the past 5 years. Its activities have included social and cultural events to bring the gay community together, work on HIV/AIDS related issues, advocacy for prosecuted LGBT individuals and lobbying with other human rights organizations for the advancement of human rights and personal freedoms in Lebanon.
Helem also organizes an annual Lebanese event on the occasion of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Helem's event on homophobia finds extensive coverage in the Lebanese press and has been reported in international news agencies.
On Feb 22 2009, Helem organized a first-ever LGBT public sit-in organized in the Arab World.
- 1- "Koutayeb mosh A'an el nabat": Book on sexual health for gays and lesbian
- 2- "Homophobia" - the book
- 3- "Myth and Facts about Homosexuality"
- 4- "Know Your Right" (booklet)
- 5- "Ohebohom Walaken": A book for the families of gay and lesbians
On January 23, 2009, Helem was selected by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission's (IGLHRC) Felipa de Souza Award in recognition of Helem's work to improve the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) and others who face discrimination because of their sexuality or HIV positive status.
Announcing the award, IGLHRC said: "The first organization in the Arab world to set up a gay and lesbian community center, Helem's work has consistently broken new ground in a country that criminalizes homosexuality and where violence and abuse are persistent problems. We applaud their courage and commitment to human rights for all." The Felipa Award was presented to Helem's co-founder, Georges Azzi, on March 30, 2009 in New York City. Another celebration was organized on April 2, 2009 in San Francisco, California for a similar event.