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Leading LGBT Advocacy in the Arab World

Fletcher graduate Tarek Zeidan revives a groundbreaking gay rights organization in his native Lebanon.

Growing up gay in Beirut, Tarek Zeidan, F09, felt alone. But in his late teens he discovered Helem, the first LGBT rights organization in the Arab world. “It liberated me,” he said of the group of local activists. “Maybe not legally, but it gave me a sense of the possible.”

Zeidan is now president and executive director of the organization that played a critical role in his own life. “We provide services and a safe community space to build power, to create sustainable change from the ground up,” he said. Helem has six full-time staff and about 300 active members who help run its many programs, from movie nights to sexual health workshops and classes on knowing your rights in case of arrest.

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