Tunisia: What are you doing to your youth?

Shams logo
Logo of Shams

Dictatorial, homophobic leaders of Tunisia “systematically sacrifice” the country’s youths, forgetting that youths led Tunisia’s democratic revolution, says the group Shams, which seeks the repeal of Tunisia’s anti-gay law.

The statement by Shams (which means “Sun”) came in response to a suicide attempt by its vice president, Ahmed Ben Amor.

Shams said:

“How can such a wonderful young man be excluded from all aspects of his life? His family first. His college. His friends. Just because he has chosen to claim his homosexuality.”

The advocacy organization added:

“Shams-Tunisia is still shocked by the astounding double-dealing of the Tunisian authorities that brandish Tunisia’s beautiful nascent democracy to gain international support but continue to systematically clamp down on human rights at home.

“We are Tunisian and we deeply love our country, yet we ask ourselves: Why does our youth only dream of Eiffel Towers and Statues of Liberty?”

An English translation of the French-language Shams press release is below. It is a modestly edited version of an informal translation by human rights activist Fabrice Houdart.

Tunisia: what are you doing of your youth?

A la vie, A la mort (For better, for worse)!

Ahmed Ben Amor
Ahmed Ben Amor

On Saturday morning, our vice president, Ahmed Ben Amor, decided to let go and kill himself by swallowing a large amount of prescription drugs. After months of fighting against a conservative society and the violence and threats that he experienced regularly, he had bravely chosen to come out on national TV.

Fortunately, after his concerned friends’ anxious hours of waiting and a pessimistic prognosis from doctors, he awoke yesterday and was able to start eating a little. Apparently, he has been saved.

The entire Shams-Tunisia team cannot express how much we are relieved by the knowledge that he is alive. We are thankful to all those who shared messages of friendship with Ahmed: his entourage, militants from Tunisia and all over the world, and thousands of other anonymous supporters including those on social networks. It’s also an opportunity to express the full support of Shams-France, where he has many friends.

But we also need to share our bitterness and anger.

The time has come for a clear, forthright analysis. Ahmed exemplifies a youth that is systematically sacrificed in Tunisia. How can such a wonderful young man be excluded from all aspects of his life? His family first. His college. His friends. Just because he has chosen to claim his homosexuality.

Shams-Tunisia also rejects the violent remarks that were made about him during his coma, by people who were rejoicing that he might die. The desperate act of Ahmed, so unbearable for his friends, has energized Shams members in Tunisia, France and elsewhere to fight against stupidity, obscurantism, hatred and darkness.

Shams-Tunisia is still shocked by the astounding double-dealing of the Tunisian authorities that brandish Tunisia’s beautiful nascent democracy to gain international support but continue to systematically clamp down on human rights at home.

We are Tunisian and we deeply love our country, yet we ask ourselves: Why does our youth only dream of Eiffel Towers and Statues of Liberty?

Ahmed’s is just the latest desperate cry of those seeking to live together in harmony, here and now, in Tunisia — since the national political class under its complacent gaze has obviously not yet understood that the revolution was accomplished by youth and not in order to recycle the old dictatorial methods.

We remain hopeful. Our energy is intact.

— Yadh Krendel, president and co-founder of Shams-Tunisia and Shams-France

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at info@76crimes.com.

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