Appeal for an end to anti-LGBT campaign in Tunisia

Shams logo
Logo of Shams

A wave of anti-LGBT speech and occasional violence has swept over Tunisia, which may be the only North African country with an officially recognized LGBT organization. That association, Shams (in English, “Sun”), is calling for an end to the homophobic campaign.

Shams issued this press release yesterday. It has been modestly edited here:

Tunisia is experiencing a large anti-LGBT campaign launched by a Tunisian artist on a primetime broadcast TV channel. This artist has engaged in hate speech against homosexuals in Tunisia, calling for their outright exclusion.

After that broadcast, a second artist participated in another show/debate on the same TV channel, supporting the first artist and disparaging Tunisian gays. Since then, different anonymous individuals have taken the initiative in a campaign on social networks, clearly calling for people “to burn all Tunisian gays or cut their throats,” just like a video from Daesh [also known as the Islamic State, ISIS or ISIL].

Ahmed ben Amor (Photo de Getty Images par Fethi Belaid)
Ahmed ben Amor, vice president of Shams (Fethi Belaid photo courtesy of Getty Images)

The trend has grown, as shops have posted signs stating, “No homosexuals in this store.”

In Kairouan, a town lying in the central region and considered the bastion of the [Islamic ultra-conservative] Salafists, a taxi displays on its back window a notice stating, “Forbidden to Homosexuals.”

Violent acts have reached the point that a young university student was physically assaulted by [passersby] because of his manner; he was suspected of being gay.

So far, government authorities have remained silent. They have showed very little interest in taking action to deter violence and restrain this cascade of violence and discrimination against homosexuals in Tunisia.

Moreover, the government appears complicit, because it is unwilling to repeal Article 230 of the Penal Code, which imprisons any man suspected of homosexuality, with a simple rectal exam taken as sufficient proof of guilt.

In this chaotic situation, Shams expresses its extreme concern about the dramatic rise in hate speech and stigmatization against LGBT people in Tunisia. The association denounces any politicians who are tempted to gain power by manipulating this situation — whether by their silent complicity or, even more, through unexpressed support for the violence.

The Shams association demands the immediate cessation of this smear campaign and judicial proceeding against people spurring these calls for violence.

This violence is of direct daily concern to hundreds of homosexuals in Tunisia who are embroiled as victims in the effects of violent acts and speeches and who suffer from the general indifference, especially, of Tunisian officials and members of parliament.

— Ahmed ben Amor, vice-president of Shams

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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